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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.

Regards,
Josh

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."

51 comments:

  1. -This is the situation which led to the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF.org) and then to the creation of the Community Bill of Rights. Townships in rural Pennsylvania found themselves unable to legally resist corporations with environmentally destructive projects. The Community Bill of Rights is the last line of defense when the regulatory process collapses under the weight of corporate power combined with State and Federal law.
    -
    CELDF founder, environmental lawyer Thomas Linzey and associates will teach a Democracy School in Bellingham on July 21st, 9-6. The purpose is to teach how we got into this dilemma and what we need to do in order to deal with it.
    -
    ----> cutoff date to register for Democracy School is July 6th.
    -
    To register: www.Living-Democracy.org) (Notice the hyphen)

    ReplyDelete
  2. If you're concerned about the possibility of a slaughterhouse in your back yard, you can:
    Write to the Planning Commission: PDS_Planning_Commission@co​.whatcom.wa.us. Comment on their proposal, which you'll find here, if you can stand reading zoning text: http://​www.co.whatcom.wa.us/pds/​pc/pdf/20120628-ex2.pdf
    Attend their next meeting, on July 12 at 6:30 in the Northwest Annex.
    And then it goes on to the County Council.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Slaughterhouse 8. I love it.

    Way to go, Sprawl Commission!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow, I'm a farmer and I disagree with you 100%. Don't even know how to start with how ignorant you sound. You live by a farm, expect farm activities.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anonymous,

    We pretty much don't allow anonymous commentary on this blog. Step up and say who you are, next time. Then I'll believe that you're actually a farmer and not just a chicken. Yuck yuck, little agricultural joke there.

    But your comment raises an excellent point. The Planning Commission should make sure that people who live by farms can expect that farm activities will occur. The current proposal doesn't do that.

    One Planning Commissioner said during a meeting that, for neighbors, it will be like having a Costco or WalMart warehouse next door. That's the best-case scenario, where the only impacts are trucks and the fact that productive agricultural land is covered with buildings and pavement. Will a large regional slaughterhouse really have no impacts on water use and water quality, noise, and odors beyond that? I don't know. The Planning Commission doesn't know. Individual commissioners have a lot of opinions based on anecdotal evidence, but no evidence on which to base a decision. No analysis, no SEPA, just a theory.

    What could go wrong with that?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Actually, the availability of slaughterhouses is critical to profitability for industries like Whatcom County's dairy industry.

    Here is a segment of a press release from the USDA which is quite worried about the loss of availability in areas like Whatcom County:

    WASHINGTON, May 25, 2010 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture today released a preliminary study revealing existing gaps in the regional food systems regarding the availability of slaughter facilities to small meat and poultry producers. The study by USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is a first attempt to identify areas in the U.S. where small livestock and poultry producers are concentrated but may not have access to a nearby slaughter facility.

    "To support consumer demand for locally produced agricultural products, meat producers need to have access to local or regional slaughter facilities, and the study we are releasing today shows that there is often a shortage of facilities needed to bring food to market," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "The 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' initiative is working to address various shortcomings in the food supply chain on behalf of our country's producers and consumers. If there is a stronger, closer link between production and consumption, there is often an economic benefit."‬


    The data creates a county-by-county view of the continental United States, indicating the concentration of small farms raising cattle, hogs and pigs, and chicken, and also noting the location of nearby state slaughter facilities and small and very small federal slaughter establishments. The USDA defines "small slaughter establishments" as those having between 10 and 499 employees, and "very small slaughter establishments" as having fewer than 10 employees or less than $2.5 million in annual sales. For the purpose of the study, small livestock and poultry producers are those who have annual sales of $250,000 or less.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks, Jack, I read the report (http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/820188/ldpm21601_1_.pdf). It's interesting. Whatcom County is not identified as a county that lacks small-scale slaughtering for cattle or hogs. It is identified as a county with "4-8 small chicken farms" with no small-scale poultry slaughtering facility.

    I didn't know this about the slaughtering business, but I suppose one might have guessed:

    "A small number of plants account for the majority of cattle, hog, and sheep or lamb slaughter. For cattle, 14 plants account for the majority (greater than 55 percent) of U.S. slaughter. Twelve plants account for the majority of hog slaughter, and 4 plants account for the majority of sheep or lamb slaughter. Additionally, many of these plants are owned by a small number of companies. In many cases, larger processors are vertically integrated and also serve as the retailer."

    As a result, the report is not very optimistic about the likelihood of smaller-scale slaughtering facilities being able to compete. In the "Outlook and Conclusions" section, starting on page 21, the report states that "Local producers continue to perceive a lack of local slaughter capacity as a hindrance in trying to meet growing demand. At the same time, small processors cite a lack of throughput: they need enough predictable, year-round business to keep skilled workers and expensive equipment utilized." It discusses the degree of centralization in the slaughtering business, and the economies of scale that make it unlikely that small businesses will be able to compete. It discusses mobile slaughtering units as a possible solution.

    And it concludes:

    "The small-scale characteristics of operations that produce, slaughter, and
    process locally sourced meat and livestock products inhibit the producer’s
    and processor’s ability to benefit from economies of scale. Innovations along
    the supply chain, such as more efficient distribution for local foods, including
    meat, and strategies to reduce high margin requirements from retailers would
    likely facilitate marketing. These innovations and others are in development
    and currently functioning in some regions of the United States. But
    expansion of the local meat sector will continue to depend on the willingness
    of consumers to pay premiums high enough to absorb the costs associated
    with the particular production program, processing, and the remainder of the
    supply chain. Consequently, the ability of this market to grow depends on
    the sector’s capacity to broaden its consumer base in order to generate more
    consumer demand. This in turn depends on public perceptions about the
    value of local meat."

    The report that Jack brought up appears to conclude that slaughtering likely will continue to occur in facilities sized to ensure that economies of scale can be met. The Planning Commission proposes to allow such facilities to occur, as a permitted use (no conditional use permit process, no additional review) anywhere on Ag land, with no setbacks from residential uses. We clearly need a more robust discussion of whether this is a good and necessary use of the County's agricultural land, and whether it will have any effect on rural residents.

    In addition, don't forget that the Planning Commission proposal allows any kind of processing to occur, even if it isn't related to ag. So the whole discussion of slaughterhouses needs to be expanded to include a discussion of whether Ag land is the best location for generalized processing facilities of unlimited size and scale.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Jack, Whatcom County has a very liberal Conditional Use ordinance. If prospective Slaughterhouses were required to meet our current CU requirements, it is likely that approval would follow for most applicants that met the minimum criteria, including the concerns of neighboring properties.

    The present proposal is to make Slaughterhouses a Permitted Use, free from most regulatory requirements. In addition, Slaughterhouses will continue to be allowed in Rural Industrial areas, which is in my opinion where they should be concentrated in the first place.

    Do you support the proposal in it's current form ? It is all laid out for you, and anyone who wishes to log on to the Whatcom County Planning and Development Services website. You have been a Missing Person at our public hearings on this subject, so your on-the-record comments are overdue.

    I have no persuasive interest in your offering of self-serving stats from the federal bureaucracy. Informational cherry-picking is seldom persuasive in dealing with local issues that affect local citizens. Global warming stats offered by environmentalists do little to shape my attitude on Transportation Impact Fees in Whatcom County.

    In it's present form, the permitting of Slaughterhouses on Ag land offers an opportunity for landowners to make a profit from an industrial use.

    Corporations like to make profits, and there is nothing that prevents a corporation from using Whatcom County agricultural land to develop a slaughterhouse under the proposed rules. This proposal would appeal to a corporation. There is no requirement for a farming operation to be performed on the subject land. No crops. No cattle. And few protections for prime agricultural soil or the economic and quality of life issues for neighboring properties.

    As far as demonstrated need is concerned, it is a huge leap of faith to assume that Whatcom County dairy farmers will not profit unless we permit slaugherhouses on every Ag parcel as a permitted use. The public record is still open on that question.

    Let's hope that the minds of the Planning Commission and County Council remain open as well...

    ReplyDelete
  9. The easy way to quickly check on the processing picture is to go to the mapping PDF provided by the Ag Department... Note the concern about places to butcher animals came about because the single location now available in Whatcom County is going to close soon and it is a "very small" operation serving the small farms and personal agricultural producers of the county. When it is gone there will be no processing facilities capable of any significant capacity.

    Truth be told, I'm not very concerned about the industrial agriculture that dominates our county's ag picture... for the back to the land movement, the slow food movement, organic farmers, CSA farms and others, small scale processing is important. With the single operation we do have departing we will be without processing facilities; just the way our urban-centric planners want it.

    As to slaughterhouses in the rural industrial zones, remember, you just turned them all into size and type limited psuedo-zones with uses tied to those in place in 1990. Not much chance anyone would ever get a permit there.

    It is interesting that those who purport to "fight" for ag preservation are so set against ag uses on ag land.

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  10. Looks like Jack and I are in agreement. It's appropriate for the Planning Commission and Development Services to evaluate the need for small-scale slaughtering and plan appropriately, as opposed to the current proposal, which allows processing and slaughterhouses of unlimited size that would not be aimed at serving local needs.

    Sometimes I think that Jack picks a fight just for the sake of fighting. Some people love the smell of napalm in the morning.

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  11. There is an exciting initiative happening that is sponsored through the Nortwhest Agribulture Business Center. It is called the North Cascade Meat Producers Cooperative. The key component of this projgram is a "mobile slaughter unit" that will be stateioned at a farm in Whatcom County, and possible a site in Skaget. The unit will be able to harvest up to 12 beef, 20 pork, or 30 lambs per day.

    The Cooperative is getting set to have a public offering, which would allow for those of us that eat meat to get that meat from local growers that ensure that the animals are pasture or grass finished (no grains), and with no feed-based antibiotics or homoses, no petroleum based fertilizers used on pastures, and no detrmineal impacts to riparian areas.

    This sounds very promising. Check it out at http://www.agbizcenter.org/node/63.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Oh, I just wish internet comments had spell check. There is no such word as "homoses" that I know of. Should read "hormones," something that my teenager is experiencing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Homoses should be kept out of agribulture.

      Delete
    2. Nortwhest, too? Having a nearly broken pinky finger is my latest excuse.

      Fortunately, I cut and pasted the URL, so I didn't mess that up. Check it out. I think our newest PC member might be one of the people helping to promote that initiative.

      OMG! LOL!

      Delete
  13. You might want to read over the article I turned in on the USDA co-operatives mobile slaughter trailers. It's a model for what David is talking about and something I think is very important for the small scale farmers in Whatcom and Skagit Counties. Note, the current mobile option isn't USDA per testimony by the USDA in this process.

    http://www.co.whatcom.wa.us/pds/pc/pdf/20120613-petree-attach.pdf

    Clayton

    ReplyDelete
  14. I liked this, from Lesow, quoting a communication to a "citizen" from Mr. Fleischman: "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. . ."

    John, it would have been a kindness to link to the original communication, partly so that we could see the name of the citizen, and partly to identify the bold revisions as yours.

    With all that obfuscation in mind, I think it is important to consider this: "20.40.050 Permitted Uses:

    .051 Dairying, raising of livestock, husbandry of small animals, raising of crops..."

    I could locate a dairy with a herd of 2000 or more, with accompanying young stock facilities for more than a thousand head more, as an allowed use.

    I know of such a facility and use.

    I think that the impact of those uses is likely to be greater than the impact of any small-scale slaughterhouse, whether or not the Planning Commission's attempts to recommend limits on this relatively low-impact use are adopted by the Whatcom County Council.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Since it appears important to at least one person, here is the complete text of the email exchange.

      June 26

      Mr. Fleischmann,

      Has a determination been forthcoming from counsel about whether the PC proposal to treat ag processing and animal slaughter as allowed uses is "innovative zoning" or something else?

      Can you correct me if any of the following is incorrect about the proposal before the PC this Thursday:
      > 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.
      > No planning permit would be required.
      > There would be no environmental review of individual projects.
      > Road improvements could not be required.
      > Neighboring property owners would not be able to comment through any public process (except the current one which is occurring under the heading of "small scale slaughterhouses")
      > Other processing uses which are currently required to undergo either some review or meet specified criteria would also be considered allowed uses and no longer have to meet any of the existing criteria.
      > 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 fund in the Ag district, process Whatcom product, and have adeuqate and necessary public facilities to support the proposal would no longer be required even for facilities with more than 20 employees.
      > No SEPA review of the proposed text amendment is necessary.

      Regards,
      Michael Isensee

      Delete
    2. And the reply:

      28-Jun

      Hello Michael,

      As of now we have not gotten a determination as to whether or not the PC proposal to treat ag processing and animal slaughter as allowed uses is "innovative zoning" or something else.

      Regarding your comments below with respect to the PC 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.
      > A Commercial building permit (with associated land disturbance application) or a stand alone Land Disturbance Permit would be required.
      > There would be environmental review of individual projects. In addition to the Critical Areas Ordinance and the Shoreline Management Program, proposals would be subject to SEPA if the building is greater than 12,000 sq ft, or if there is a stand alone land disturbance application in excess of 500 cu. yds.
      > Road improvements may or may not be required. It has been discussed with PW Engineering Services and there has not yet been a determination on whether or not your statement is correct.
      > 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.
      > The processing of Agricultural products, presently regulated by WCC 20.40.111 as an Accessory use and WCC 20.40.137 as an Administrative approval use, would also be considered permitted uses and no longer have to meet the existing criteria found under those code sections.
      > 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 n 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. However, through our building code, fire flow (depending on setbacks) would be addressed; through the health department, access to water and sewer/septic and refuse disposal would be addressed; and Public Works Engineering would determine whether stormwater review and street improvements are required.
      > There is presently discussion of whether additional/revised SEPA review will be required based upon the Planning Commission changes to the proposed text amendment.

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

      Regards,
      Josh

      Joshua Fleischmann
      Natural Resources Division
      Whatcom County Planning and Development Services
      5280 Northwest Drive
      Bellingham, WA 98226
      360-676-6907 x50796

      Delete
    3. Once I realized how dramatically the Planning Commission had modified the applicant/staff's proposal, I thought this would be worth sharing with Jean, since what was being processed under the heading of "small scale slaughter facilities" was now anything but small in scale and was no longer limited to only slaughter facilities but any type of "agricultural processing" facility.

      It appears to me that there could be a wide variety of facilities dedicated to the "processing of agricultural products." Lynden's Darigold plant, Ferndale's Hemplers, and Bellingham Cold Storage are all existing local facilities which are rocessing "agricultural (or more accurately, food) products" and are located in urban areas with the benefit of urban infrastructure and non-agricultural zoning. Would these now be permitted uses on county farmland? Would this somehow benefit county farmer's or protect farmland for conversion?

      The planning commission proposal appears to elevate a non-soil dependent use on the county's remaining agricultural lands to the status of crop production, grazing, or dairying [permitted uses] which are all quite necessarily soil/land dependent.

      Michael

      Delete
  15. It's a "permitted use", of course.

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  16. Commissioner Onkels, you're referring to my post, not to any text from Commissioner Fleischmann. If you think that the substance is wrong, ask Josh Fleischman whether it's wrong. In fact, that approach seems preferable in general: asking questions about issues of substance rather than focusing on the identity of whoever asked the question, that is.

    I do not understand why you think that dairying and the raising of livestock on agricultural land is equivalent -- in type or impact -- to allowing the construction of processing facilities of unlimited size, potentially unrelated to agriculture. You might ask Josh Fleischman to explain that, too.

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    Replies
    1. I meant Commissioner Lesow. Josh Fleischman is from Planning and Development Services staff.

      Delete
  17. The larger issue, that I find really disturbing, is that the Planning Commission isn't getting the information that private citizens receive when they ask tough (and knowledgeable) questions. The reason, I think, is clear. PDS simply has no incentive, or encouragement, or positive reinforcement of any kind to provide detailed information to a Planning Commission that has already made up its mind and that is all to prone to "kill the messenger."

    As we've seen in the exchange on this blog.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Commissioner Onkels,

    At our last Planning Commission meeting, I posed a question--perhaps it was a statement--that was pretty much a restatement of Mr. Fleischman's letter to a citizen. I have not checked the audio tape of our meeting to verify this; perhaps it is available today. Give it a listen. I stand by what I said.

    I had not seen Mr. Fleischman's letter until it was posted on this blog. It may have been helpful if we had access to the letter at our meeting on June 28. But we didn't. Maybe it would not have made a hill-of-beans difference to the other Commissioners. Can't speak for them.

    Still, the change of course from the original proposal to the one now under consideration is pretty obvious to anyone with their eyes and ears open.

    I don't have the time or inclination to discuss Planning Commission matters outside of our public meetings, particularly with other Commissioners. Just a personal preference that some Commissioners follow and others don't.

    However, you are well aware that if 3 other Commissioners decided to chime in on this online discussion, it would constitute a meeting and we would run afoul of Appearance of Fairness rules; another complication we don't need at this point.

    John Lesow

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    Replies
    1. "However, you are well aware that if 3 other Commissioners decided to chime in on this online discussion, it would constitute a meeting and we would run afoul of Appearance of Fairness rules; another complication we don't need at this point."

      That's not going to happen, because, as you well know, nobody comes here.

      Delete
    2. Buck up, sir! Where's your mojo? You're not "nobody"! You're somebody, and we're glad that you're here.

      Delete
  19. This place should be renamed, "Get Whatcom Hyperventilating".

    Please comment to the Planning Commission about this issue if it really interests you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Part of the point of this blog is to bring issues out into the public, beyond the Planning Commission. You've done us a great service by bringing a bit of the Planning Commission to us. Now our readers can see its partisanship and predetermintion of issues.

      When you've already determined that the issues that we've raised are mere "hyperventilation," the point of commenting to the Planning Commission would be -- to be laughed at? The Planning Commission is a very hostile place for anyone whose views diverge from those of the Slaughterhouse 8.

      Delete
  20. Commissioner Onkels,

    Yeah, yeah.

    Admit it--you got your butt kicked on this one.

    I would be interested in Councilmember Brenner's take on the current PC proposal and will ask for it. Has her initial support for "small scale" changed in lieu of the present proposal ?

    What about the attitude of Whatcom County dairy farmers on the necessity for industrial slaughtering on ag land? Time for the real experts to weigh in.

    The public record deserves more than online bromides from Farmer Jack Petree on the supposed decline of dairying if we do not open up the ag fields to industrial slaughtering facilities.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Jean,

    Simply read Mr. Lesow's comment in the context of your concern about one sided conversations then look back to the various conversations while you were on the commission with a view to remembering Mr. Lesow's stern lectures and occasional outright rants directed at me during that time.

    I think both Mr. O and Mr. L are frustrated by a Planning Department mostly forwarding make-work rather than anthing substantial to the Commission; "Here's your color crayons boys and girls, you play with these while mommy does her important work."

    As to Mr. Lesow's comments, apparently providing unedited material from the Department of Agriculture is an on-line bromide. Must not have been a brand name, it doesn't seem to have done much to settle Mr. Lesow's stomach.

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    Replies
    1. Jack, more revisionist history. As for current events, my most recent experience with the Planning Commission was listening to the audio in which Mr. Onkels ask you questions that allowed you to "rant" (to use your own word) for half an hour about evidence that my clients and I submitted into the record. We were not offered an opportunity to respond. So of course you view the Planning Commission as fair, since your perspective is eagerly sought and listened to exclusively.

      I think that the Rural Element is important. I think that a proposal to allow processing and slaughtering plants of unlimited size, on productive agricultural land, as a permitted use, is important. I'm surprised that you would speak for Mr. Lesow on his view of these issues, although not surprised that you would speak for Mr. Onkels.

      Delete
  22. "I would be interested in Councilmember Brenner's take on the current PC proposal and will ask for it. Has her initial support for "small scale" changed in lieu of the present proposal ?"

    Why don't you give her a call? she and I have already had a pretty lengthy conversation about the issue.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Am I the only person who leaves a trail of bread crumbs behind me when I delve into Jack Petree's posts? I suppose it is time to invest in a GPS device...

    ReplyDelete
  24. Jack, Jack, Jack.....

    Bromide Bon Motster extraordinaire....

    I repeat--you should move to LA and write for Leno. In the meantime, don't give up your day job.

    As far as my "rants" are concerned, examples please. Don't be a Cheap Shotster.

    The frustrating thing about you--and Commissioner Onkels--is that you can be scattered on tough issues. You can't seem to address a tough issue head-on.

    I asked you previously where you stood on the slaughterhouse proposal. And all I get is some reference to a USDA report. Anyone with a search engine and too much spare time can do that.

    Dave, I prefer to hear Councilmember Brenner's comments in a public forum. She has had some time to mull over this issue and I am sure she will be making some kind of statement in due course. After all, it is her Comp Plan amendment and her Council that will ultimately decide this issue.

    However, I would like to hear from a broader section of the public before our advisory vote on this matter. I think the original proposal was more responsible than the current one.


    Have a Happy Fourth of July !

    I wish I could close with one of Jack's clever turns of phrase, but I'm not that clever......

    ReplyDelete
  25. John,

    I think I was pretty clear... I'm not much worried about the factory farming that makes up most of our ag industry in Whatcom County... I am concerned that we do need to have some sort of reasonably scaled facilities... I want my half a beef and half a pig this year... and I want small farms to have a chance to survive despite the opposition to them by the city folk. Nevertheless, the USDA is concerned, rightly, about the availability of slaughterhouses... they are necessary to the dairy industry as well as to other industies. I would not see a huge facility located in Whatcom County. A more reasonable area would be northern Snohomish County or Skagit County so the facility could serve the needs of three or four counties...

    This is my last post on this issue. You've finally cowed me. It's a meaty subject but we've pared that meat down to the bone. Nothing left to even stew; about.

    ReplyDelete
  26. John,
    I think you're engaging in revisionist history.
    "You can't seem to address a tough issue head-on."
    The motions you don't like were mine.
    "As far as my "rants" are concerned, examples please. Don't be a Cheap Shotster."
    I was present for more than one, John.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Boys, boys, boys! Go shoot off some fireworks outside!

    Mr. Onkels, it's nice of you to defend Mr. Petree against your fellow Commissioner. Perhaps the two of you (you and Jack, that is) have officially melded into one. I hear that Photoshop can do that with Facebook pictures -- but don't worry, I won't steal your image to try. As tempting as it may be.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Horns?
    I'd be flattered.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Has Jack grown horns? I guess I haven't seen him in a while.

      Delete
  29. Jack Petree's... puns... horrible.... losing consciousness... must... find... antidote... LOLcatz pics... only hope... must... click... mouse... ...

    ReplyDelete
  30. Jean,
    You wrote, " We were not offered an opportunity to respond."

    My goodness!
    I recall listening to Mr. Stalheim hold forth at length in response to a "clarifying question" from Commissioner Belisle, and I clearly remember Chairman Luke's offer to you to testify about rural element issues.

    It is my recollection that you refused, and that you did not attend the next meeting. Am I wrong?

    ReplyDelete
  31. You're wrong, but let's move on. Tired of this.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Ms. Melious: "Commissioner Onkels, you're referring to my post, not to any text from Commissioner Fleischmann."

    I plead guilty.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No need to plead anything to a statement of fact. Now everybody, go outside and play!

      Delete
  33. I'm late to the party (as usual), but this is important to me, so I've got to weigh in.

    I'm here as a farmer (beef), as someone who believes in planning (which we do very very poorly here), as someone who has represented agriculture professionally (developing policy, advocacy, and so on), as someone who believes in Growth Management. Whatever I say, therefore, take with a grain of salt.

    First and foremost, we raise beef for direct market. We use Keizer's because it is the only USDA-inspected facility in Whatcom County. We also use Keizer's because it is clean, humane, and just downright well-managed and well-maintained. It is pretty clear to me that the bulk of the commentors here have never been to a slaughter facility, or at least not a modern small-scale facility.

    However, none of the latter goes to my point. There is local demand for new small-scale processing facilities ("small-scale" is defined by USDA and I'd suggest reading up). We are not going to get animals from Canada - trade restrictions prevent animals from being brought here for processing. I would highly recommend consulting Fred Berman on the subject, as he is local and the WSDA Direct Farm Market guy - he knows his stuff. It's also unlikely we're going to be seeing beef from Oregon making its way here. Because of the dearth of processing facilities, in some cases producers here actually ship to Oregon for processing! Keizer's is at capacity right now - if I want a butcher date in the peak season (fall), I have to book at least a year in advance. The need is there, no question about it.

    As far as planning goes, I would argue that a processing facility in the ag zone is certainly not an "ag use;" rather, it is an "ag accessory use" and should be managed and regulated as such (secondary business rather than primary and preferred use in the ag zone). However, I'd also say that it's a bit over the top to scare people with the prospect of having a processing facility next to their houses. If we don't want sprawl, I assume we're operating under the long-term planning goal of not having a bunch of houses out there littering up the best farmland (of course, I realize that reality on the ground is different in this county, but still...).

    My understanding of the position of most of the people commenting here is also - correct me if I'm wrong - that we want local ag, to reduce our carbon footprint, and to support the success of small business and local farming. If that is indeed true, both ag and the secondary businesses that serve it have to be supported. A few years ago, Futurewise Whatcom supported a poultry facility in the rural zone that was in the permitting stage and under attack; the reason FWW supported the poultry facility was that ag/forestry uses are preferred uses in the rural zone, and that there is no question that poultry is an ag use - and if we "plan" and respect our planning commitment, we can't pick and choose based on which uses we "like." This is, essentially, the same situation, only more clear-cut because this time the zone we're talking about is agricultural - there is certainly no question a local slaughter facility will benefit ag.

    If we truly believe in what we say, then we have to walk the talk and support ag. That same rule also applies the folks that have gutted our capacity for long-term ag viability through landscape fragmentation, extremely bad planning, and greed, all the while claiming they are the supporters of ag and the ag community.

    The "walk the talk" concept, of course, goes for both the left and right (such as they are), and I have to say, that from my perspective, both sides are undermining ag, each in its own very special way. It's disappointing to me as a producer, but also as someone whose family has been in this county nearly 100 years and watched it grow and change - in recent years, not for the better.

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    1. Thanks, Allison, for weighing in. I don't doubt that small-scale slaughtering is a need, and it seems like the ag community that wants small-scale slaughtering should weigh in and get a good proposal. If the Planning Commission comes up with a good proposal, of course people interested in ag should support it. If you support this particular proposal, that would certainly influence my opinion. From your post, it's not entirely clear.

      As I understand it, the whole thing began with a proposal to allow small-scale slaughterhouses. I didn't follow it then -- it didn't seem like a big deal. A conditional use permit would be required, which would help to make sure that the location made sense. There are lots more things to worry about in this county.

      But then it grew. It grew into slaughterhouses and processing facilities of unlimited size, with "processing" that could be unrelated to ag, located anywhere in the Ag zone, as a permitted use -no notice, no extra review.

      I don't know who would disagree that reasonable, ag-related processing, or small-scale slaughtering attuned to local needs, are good things. Do we all automatically agree that covering productive ag land with WalMart-sized warehouses for "processing" businesses, unrelated to our ag economy, is a good thing? Is productive ag land the right place to locate such facilities? If so, it would be helpful to hear more about how and why that helps ag.

      I read the USDA report on slaughterhouses that Jack Petree referred to. It defines small and large scale slaughterhouses and discusses the economics of slaughterhouses. If you disagree with the report, or have a better source, let me know.

      It's not scaring people to say that the Planning Commission discussed and rejected buffers. It's a fact.

      It's not scaring people to say that right now, in Whatcom County, houses adjacent to agricultural land can be built five feet away from the property line. It's not scaring people to say that enough houses can be built in rural areas to accommodate the County's entire population growth between now and 2029. These are just facts. It's too late to hope that rural and ag areas are not going to be full of non-farm related residences. They're already there, applications are there for more, vested lots are there for even more, and zoning is in place for more. So if processing facilities can be built on ag land right next to houses, it's well past the time to pin our hopes on a theory that the houses won't be built.

      Now, I've been told by Whatcom County planners that "farmers don't care about buffers," so maybe the only issue with the processing plant proposal is that the plants can be built right next to houses. If they're built right smack next to a farmer's property line, the farmer won't mind. So be it. Don't require setbacks from farms, but maybe a setback from houses would make sense.

      The bottom line is that the Planning Commission has another shot at this. Take a look at the proposal, imagine what the buildout scenario would be under the current proposal, see if it fits your needs, and let the Planning Commission know!

      Commissioner Onkels and I agree about that.

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    2. I also remember when FWW supported the poultry facility in the rural zone. It was a zoning interpretation that resulted in also allowing poultry processing facilities in suburban zones in Lake Whatcom. That case points out the need to be very careful in drafting zoning regulations or you end up with unintended consequences.

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  34. I don't care what the rest of you think. My post was funny.

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    1. yes it was!

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    2. Thanks! And your cows are the best!

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  35. Ms. Aurand,
    It would be a kindness if you'd submit your comment to the Planning Commission:
    Becky Boxx, Coordinator
    Whatcom County PDS
    5280 Northwest Drive
    Bellingham, WA 98226
    Phone: (360)676-6907
    Fax: (360)738-2525
    PDS_Planning_Commission@co.whatcom.wa.us

    Before you do, It might be useful for you to examine your suggestion that small scale slaughtering facilities be allowed as an accessory use. ("20.40.101 Any use on the farm which is ancillary to the normal operation of the permitted uses.")

    In that case, a facility could be located only on a parcel with an existing permitted use: "20.40.051: Dairying, raising of livestock, husbandry of small animals, raising of crops, horticulture, apiculture, and temporary portable equipment used for processing of locally harvested crops."

    Does that requirement makes sense to you?
    What about allowing such facilities on Rural parcels zoned R-5 and R-10?

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