With Sam Crawford playing the role of Snoopy, managing the team (County Council), Whatcom County lost for the third time in one year on Sam's plan.
Strike 1: Ferndale UGA. Oversized UGA that didn't have public facility and service plans for sewer and fire. Cost to taxpayers to defend and rewrite ordinance: at least $100,000.
Strike 2: Birch Bay Rural Upzone. Didn't consider that the area was inundated by flood waters and wetlands. Cost to taxpayers: unknown, but likely in the neighborhood of $20,000 to $50,000.
Strike 3: Permit Resuscitation Ordinance. Failed to consider the environment, public participation, comprehensive plan and State Environmental Policy Act. Cost to taxpayers: how much will it cost to restore Lake Whatcom when you provide no wetland buffers?
And just like Charlie Brown, Sam and the County Council never learn from their losses.
This past Tuesday, the County Council approved a contract with development attorney Lesa Starkenburg-Kroontje to represent Whatcom County at taxpayer expense.
In each of the three strikes mentioned above, development attorneys played a role in drafting the ordinance for Sam to present to his "team."
The latest loss included an Order of Invalidity; one of the highest sanctions that the Growth Management Hearings Board can issue a recalcitrant local government that continues to thumb its nose at state law. The Growth Management Hearings Board was "struck by the examples of applications which could be renewed by the Ordinance." (See Jean Melious' blog post on these applications here.)
The County's argument that projects could not get financing didn't sit well with the Board when they saw that the permit applications had been sitting on the shelves of Whatcom County PDS for fifteen years. The real purpose of the ordinance was Snoopy's plan to return to the good old days when the environmental standards in effect didn't protect the environment. The Board was not pleased:
"When comparing the environmental standards in effect in the 1990s with the current regulations, the Board observed there are significant differences in environmental protection."
"... the County's argument that no further environmental harm would result than what would have happened under prior regulations does not meet the intent of the GMA. If this reasoning were applied elsewhere, changes to improve other laws (e.g. forest practices, salmon recovery, water quality, water rights) would be placed on hold until such time as the economy recovers."
In baseball, three strikes and you're out. It is time to tell that to Whatcom County and stop these losses, including wasting $40,000 to defend a Rural Element that everyone knows will lose in front of the Growth Management Hearings Board. That money could have gone to negotiate a plan that could pass state law, not thumb its nose at it.
(By the way, I am being kind with only calling three strikes. The County also lost a case in front of the Supreme Court regarding Fire District No. 21 this past year.)