Nice try. Now let's look at the real facts.
|Whatcom County Population Gain and Agricultural Land Loss|
As Whatcom County's population has increased, we have seen a corresponding loss of agricultural land. This agricultural land is not in Bellingham, so you can't blame Hamsters for that.
The theory behind the Realtors and BIAW assertion is that growth is going to rural areas because the urban areas -- Bellingham in particular, are not accommodating enough growth.
We now have the benefit of hindsight in looking at how allocation of growth and planning for growth has affected real change in Whatcom County.
The first GMA plan was in 1997, and the County projected the County would grow to over 220,000 people in the year 2015. That is just 2+ years from now. How have we performed?
We overestimated by over 19,000 people, all of which were in urban areas. All the urban areas were "super sized" and yet rural growth still took place.
|1997 Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan|
How did Bellingham perform?
Bellingham is the only city that is actually meeting the growth projections set by the first growth management plan for Whatcom County. Bellingham has achieved 85% of that growth allocation, while the small cities have achieved only 41%. (Lynden achieved 72% of the projection; Ferndale achieved just 35% and Blaine 18%.)
Why doesn't the BIAW and Realtors blame the small cities for rural growth? Hmmm….
Of course blaming the small cities for rural growth is as misguided as blaming Bellingham. The fact that rural growth forecast in the 1997 Plan has already been exceeded rests principally with the authority that allows that growth: Whatcom County.
And nothing seems to be in the way of stopping that rural growth.
|2004 Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan|
In 2004, a new Plan was developed. The County chose to develop a Plan that allocated almost all the growth to urban areas and very little to rural areas. Only 4,328 people were expected to be added to rural areas by the year 2022.
Oops. By 2010, the rural area population swelled by another 11,752 people.
Double oops: the whole plan for public facilities and services and traffic increases was based on the assumption that all that growth would go to the urban areas, and not to rural areas.
We have no plan; we have no plan to pay for what we didn't plan.
|2010 Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan|
In 2009-2010, a new Plan was developed for 20 years of growth and allocation. That Plan set out new forecasts and allocations of growth. The problem is that the rural growth in the past ten years was higher than predicted, and now the rural areas have accounted for 68% of the growth projected for 2029.
The Growth Management Hearings Board cited an article that said "invalidity could be warranted if a county's allocations fail to…account for realistic indicators of future development, such as the presence of undeveloped residential lots in rural areas, that will invariably effect the distribution of population growth throughout the county."
In finding issues with the rural growth, the Board said the "evidence demonstrates that vacant lots in existing rural areas can accommodate 33,696 additional people, where only 2,651 are expected…the County has not planned to ensure that its comprehensive plan and development regulations, considered together, allocate rural population consistent with the Comprehensive Plan's population allocation."
The County's response: amend the policy that says the "majority" of growth be located in urban areas and "monitor" rural growth.
Now, is that any sort of real plan?