Should we regulate broadcast towers on Point Roberts?

At tomorrow’s Planning Commission meeting, we’ll finish up our “Code Scrub” where we consider needed updates to the Zoning Code that have come up as a result of state law changes or clarifications from Hearings Examiner decisions. The meeting is Thursday, February 11 at 6:30 p.m. in the Northwest Annex Conference Room, 5280 Northwest Drive, Bellingham. See the meeting materials HERE. Most of the updates were routine, but we postponed approval on three items until tomorrow’s meeting. They are: Docketing Procedure (Ex. B), Electric Powerlines, Water Tanks, and Utility Structures (Ex C), and Major Project Permit Procedures (Ex H). The PC will also elect new officers and adopt business rules for the year.

Everyone, but me, was okay with the amendments to the Point Roberts Special District zoning rules to govern the height of broadcast towers (Exhibit K). This amendment is intended to “memorialize” the ruling of the Hearing Examiner against the application to put a high-powered AM radio tower in Point Roberts. The Hearing Examiner ruled that because the Pt Roberts zone has a structure height limit of 25 feet, and no exception for broadcast towers, broadcast towers can be no taller than 25 feet. This effectively killed the application for the AM tower because 25 feet is totally inadequate.

“Memorializing” in the code what appears to be a fluke regulating broadcast towers seems like bad public policy, to me. Many people of Pt. Roberts are adamant about banning high-powered radio stations locating there to serve the Vancouver metro area. I understand and agree with their concerns. But they are trying to use the zoning code to bar these stations because they can’t do it the right way, through the broadcast licensing process on the federal level. I’m concerned that this code language limits all potential radio stations that might want to serve the local community to a ridiculous 25 foot antenna height. I will be proposing amendments to exempt low-power FM licenses, and try to fix the language that confuses towers with antennas. There are other concerns that this Hearing Examiner decision may serve as precedent for other zones with height limits.

Keep up with continued Comp Plan work

The Council has three months to whip through the Draft update. Here’s their schedule. I recommend paying attention to the environment chapter and the UGAs. Here are the final amended versions of each chapter.  Also, the Final EIS for the Comp Plan update is now available, HERE.

Here’s Bellingham Councilman Michael Lilliquist and  County Planning Commissioner Nicole Oliver talking about the County Comprehensive Plan on
the Chamber of Commerce radio show on KGMI recently.

Mapping water pollution in Whatcom County

Whatcom County Public Works coordinates a routine water quality monitoring program at a fixed-network of approximately 90 sites in County watersheds that discharge to marine waters. By the end of 2015, approximately 80% of the freshwater sampling sites in Whatcom County were not meeting the standards for fecal coliform bacteria. Unfortunately, our bays and harbors suffer the downstream consequences of polluted neighborhood creeks. Three commercial shellfish growing areas and several recreational shellfish areas are currently closed to harvest due to elevated bacteria levels. To make fecal coliform monitoring information more readily available to the public, staff from multiple agencies worked together to develop maps locating sampling locations and reporting fecal coliform analysis results. See all the maps here Water Quality Monitoring Results