Monday, September 5, 2011

In Your Capable Hands

I’m taking a blog hiatus for a few weeks. Work and family have first dibs for a time.

That doesn’t mean that Whatcom County will be taking a break, though, at least when it comes to de-planning. There’s a lot going on to hold your attention.

Take the Planning Commission (please!). It will be busy, busy, busy on Thursday, September 8 (agenda and links available here).

This meeting will be a classic.

First, Council Chair Sam Crawford added an item to the agenda, proposing to amend the Comprehensive Plan to provide less protection to the 100-year floodplain. This will allow more development on County floodplains – including the “more development” that Council Chair Sam Crawford proposed through an upzone that included floodplain and wetlands in the Birch Bay area.

As David Stalheim explained in an earlier blog, the Growth Management Hearings Board found that part of Chair Crawford’s previous upzone, from one unit per 10 acres to 1 unit per 5 acres, was inconsistent with Comprehensive Plan. Specifically, the Board found that it contradicted Goal 2K-1, which states “Discourage development in areas prone to flooding,” and Policy 2K-1, which states “limit land in one-hundred year floodplains to low-intensity uses such as open space corridors or agriculture.” The Board noted that “a doubling of the density encourages development in the floodplain.”

In response to the Board's order, Staff proposed to return the zoning of the property to 1 unit per 10 acres. Chair Crawford proposes, instead, to change the Comp Plan, so the policy limiting floodplain development would only apply to Nooksack River "flood areas." See here and here.

So, since the upzoning didn't meet the planning policy, change the policy. Whatcom County de-planning in action.

I'm just pleased to know that flooding no longer occurs anywhere in Whatcom County except in the Nooksack floodplain.

If this doesn't make sense to you, write or attend the meeting.

But that's not all. The big item on the agenda is Caitac.

Ah, Caitac. North of Bellingham, plans are afoot for a "tourist commercial" development and a residential upzone. After years of unsuccessful attempts to include the Caitac property in Bellingham's Urban Growth Area, the plan now is to build in the County, outside the UGA.

Read all about it, here.

Will that really happen? Does it make sense?

It's in your capable hands.


  1. At the same time as Hurricane Irene bore down on the East Coast, Whatcom County Councilmember Sam Crawford suggested allowing twice as many homes in the coastal floodplain of Birch Bay. "Any development within the coastal storm surge...has been and will continue to be subject to mitigating construction methods to protect future proposed structures," wrote Crawford on August 26th.

    Two days after Crawford's letter, the coastal storm surge on the east coast caused billions of dollars of damage to private property and public infrastructure. Much of those costs will be borne by tax payers as they rebuild their communities. Why would Crawford propose to double the number of homes in the coastal floodplain? Clearly, mitigating construction methods will not protect structures.

    Crawford's history on the environment and doing the bidding of his development attorney buddies is legendary. Crawford's growth agenda has been overturned by the courts four times this year at a cost to taxpayers of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    We can't afford Sam Crawford. It is time that Sam Crawford be sent packing before he does more damage.

  2. I'm sure a coastal storm in Birch Bay would stick only to the 100 year flood plan "boundaries" :) It would probably also avoid the GP site's 100 year flood plain areas as well since they are in a UGA....

  3. How come no one is talking about the new FEMA requirements under the national flood insurance plan? NOAA determined that NFIP resulted in significant loss of specifies and habitat in Puget Sound, and new restrictions are being placed on floodplain development. The County plans to revise its flood regulations, but is treating the zoning density in a floodplain as an unconnected issue.

    Wendy Harris