Public Hearing on Interim Marijuana Zoning April 22

The action this week is at the Council and not the Planning Commission. The Council’s interim ordinance on Marijuana Zoning will be up for public hearing. Check out the council agenda highlights, below.

The PC is holding three public hearings to repeal old Subarea Plans that are out of date and inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan. These plans cover Lake Whatcom, South Fork Valley, and Eliza Island. They were adopted before the Growth Management Act became law, and served a purpose then. In the event of an inconsistency between a Subarea Plan and the Comp Plan, the Comp Plan prevails, so it seems to make sense to just remove them from the planning documents. If you’ve got another view of this, come to the hearing Thursday, April 24, starting at 6:30 pm at the County Annex, NW and Smith Roads. Here’s the staff reports on the three plans for repeal.

The non-controversial amendments to corner and through lot setbacks, and the Comp Plan Public Participation Plan will be considered by the Council at its April 22 meeting.

 Water Planning

The Rome Grange held a forum last Saturday on water issues, following in the footsteps of the League of Women Voters. There is so much to learn and so many people who need to get educated on water issues, that as long as these events are well represented by the various stakeholders, they can only be good for future decision-making.   Here are two summaries of the forum, which was generally well received: Bellingham Herald  and Terry Wechsler.

Here’s a tentative list of future forums:

  • May 17: Diverse Perspectives on Water and Land Use, with reps of dairy ag, land developers, Business Alliance, Rural Water Systems, fishing, PDS, and Futurewise
  • June 7: Water Resource Planning: Past, Present, and Future, with Small Cities Caucus, Water Districts Coalition, County Public Works, Private Well Owners, Citizen’s Alliance for Prop. Rights, and Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Ass’n & RE Sources
  • June 21 or 28: Wrap Up, with Mayor Linville, Water Districts, Non-gov’t water systems, tribes, business, environmental community, and ECOL, with Exec. Louws closing the series.

There’s Carl Weimer’s new Facebook page to share information on the Action Plan process and progress. And in case you didn’t get around to completing his survey, here’s the link to share your ideas regarding what the priorities should be on water quality and quantity issues, and ideas you might have to help address the priorities.

Items on the April 22 County Council Agenda

County Council Natural Resources Committee, April 22, 9:30 am, Council Chambers:
Presentation by Dan McShane regarding potential geological hazards within Whatcom County.

Council Council Finance Cmte, April 22, 11 am, Council Chambers:
WRIA 1 funding  (AB2014-149). This item is about continued funding of a facilitator for the Watershed Management Project for the Nooksack River that takes in most of the inhabited Whatcom County. Carl Weimer says some are now questioning the expense and need for that facilitation since the group seems to accomplish little, and other groups such as the Planning Commission have always operated without such expensive facilitation.

County Council Planning and Development Cmte, April 22, 3 pm, Council Chambers

  1. Presentation of the 2014 County-wide Population Growth Monitoring Report (AB2014-097A). This is the one the Planning Commission looked at earlier in the month.
  2. Discussion of a proposed ordinance amending the Whatcom County Code to allow packinghouses and slaughterhouses in the Agriculture Zoning District as administrative approval uses (AB2014-060B) (ordinance scheduled for introduction this evening, with public hearing tentatively scheduled for May 6)

Public Hearing, 7 pm (following Ex. Louws’ State of the County Address), Council chambers:
Interim ordinance on Marijuana zoning (AB2014-074C). This interim ordinance will only last six months or less. A third version, the final, permanent ordinance, will go before the Planning Commission after the interim version is adopted by the Council.

FULL County Council AGENDA
Planning Commission AGENDA
Planning Commission Meeting Schedule


Odds and Ends: I-5, Population, Water Plan, Oso

No hearing or actionable agenda items on the Planning Commission agenda this week. But if you drive the interstate between Bakerview and Grandview Roads you might be interested in the  WSDOT I-5 Corridor Study for that area. We will be getting a briefing on it on Thursday, April 10th, starting at 6:30 pm, County Annex, NW and Smith Roads.

The build out of the Bakerview area, including the possibility of Costco moving there, will have huge impacts on the Bakerview and Slater Road access points. Now that I live just west of the Slater I-5 exit, I am well aware of problems that already exist. Of course, planning is only useful if we intend on implementing those plans, and the Washington Legislature can’t seem to pass a Transportation Package that is sorely needed.

The Public Participation Plan for the Comprehensive Plan Update was approved by the Planning Commission at our last meeting without amendments.  Here’s the draft plan. Next stop is the Council.

Population Projections for 20-year Growth Planning

PDS staff briefed us on County-wide Population Growth Monitoring Report for urban and non-urban areas of the county.  What jumped out at me was the very last table that compared the proposed population projects to the Land Capacity Analysis for each city/UGA. what is being proposed and what we have the land to accommodate is pretty much the same for all the cities, except Bellingham. There we have 35,918 proposed population growth (2013-2036) and a preliminary Land Capacity Analysis of only 28,600.

It is expected that we will not only use available undeveloped lands inside the city limits, but also annex all UGAs outside the city limits, build out urban services, and up-zone to urban densities, within that 20-year planning period. But even if we do that, we still don’t have enough land capacity to accommodate all the expected new people. Either densities will have to be increased significantly, or UGA boundaries expanded, or both.

Clayton Petree presented an analysis he has done on the growth projections, and his basic message is that the 2007 projections were only fairly accurate to what happened because we had an unforseen recession. He suggests the estimates of recent growth are too low, and projections are too low for a future recovering economy.

 Water Action Plan

County Councilman Carl Weimer is collecting ideas from the public regarding what the priorities should be on water quality and quantity issues, and ideas you might have to help address the priorities. You can complete his survey or send him ideas directly.

Oso Landslide

The causes of  the devastating landslide that wiped out the small community of Oso, Washington, and killed over 33 people will likely be debated  for years to come. What we know for sure is that we have the tools to keep people from building homes in geologically unstable areas, if we choose to use them. As we proceed with the Comprehensive Plan update here in Whatcom County, we will review the Critical Areas Ordinance for needed changes, including the rules governing zoning and development of geologically hazardous areas.  If you want to get really deep into the geology of the slide, check out former County Councilman Dan McShane’s blog, Reading the Washington Landscape.

Items on the April 8 County Council Agenda

County Council Finance Committee, April 8, 11 am, Council Chambers:
Request approval for the County Executive to enter into a contract amendment between Whatcom County and Van Ness Feldman, LLP, to provide legal assistance in Growth Management Hearings Board cases, in the amount of $30,000, for a total amended contract in the amount of $130,000 (AB2014-136)

Council Committee of the Whole, April 8, 1:30 pm, Council Chambers:
Discussion of proposed interim marijuana zoning rules. Check out the summary of changes being considered after the public hearing last month (page 2). Assuming the committee likes what they see, it will be introduced at the evening meeting of the Council, with a public hearing proposed for April 22. This interim ordinance will only last six months or less. A third version, the final, permanent ordinance, will go before the Planning Commission after the interim version is adopted by the Council.

County Council Planning And Development Cmte, immediately following the Cmte of Whole, Council Chambers:
1. Introductory briefing on the 2016 Critical Areas Ordinance update process and schedule (AB2014-150)
2. MORE Discussion of an interim ordinance related to packinghouse applications in Agriculture Zones (AB2014-060A)

FULL County Council AGENDA
Planning Commission AGENDA
Planning Commission Meeting Schedule