County land use policies reviewed March 26

Comp Plan update Chapter 2 – Land Use (except for the UGA details)

This week’s Planning Commission meeting will involve a work session on Chapter 2 of the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan, titled “Land Use.” This is the largest chapter of the Comp Plan, and we will not be considering the details of Urban Growth Areas (UGAs) in this week’s meeting (March 26, 6:30), See the entire year’s schedule below.

The specific UGA boundaries and policies are subject to the final population projections we decide to plan for, and that decision will not be made until the summer. The cities are working on their UGA proposals now, and if you have particular ideas or issues, you should get involved in the city discussion. If you wait until it gets to the County, you’ve missed most of the critical decision-making process.

Here’s a list of the sections of Chapter 2, and page numbers of the red-line version of the draft:
Overall Land Use, p.2
Urban Growth Areas, p. 18 (details in July)
Rural Lands, p. 76
Urban Growth Area Reserves, p. 97 (details in July)
Special Study Areas, p. 101
Comprehensive Plan Designations Map, p. 106
Open Space, p. 110
Essential Public Facilities, p. 116
Adult Businesses, p. 131
Historic and Cultural Resources, p. 132

I’ve been plodding through the red-line version of the draft and am at 95 of 141 pages as I write this. There’s a lot here! Issues that might be of interest to my dear readers include:

  • Airport noise, p. 10
  • Encouraging voluntary compliance with regulations, p. 12
  • Property Rights, p. 13
  • Encouraging acceptance of cultural diversity, p. 14
  • General UGA policies and how development will proceed in UGAs, p. 18
  • Development goals and policies in the Rural zone, where much of the contentiousness occurs, p. 76
  • Protecting water resources, p. 80
  • Protecting drinking water quality, p. 82
  • LAMIRDS, p. 88
  • Citing “difficult to cite” public facilities like port, rail, air, dumps, towers, water & Sewer plants, p. 116
  • Jail, p. 123
  • sex offender housing, p. 129
  • Preservation of archeological sites, p. 133

This work session will be held Thursday, March 26, 2015 at 6:30 p.m. in the Northwest Annex Conference Room, 5280 Northwest Drive, Bellingham. The public is invited to submit written comments and/or attend the work session to provide oral comments. Written comments may be submitted PDS_Planning_Commission@co.whatcom.wa.us

PC adopts a schedule for slogging through the Comp Plan

There are eleven chapters plus appendices, the Critical Areas Ordinance and some other assorted documents that must be addressed in 2015 and sent to the County Council for their final consideration by June 2016. In order to do all this, the Planning Commission has adopted this general process:

  1. Staff presentation, public comment and discussion of a chapter. My hope is that this will identify areas of concern, and if needed, we can assign a committee to work on language outside of the meeting.
  2. Two meetings hence, consider that same chapter with PC proposed amendments. We are strongly urging amendments be submitted in writing 10 days in advance of this second meeting, so the public and the Commissioners have a chance to read and consider them beforehand.
  3. Schedule additional meeting time to finish the chapter, as needed.

Of course nothing is etched in stone. We’ve already changed our schedule because we decided to table Chapter 1, Introduction, until after we’ve reviewed the body of the plan. Here’s the year-long schedule, subject to change!

Mark your calendars for the chapters that interest you, and read ahead so you are prepared. Here are the draft chapters. The Commissioners have requested an editable version of the clean draft, so that they can type their edits directly. I’m not sure this is being posted on the website, but if you want to prepare some amendments, your favorite PC can probably share an editable document with you. Of course, you can’t proposed your own amendments directly — you’ll have to recruit a Commissioner to do that.

Next County Council meeting March 31
FULL County Council AGENDA
Planning Commission AGENDA
Planning Commission Meeting Schedule

First work session on Comp Plan update March 12th

This week’s Planning Commission meeting will involve a work session on Chapter 1 of the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan, entitled “Introduction and Growth Projections.” We will also discuss and decide on how we as a Commission want to work through all the chapters. We have to do about one chapter a week to get through it all by the end of the year, and give the County Council time to do their thing before final adoption. We will hold extra meetings if necessary, because we are on a deadline for final adoption by the Council in June of 2016.

We, the staff and I, as Chair, will be proposing that we introduce each chapter, take public comments, and discuss and get questions answered from staff, but hold off on considering any substantive amendments until they can be considered in writing two meetings hence. This way both the commission and the public will know in advance what amendments will be considered and have the language in writing. Officially, we only have to have one public hearing for the entire document, but that would be crazy. We will be taking comments on each chapter as we go along, but it won’t be a “public hearing” in the legal sense. As soon as the PC agrees to a process, we can share the entire schedule, so you’ll know when your favorite topic is coming up for consideration. Here are the Chapter 1 documents

This work session will be held Thursday, March 12, 2015 at 6:30 p.m. in the Northwest Annex Conference Room, 5280 Northwest Drive, Bellingham. The public is invited to submit written comments and/or attend the work session to provide oral comments. Written comments may be submitted PDS_Planning_Commission@co.whatcom.wa.us

New County website breaks all your old links

Whatcom County switched to a new website last week, and all the links in all my previous posts are probably broken. Sorry about that, but I’m not going to go back and fix them.

EIS for Comp Plan open for comment

Because the Comp Plan probably will have significant environmental impacts, such as the growth in population, we are also required to do an Environmental Impact Statement. The draft EIS is complete and ready for public comment. A public hearing will be held by the Department of Planning and Development Services (not the Planning Commission) on April 13, 7 pm in Council Chambers.

The Draft EIS describes the existing conditions and identifies probable significant environmental impacts, mitigation measures to mitigate these impacts, and any significant unavoidable adverse impacts from the proposal. Four alternatives are studied in the Draft EIS addressing a range of population and employment growth levels and patterns.

The project website has the complete draft document, HERE. You can send comments now until April 24th to pds@co.whatcom.wa.us

Sign up for email notification of county government activities

Ever since I was appointed to the Planning Commission, I have wondered, and asked, how to get on any list to be notified about hearings,etc. Obviously, as a commissioner, I got those notices, but I wanted to see what the general public was getting. Various staffers told me I could sign up on the website, but I could never find where. NOW, you can do it! There’s a bushel of lists you can get on, if you feel you don’t get enough email, HERE.

Next County Council meeting March 17
FULL County Council AGENDA
Planning Commission AGENDA
Planning Commission Meeting Schedule