New Zoning Rules for Events Proposed

The Planning Commission will consider amendments to Whatcom County Zoning Code regarding Weddings, Receptions and Special Events, at it’s next meeting, Thursday, July 24, 6:30 pm at the County Annex, NW & Smith Roads. This meeting will be a work session, learning about the staff proposal and giving some input on it. The Planning Commission will consider the final proposal on August 14th. The agenda materials are HERE. Up until now, special events, weddings, farm festivals, music jams and the like have been permitted as Conditional Uses, with no standard set of conditions.

Rezone at Slater and Elder Roads vote deadlocked; are zoning laws really just suggestions?

At the last PC meeting we considered a request for rezone of 5 acres at the corner of Slater and Elder Roads,  from Neighborhood Commercial to Rural General Commercial which allows for a greater option of commercial enterprises. The six members of the Planning Commission present could not agree on any action on this proposal. Both motions to deny and to recommend failed on a 3-3 vote. It moves to the County Council without a recommendation from the PC.

On it’s face the proposed change seemed reasonable. But the history of zoning compliance of one of the property owners became the main issue for those who ended up opposing the request, including me. The property is already involved in an enforcement action due to non-compliance with current zoning.  After PDS staff notified the owner to remove their used car sales from the property, and they complied, the owner brought the cars back to the site.

This zoning change was recommended by PDS staff to make a currently illegal activity legal. The explanation staff gave for making this recommendation was that enforcement just doesn’t hardly happen.  There is a long list of complaints pending enforcement, the county can’t levy fines, if they take a property owner to court it’s a very low priority for the County Prosecutor, etc, etc, etc. So the solution is make what is illegal, legal, and it goes away.

Having recently discussed with a friend his 19-year battle to get zoning rules enforced on a neighbor’s property, I have no reason to doubt PDS staff’s assessment of the intractable nature of zoning enforcement in Whatcom County. For those who don’t like zoning and believe that property rights are sacrosanct, this status quo is great. Zoning law becomes just a suggestion, to be ignored if you want.

More Water News

County Executive Louws gave the Council an update on the Water Action Plan, and Councilman Weimer is mainly please with the progress. Read his analysis HERE.

If you missed the forth and final Rome Grange water forum, here’s the video.  The program includes Tim Ballew II, Chairman, Lummi Indian Business Council, County Executive Jack Louws;  Mayor Kelli Linville of Bellingham; Dave Olson of Rural Water Systems; Randy Kinley for the Lummi Nation; Tom Loranger, Program Manager of Water Resources for the state Department of Ecology.

Next County Council meeting August 5

FULL County Council AGENDA
Planning Commission AGENDA
Planning Commission Meeting Schedule