The Growth Management Hearings Board issued another ruling on January 23rd that the County didn't comply with the Board's order on the permit extension ordinance ruled invalid on August 2, 2011. The county has until April 23rd to get into compliance.
Just to refresh you about what this case is about, you will recall Jean's writing about the "zombie permits", the miraculous permits that Whatcom County resurrected from the depths of PDS for just $100 per application (cheap even in comparison to the EIS fees paid for coal ports!).
Whatcom County said they cured this latest violation by passing a resolution saying they won't do it again. The problem is that resolutions have no force of law. This blogger knew that. The Hearings Board knew it. Why can't the County Prosecuting Attorney Office figure it out? In the Board's words:
"...the County adopted a non-binding Resolution to cure the Ordinance's failings. A resolution does not bring the County into compliance with the GMA nor the Board's Order because, by the County's own Charter, a resolution has no force of law."But the Board wasn't done with its dissatisfaction with Whatcom County:
"This leads to another problem with the County's attempt to comply with the Board's Order. On August 4, 2010, the County issued four permit extensions. This action occurred after the County received the Board's Order of Invalidity...The expired permits which were extended...were not exempt from the Order of Invalidity....
"During the compliance hearing, the Board gave the County an opportunity to explain why the short plat extensions...were granted. The County did not have a response. Of equal concern during the Compliance Hearing, was the county's response to Board questions about adoption of a Resolution instead of an ordinance." (emphasis in original)In the past 1 1/2 years, the County Council has lost on all four cases brought before the Growth Board:
The permit extension ordinance is a significant issue, because if Whatcom County thinks that it can create new development rights that don't protect the environment under an interim six month ordinance that can't be challenged because the process takes more than six months...then we have a serious loophole that Mitt Romney would just love to put his money into.
But, the real monkey to be watching for Whatcom County GMA compliance over the next six months will be the response to the sweeping findings of "clearly erroneous" on the rural element. I compiled a matrix of the issues with quotes from the Board for those of you that don't like reading 177 pages. I call it the Hearings Board cliff note version. This document has been shared with the Executive Louws and the County Council.
Let's say it again: It is time to Get Whatcom Planning.