Planning Commission considers Open Space tax reduction applications

The Planning Commission will consider and make recommendations to the County Council on five applications by land owners who would like their land valued, and therefore taxed, based on its current use, at it’s next meeting, Thursday, June 26, 6:30 pm at the County Annex, NW & Smith Roads.

The Open Space Taxation Act, 1970, allows property owners to have their open space, farm and agricultural, and timber lands valued at their current use rather than at their highest and best use. the purpose of this law is to promote on-going open space and natural areas that might otherwise feel the pressure to be developed to a higher-valued use.

Here’s the staff reporton the five applications and all the details.

Wireless Communication Tower Zoning moves to Council

After two full sessions on this major reorganization and update of the zoning rules for wireless communication towers, the Planning Commission made a near-unanimous recommendation.

We spent quite a bit of time on the issue of performance bonds, or an alternative, to ensure that money would be available if and when the tower needed to be taken down. Once we understood that a proposed alternative, a lien on the property, would actually be a lien on the land, most likely a landowner who was just leasing the space for the tower, and not a lien on the equipment owned by the wireless company, we dispatched that idea quickly.

But what came up in the discussion is an understanding that the performance bonds were required for every single piece of equipment on the tower, as well as the tower. Planning staff have to keep track of all that equipment, who owns it, and make sure they have a current performance bond for it. My question was why? The tower owner will be motivated to get abandoned equipment off its tower so they can rent the space to someone else, and if the tower is removed, all the attached equipment will have to come down, too. So the Commission included a request for staff to look into how to limit the performance bond requirements to just the tower.

Another substantive change we recommended is to give tower owners more time to find new tenants or sell a tower, rather than force them to remove it within six months of ceasing operation. As long as they are paying the lease, maintaining the performance bond and insurance, it seems a waste of resources to tear it down right away.

Slaughterhouses, deja vu, all over again

A final-final-final version of the Packinghouse Zoning ordinance was introduced at the County Council’s June 17th meeting. A public hearing is scheduled for July 8 for the ordinance amending Whatcom County Code Title 20 to allow packinghouses and slaughterhouses in the Agriculture (AG), Heavy Impact Industrial (HII), and Rural and Industrial Manufacturing (RIM) Zoning Districts (AB2014-060D).  Check for the agenda a few days in advance FULL County Council AGENDA. The main adjustments are that Light Industrial has been removed, and allowing Administrative Approval permitting for small-scale operations. See page 2 for a summary of changes.

 Water Planning

Here’s the video of the latest Grange Water forum, moderated by Councilman Rud Browne, with panelists Ferndale Mayor Gary Jensen; Gary Stoyka, Whatcom Co. Public Works; Glen Smith, representing private well owners; Ryan Ericson, Futurewise; Roger Almskaar, Citizens Alliance for Property Rights. The focus of the program is “What are the major issues with water supplies and uses in Whatcom County? What would a comprehensive and reasonable solution look like?”

Next County Council meeting July 8

FULL County Council AGENDA
Planning Commission AGENDA
Planning Commission Meeting Schedule

–Natalie