Saturday, June 30, 2012

Slaughterhouse 8

Having wrapped up its role in de-planning Whatcom County’s rural areas, the County De-Planning Commission has turned its attention to de-planning agricultural land.

The De-Planning Commission is considering a proposal for “small-scale” slaughterhouses.  Well, that was the original proposal. A trip through De-Planning Land has turned it into something else: 

Slaughtering and processing would be a permitted use with no size limit.  As many animals as you want, covering as much ground as you want, with no setback requirement.  The proposal would allow animals to be imported from anywhere -- the east side of Washington State, B.C, Oregon.  Slaughtering, rendering, PLUS processing would be allowed.  Spam!  Corned beef!  Leather!  Or, what the heck, any other kind of processing, even if unrelated to Ag (who needs LAMIRDs!?!).

But don’t take my word for it.  Here’s what the planner in charge of this matter told a citizen who asked about the current proposal:

You are correct that animal slaughter facilities of unlimited size, with unlimited numbers of employees, and with animals from any source would be a permitted use in the Agriculture district. . .

You are correct that neighboring property owners would not be able to comment through any public process, except the current one which is occurring under the planning filename "Small Scale Slaughterhouses."  While the public may submit comments to be a part of the official file of any proposal, there is no procedural requirement for a public process through WCC 20.40.050 Permitted Uses.

. . .You are correct that the requirement that agricultural processing be related to primary permitted use such as crop production or animal raising which are dependent upon soil and large parcel sizes such as found on the Ag district, process at least 50 percent Whatcom County agricultural products, and have adequate and necessary public facilities such as highways, police, and schools to support the proposal would no longer be required even for facilities with more than 20 employees. . . .

I hope this helps. If you have further questions, please fee; free to
contact me.


Joshua Fleischmann
Natural Resources Division
Whatcom County Planning and Development Services
5280 Northwest Drive
Bellingham, WA 98226

But don’t take his word for it.  Read Planning Commissioner John Lesow’s comments on our prevous blog.  John is the sole remaining Planning Commissioner.  From the Planning Commission.  Back when it Planned.

I think that the others deserve the title “Slaughterhouse 8.”

As for the picture at the top of the blog:  I entered the word “slaughterhouse” into Google Images.  The things that I do for our readers.  This is not an activity that I recommend if you have a weak stomach.

Of the images that didn’t relate to heavy metal bands or Kurt Vonnegut, the picture at the start of this blog is the only one that was, well, palatable. 

(And yes, I do eat meat, and I grew up on a farm that raised beef cattle, so I know where meat comes from.  It comes from the pretty Black Angus cattle that used to graze in the field out our back door.  It just didn’t seem necessary to splatter blood all over our blog.)

The picture came from an article about a slaughterhouse in a residential neighborhood in New York state.  Buncha wimps live in that community.  They’re complaining about a new slaughterhouse that “would be 26,000 square feet, and stand less than 100 feet from some neighboring houses.”  Here’s the article.

Less than 100 feet!  In Whatcom County, make that five feet!   And we'll call it "rural character."

Monday, June 11, 2012

We Won't Know What We've Got 'Til It's Gone

I do hope that Joni Mitchell has become retro, so that a reference to “Big Yellow Taxi” is something more than an admission of having been alive in the late 1960s.

(Ahh, those wasted hours of existential angst, sitting around listening to “Blue”. . .)


Wendy Harris wrote a good column on the value of wildlife in general and, in particular, the value of the Chuckanut Wildlife Corridor.  It’s on the  Northwest Citizen blog page (here’s the link).

The value of nature?  Why does that need defending, here in God’s green Whatcom County?  We all appreciate the beauty and richness of our natural surroundings.  If your goal in life is to live where there’s a minimart on every corner, there’s always Snohomish County, right?

Well, the times, they are a changin’.  (That’s from a different 1960s folkie.)

A mere 7 years ago, on September 13, 2005, the Whatcom County Council updated the County's Critical Areas Ordinance.  Here’s a link to the ordinance.

At the time, the Council made this finding:

The Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan projects an increase of approximately 70,000 people, or 41% growth, in Whatcom County by the year 2022. As Whatcom County's population increases, associated development activities will continue to create greater challenges for the preservation and protection of Whatcom County's environmental resources. Without appropriate planning and management, land use activities can create potential impacts that may threaten both environmental resources and the public welfare.

One of the ways that the Council voted to protect “both environmental resources and the public welfare” was by identifying and protecting the Chuckanut Wildlife Corridor.  

At the time, the Council said:

The Chuckanut Corridor map, attached as Exhibit 3, is necessary to officially recognize the last remaining wildlife corridor area in the Puget Trough where natural land cover extends from marine waters to the National Forest Boundary east of Chuckanut Mountain which has been identified as such through an eco-regional assessment prepared by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Fast forward to 2012.  The Growth Management Hearings Board has found that the County didn’t live up to its obligation to protect the Wildlife Corridor in the Rural Element of its Comprehensive Plan. I wrote a little bit about that, in this blog post.

At a committee meeting on June 5, several County Council members expressed their distaste for the concept of a wildlife corridor in no uncertain terms.  The word “suspicious” was used several times. 

Did the County ever really adopt a wildlife corridor?  That’s “suspicious.” 

(Of course, we have provided the County Council with a copy of the ordinance.  But as Wendy always tells me, it’s not like anybody in the County actually reads anything that I send in!).

Why would people want to protect a wildlife corridor? That’s “suspicious.”  There must be some conspiracy to drive homo sapiens out of the County.

As it happens, the simplest explanation is the best.  As the County Council said in 2005, "Without appropriate planning and management, land use activities can threaten both environmental resources and the public welfare."

Let's not pave paradise. To. . . you know the rest.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Friends Don't Let Friends Face the Honey Badger Alone

Faced with the looming threat that Whatcom County will be the site of North America’s largest coal terminal, it’s understandable that everybody’s attention is focused on Cherry Point.

I’m afraid that we’re not going to have much of a county left, once the coal terminal goes away.

Whatcom County remains fixated on making sure that all of the County’s increased population, between now and 2029, can live in new houses built outside of cities.  It has not planned for this growth, in the sense of providing capital facilities.  It can’t pay for this growth – no impact fees.  It’s illegal under the Growth Management Hearings Board’s decision in January.

(Warning:  the link is to a YouTube video that uses a bad word.  It’s a variation on “crap,” which apparently is a statesmanlike term – see below.)

Are you all tired of hearing about the County’s illegal, invalid Rural Element?  Somebody yesterday commented that “it’s like climate change – it goes on forever and people just get used to it.”  If it’s any consolation, nobody is as tired of it as David and I.  But the problem is –

It matters.

The Planning Commission has passed the Rural Element on to the County Council.  The Council’s Planning and Development Committee got the first crack at it yesterday.

I had to leave the meeting yesterday before it got good.  I hear that a hearty session of wildlife-bashing took place after I left.  No room for critters in a human-centric county (hear that, honey badger?).

And then there was Council member Sam Crawford’s “rant,” as reported here, in the Herald’s Politics blog.  

For someone who’s going to have to stand up before this Council in the next few weeks, I must say that there’s something particularly daunting about this "rant."  The description of the Hearings Board and its work as “crap” and “political" makes it pretty clear that we’re going to be in a hostile environment.  

Closeup view of a Honey Badger.

I had hoped that the reality of compliance – the words “illegal” and “invalid” – might promote some moderation at the County.  So far, we’ve experienced exactly the opposite.

But we’ll fight on, because what else can you do.

It sure would be nice to have some friends.  Friends?  Can we count on you to help out?  

I’ll be posting more about where to write and when to come to Council meetings.  It's all going to happen between now and July 10th, the County's compliance deadline.

Please, let’s make sure that we have clean water, room for wildlife, firefighters and police and roads -- all those first-world amenities that the County is not planning for.  All in all, it's up to us to make sure that Whatcom County remains a great place for our kids and their kids.