GMA Non-compliance, a year and a half on

The Planning Commission will consider a request for rezone of 5 acres at the corner of Slater and Elder Roads, at it’s next meeting, Thursday, July 10, 6:30 pm at the County Annex, NW & Smith Roads. The zoning change is from Neighborhood Commercial to Rural General Commercial which allows for a greater option of commercial enterprises. Agenda materials

Growth Management Act Compliance Update

Two bits of news this past week got me to thinking where the County is on getting in compliance with the Growth Management Act. Gary Davis, Senior Planner with PDS, whipped up this little chart for me, summarizing the status of issues from the January 2013 Compliance Order and the June 2013 finding on water resources. Left to resolve are LAMIRD rules and boundaries along the Guide and Birch Bay Lynden Road, and the water resources issue. Here’s a summary of all the original January 2013 Compliance Order issues.

Issue number 9 (on both charts): On June 30, the State Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the County on how we monitor, and plan, for growth in rural areas. While there are over 33,000 parcels in unincorporated Whatcom County that may be built on, the plan is to allow only 2,651 new residents in these areas for the next 25 years. Seems a bit unrealistic. The Court agreed that the County’s process to monitor the growth every year “permitted the County to control¬†rural development.” Bellingham Herald story

The bigger news this week was the County Council deciding to quit negotiations with plaintiffs on the water resources issue (number 10 on the current chart). The Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB) ruled in June 2013 that “the County does not have measures required in [state law] to protect rural character by protecting surface water and groundwater resources.” The Council decided negotiations were “futile” and to just leave it up to the State Court of Appeals to decide. Here’s the Bellingham Herald story on it.

This issue has divided people who worked side-by-side to elect a progressive majority to the County Council last year. If there was an easy fix, we would have come up with it already. I’ve sat in front of my computer for quite a while trying to decide what needs to be said about it. While it’s appropriate to try to negotiate a solution with the plaintiffs on this issue, “environmentalists” as they are sometimes labeled, are not the only stakeholders. The Council could negotiate a settlement, the GMHB could agree to it, and other stakeholders would turn around and sue. The plaintiffs have complained that the Council’s decision to appeal the GMHB ruling will have the same effect — more litigation — rather than a final decision.

While it is ostensibly about protecting rural character, it’s really about water rights. And one thing I’ve learned from all the water forums in the last few years is that water rights disputes are solved, maybe, through negotiation with all stakeholders, and then take it to a court to enforce it. Courts don’t come up with solutions. They just tell you if the solution you came up with is legal.

Slaughterhouses ordinance adopted unanimously

Yes you read it right! Unanimous. ‘Nuff said.

More Water News

Yesterday, County Executive Louws gave the Council’s Natural Resources Committee an update on the Water Action Plan. Listen to the presentationHERE and the memo HERE.

The Rome Grange’s fourth water forum will be Thursday July 10, 7.00 pm to 9.00 pm, Silver Reef Hotel/Casino Event Center.¬† The program includes opening remarks by Tim Ballew II, Chairman, Lummi Indian Business Council, County Executive Jack Louws as Moderator, remarks by Mayor Kelli Linville of Bellingham, Dave Olson of Rural Water Systems, Randy Kinley for the Lummi Nation, and representatives of the Agriculture Water District Coalition and Non-government Water systems. Tom Loranger, Program Manager of Water Resources for the state Department of Ecology, will be the closing speaker.

Keep up with Councilman Weimer’s thoughts on water issues at his blog HERE.

Next County Council meeting July 22

FULL County Council AGENDA
Planning Commission AGENDA
Planning Commission Meeting Schedule