Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Year of Sprawling Achievements

First of all: do read what David wrote about Caitac.  Ships passing in the night -- I hadn't known that he blogged when I wrote this. 

The County Council is meeting tonight at 7:00 at the County Council Chambers, 311 Grand Ave., Bellingham.  Here’s a link to the agenda.  

The County Council is ending its year with a bang, not a whimper. 

Whatcom County truly outdid itself this year when it comes to sprawl.  The Ferndale Urban Growth Area debacle, the Rural Element, the piecemeal upzoning of hundreds of additional acres of property – the list goes on.

And on.  The County is proposing to expand development potential even more tonight, by (1) the unilateral, piecemeal expansion Bellingham’s Urban Growth Area in the Yew Street area, and (2) upzoning the enormous Caitac property north of Bellingham’s city limits, the subject of David's blog.

Here's my letter on both items.
Here's Dan McShane's letter on the Yew Street UGA expansion.

The County has paid tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to defend sprawl before the Growth Management Hearings Board.  It lost most of those cases.   

If it passes these measures tonight, it will pay tens of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars more in its fight for sprawl.

Me?  I’d rather have those dollars go to support the Food Bank.

If you agree, come to the hearing and make your views knows.

(The picture is what comes up when you type "sprawl" into Word Clip Art.  I guess that we know it when we see it.)

UPDATE:  Read more about Yew Street here: Salish Sea Communications.

And here's a letter to the County Council from People for Lake Padden:

December 5, 2011

Re: Yew Street Rezoning Proposal

I am writing to you on behalf of the group People for Lake Padden ( <> ) requesting that the Whatcom County Council postpone action on rezoning the Yew Street neighborhood until the county has sufficient scientific and land use information to make a knowledge-based decision that protects the Lake Padden watershed and the health of Lake Padden. 

Several years ago, the Lake Padden watershed was given a watershed protection designation, the area was removed from Urban Growth Area status, and a portion of this area was rezoned as an urban reserve, in order to protect the lake from degradation.  It would therefore be unwise to undo these decisions without taking into account their potential for negative impacts on the lake.

People for Lake Padden is a citizen’s initiative which is collaborating with City, County, and University professionals to conduct scientific studies of this lake and its watershed. These studies and community discussion should inform the discussion and decisions regarding the land use designations in the watershed, education and regulatory measures to reduce the amount of pollutants entering the lake through the watershed, and any zoning or rezoning changes.

Results from these studies will be available in 2012 and shared with watershed residents and with the State DOE, the County and the City of Bellingham. It would be premature to move forward now with any rezoning until the public and the county have had the opportunity to review and discuss the findings and recommendations.

Lake Padden is one of the crown jewels enjoyed by many residents of Whatcom County and the City of Bellingham. The health of our lake is determined by how well we manage our activities as stewards of the Lake Padden watershed. Let’s wait until the studies are done to make any decisions about rezoning the Yew Street portion of the Lake Padden watershed.

Thank you,
Betsy Gross, Director
People for Lake Padden
715-1173 <>


  1. Lake Padden no longer serves as the City's water supply. It does serve as a recreation amenity and as a flood control and in-stream flow reservoir for downstream Padden Creek.
    'Rezoning' the former Yew Street UGA to its former status would not cause undue harm to Lake Padden providing current storm water regulations are followed and enforced.
    I believe the former County Council erred in removing Yew Street from its former UGA status because much planning and investment in roads, utilities and schools has been wasted as well as many potential dwelling units.
    The City already has a problem with insufficient infill sites that provide places for people to live in closer proximity to City services. This is a proper site to help reduce sprawl into areas amenable to agriculture and industry.

  2. John, it is estimated to cost $15 million to complete Yew Street to full standards. Where will those funds come from? The developers put up this much: $0. The road circulation, water system, fire and police protection are also not able to serve this area -- there is no plan.

    I think that once there are answers to those questions, then this is an appropriate place for growth. I haven't heard anyone say differently.

    Switching back to "sprawlapalooza" 2011, did you know that PowerPoint is an authoritative source on growth? In what is alleged as a peer-reviewed paper, Jack Petree submitted an article that he got published by the American Planning Association. It is full of undocumented information, and I will fully respond to any errors in the next month. Our County Council is drinking their $60,000 electric Koolaid, it appears. Read it starting at pg. 44 of the City Council agenda packet:

  3. "'Rezoning' the former Yew Street UGA to its former status would not cause undue harm to Lake Padden providing current storm water regulations are followed and enforced." John, I disagree. The current storm water regulations are not adequate. In the review for annexation the city did for this area in 2008 the city reached the same conclusion. Booth, Hartley and Jackson (2002) noted that significant policy shifts need to take place in our approach to stormwater management. While some progress has been made with the Western Washington Storamwater Manual (Ecology, 2005), the Ecology manual and city codes that meet the standards in the manual would still not be adequate for the Lake Padden watershed.

    The city has recognized (and you) that existing stormwater regulations in Lake Whatcom were not adequate without significant changes. The same would be true of Padden and based on the modeling work done summarized in the above referenced paper even that would not be enough. Currently the city does not have different standards for Lake Padden. The County does have standards that go beyond the stormwater manual, but I do not believe those standards would be adequate if the area is urbanized. A very carefully thought through stromwater plan for Padden urbanization should be required or the city will be facing a huge TMDL. There will already be a TMDL for the upper Padden Creek adding to the problem will be very costly.

    Padden Creek just below the lake is already listed for on the 303d list for dissolved oxygen and temperature. There is not yet adequate data to determine the health of the lake, but early analysis suggests it is already in trouble from the limited urban development that has taken place.

    All that said a significant portion of the public infrastructure in the area has been via tax payer supported subsidies. Unless the developers want to cover the full cost of developing the area, it appears this

  4. Jack O. Petree asks,


    Any chance you could tell me what Powerpoint you are referring to?