The Whatcom County Planning Commission will hold one public hearing this week, March 13th starting at 6:30 pm at the County Annex, Smith and NW. The topic is Setback Provisions for Lots on More Than One Road. Not your most provocative topic, just the meat and potatoes of planning. Here’s the staff report.
Packinghouses, AKA Slaughterhouses
The Planning Commission held a public hearing last month on the proposed changes to the Ag Zone packing house rules. A motion was made and seconded to make “No Recommendation.” One might think that meant the Commission had no opinion on the proposal, but we proceeded to discuss the rules for over an hour. Much of the discussion surrounded the economic feasibility of slaughter houses, or I should say, speculation about the feasibility, rather than the difference between an accessory use versus a conditional use in zoning. You can listen to the blow by blow starting at minute 41.The final vote on No Recommendation was 6-3 in favor (Hunter, Haugen, McClendon opposed)
I realize now that the passion about this issue is mostly about needing the slaughter/packinghouse services in the county, but neither the Planning Commission nor the County Council is charged with facilitating that business. Zoning one way or another is probably not going to make a difference in getting the slaughter services local producers need. A quick call to a local economic development professional led me to the Washington State University Small Farms Team and their Mobile Slaughtering Unit Manual. Mobile slaughtering has been mentioned in public testimony before the council. We even have one that says they service Whatcom County: Island Grown Farmers Coop. Jean Melious discussed the economics of slaughterhouses on her blog last year, that puts it in perspective. (Hint: search the page for “mobile” and read from there.)
So there’s one more stop on this journey, to the County Council for final approval. I hope that once that’s done, the people on both sides of this issue can get together and find a solution to the real problem.
Rural Zone Lot Clustering
The other public hearing on Feb. 27th was dispatched with quickly. the Commission recommended deleting the offending sentence fragment, and also recommended that the entire topic of rural lot cluster zoning be put on the agenda for review next year.
Population Projections for 20-year Growth Planning
As I discussed last time, the cities in Whatcom County want to pack more people inside their boundaries than history would suggest likely to happen. Councilman Ken Mann has proposed as a safeguard against the cities just giving up on that and asking to expand their boundaries, they would need to buy development rights from land in the rural area before they can expand. Transfer of Development Rights, TDR, have been used a little in Whatcom County and has been used to create a “wall against sprawl” in east King County. The Bellingham Herald did an overview of the issues for this public hearing.
Public Hearing – County Council: Tuesday, March 11, 7 pm, Council Chambers
Water Action Plan
The Water Action Plan is on the Council agenda for the March 11th meeting, for adoption. Since it is a resolution, and not an ordinance, no public hearing is required. If you want to speak on it, plan to do so in the public comment period immediately following the public hearings at the beginning of the meeting. See the amended version here.
The League of Women Voters will hold it’s second of a two-part series , titled “Strategies to Address Whatcom Water Issues” this coming Saturday, March 15th, 9:30 – 12 at the downtown Bellingham Library, ground floor meeting room. Catch up with part one on-line: League of Women Voters’ forum on Whatcom Water Issues.
The Planning Commission 2014 Agenda
The County Council adopted a list of issues to work on in 2014. This docket includes Boundary Line Adjustments, Capital Facility Planning-Special Purpose Districts, Broadcast Towers in Point Roberts, Six-Year CIP and LOS Amendments, Slater/Elder Rd. Rezone, WCC/Title 20 Amendments, Wireless Communication Facilities, Road Setback Amendments, Weddings & Special Events, Marijuana Regulations, and Packinghouses. Other issues may come up during the year, but unless they are urgent, they will go in the bucket for 2015. See the entire list and a description here.