Council finishes up Comp Plan Tuesday, July 26

The County Council is finishing up its review and update of our 20-year Comprehensive Plan, possibly tomorrow, July 26. On the July 26 agenda is a resolution adopting the Comp Plan as amended. This version does not include some amendments proposed by Councilman Carl Weimer addressing development in the Cherry Point UGA. Carl explains his goals and intent for those amendments HERE.It has been suggested that the Weimer amendments will be referred to the Planning Commission for consideration. State law requires that zoning and planning legislation go through the Planning Commission as part of a thorough public process. What the threshold for an amendment coming out the council needing to go back through the PC, I don’t know, so I’m not going to comment on that decision.

I want to share with you what the process will be if these amendments are kicked to the Planning Commission. There will be the usual process of an environmental review under SEPA, a staff report, the Planning Commission can take whatever time they want to discuss, and at least one official Public Hearing. There is no looming deadline, since these amendments would be considered and made as interim changes. The Comprehensive Plan may be amended only once per year, which usually happens in the Spring. As a planning document, it is not supposed to be constantly changed, because that would defeat the purpose of planning. But we are not stuck for the next 20 years with the Comp Plan as it is about to be voted on.

The Planning Commission spent over a year reviewing and proposing amendments, plus many months invested by various advisory boards. The County Council had less time, but has been very involved in the process of review and amending, holding extra meetings to get through it all. With all big projects like this, the County Council adopts a Public Participation Plan before they start, that lays out what will be considered (issues), who they will do outreach to for input, and the steps they will take to get public comment before making decisions. With a process that took about two years to complete, it’s a little disappointing that people waited until the last minute to pay attention. Some have expressed outrage that the Weimer amendments, drafted only a month ago, will not be in the final.

Planning Commission Agenda July 28:
Low Impact Development principles and Best Practices

At Thursday’s Planning Commission meeting, we’ll consider recommendations for intergrating Low Impact Development (LID) principles and Best Management Practices into the County’s codes and standards in order to meet the state’s 2014 NPDES Phase 2 Permit requirements.. The meeting is Thursday, July 28, at 6:30 p.m. in the Northwest Annex Conference Room, 5280 Northwest Drive, Bellingham. See the meeting materials HERE. NPDES stands for National Pollution Discharge and Elimination System. If you are interested in this, I encourage you to read the staff memorandum on this at the link.