Public Hearing on Cell Tower Permit Process Changes

Public Hearing on amendments to the permit process for routine wireless communications facility equipment upgrades,  Thursday, May 20, 6:30 pm at the County Annex, NW & Smith Roads. Read the documents HERE and the Bellingham Herald summary HERE.

Slaughterhouses, deja vu, all over again

The County Council, at its May 6 meeting, held a final public hearing on a revised Slaughter/Packinghouse ordinance. Unfortunately, the Planning department did not deliver to the council an environmental review of the newest changes to the ordinance. So the council did not vote on final adoption of the ordinance. It has since been pulled from the May 20th agenda, and is scheduled for a new public hearing on June 3rd or later. You can read the Planning staff summary of the environmental review issues on page 3-4 HERE.

The problems were not just about the missing report. The Bellingham Herald headline announced “Environmentalists Slam Slaughterhouse Rules.” Concern was raised that the most recent iteration of this ordinance provides for slaughter and packing houses in the Light Industrial Zone, as a conditional use, with no size limitations built in to the law. It also adds the High Impact Industrial zone as a permitted use, also without size limitations.

While I understand and support the need for size limitations for facilities on prime agricultural soils in the Ag Zone, the thought that without size limitations all slaughterhouse facilities will grow to a massive scale is ridiculous. If it costs local farmers a burdensome amount to haul their livestock to Skagit County for slaughter, then other growers are not going to be making Whatcom County a center for a regional, multi-state livestock processing industry. There just is not the demand close enough to make that happen.

When you go back and read all the blog posts and articles on this issue over the last few years, the issue was protecting agricultural land and keeping in production rather than putting processing facilities on it, and, protecting the environment where processing facilities were sited. I believe this ordinance does that. That is also allows for processing in other zones, with the same strict environmental protections, should not matter.

Water Planning

The County Council tabled a resolution at its May 6th meeting that would have endorsed the Ag District Coalition’s effort to set up Watershed Improvement Districts (WID) to focus water planning work in the ag lands of Whatcom County.  The WIDs would tax and give a weighted vote to landowners within the boundaries of the district — two votes for every five acres of assessable land within the district. Seems the residential “well-users”, who may have only a few acres of land, are feeling left out. These are the same well-users who have been up in arms in January for fear the new Council majority would not continue the lawsuit to fight compliance with the Growth Management Act. Learn about WIDS and the proposed local districts HERE. No date was set to re-visit the resolution.

As a follow up to their two forums on water, the League of Women Voters is showing the film Water Blues Green Solutions, Monday, May 19, 6:30-8:30 pm, at the Pickford Film Center, 1318 Bay Street. Explore ways to work with Nature to create a Sustainable Water Future! Seating is limited for this event Click Here for Reserved Seat Tickets Suggested Donation is $5

Items on the May 20 County Council Agenda

County Council Natural Resources Committee, May 20, 9:30 am, Council Chambers:
Presentation and discussion of recommendations on the Portage Bay Shellfish Recovery Plan (Background and recommended plan). Pollution in the Nooksack and the Bay is directly related to land use practices in the watershed.

Public Hearing, 7 pm, Council Chambers:
Packinghouses and slaughterhouses in the Agriculture Zoning District as administrative approval uses (AB2014-060B) Here’s the Bellingham Herald review of the changes to the ordinance Postponed until June 3 or later.

FULL County Council AGENDA
Planning Commission AGENDA
Planning Commission Meeting Schedule

–Natalie