Coming to Whatcom County: Slaughterhouses

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Thu, Sep 20, 2012, 9:04 pm  //  Wendy Harris

This Tuesday, September 25, 2012, the County Council will hold a public hearing on a proposal to allow slaughterhouses on agricultural land.  This is a zoning amendment that must be consistent with the County Comprehensive Plan and the Growth Management Act (GMA).  Here is the link for the agenda bill.  http://www.co.whatcom.wa.us/council/0agendabills/ab2012-300.pdf.

The Planning Department drafted a proposal that would allow slaughter facilities on agricultural land as a conditional use if it is supplemental to dairy and livestock operations (i.e., an accessory use), limited to no more than 10 employees, and constructed to maximize the agricultural use of the remaining area.  However, the Planning Commission revised the Staff’s proposal to remove limitations on size and operations of slaughterhouses, allowing slaughterhouses as a primary and permitted use for 10 or fewer employees and a conditional use for over 10 employees.

The Planning Department is advising the County Council that, pursuant to advice from the County Prosecutor’s Office, the revised proposal may not comply with the Growth Management Act.  One of the GMA’s goals is to encourage conservation of productive agricultural land and discourage incompatible uses. Development regulations must prevent conversion of land for a nonresource use where the land is being used for primary agricultural production. RCW 36.70A.020(8); WAC 365-196-815(1)(b). 

The Planning Department does not have specific recommendations for Council.  For guidance on how to restructure the zoning amendment, Planning  suggests that Council look at some of the limitations contained in its orginal slaughterhouse proposal.  I hope that the the Planning Department realizes that even its initial proposal went to far.  I am opposed to the slaughterhouse proposal (both versions) for a number of reasons, although the Planning Commission version is far worse.

Slaughterhouses are an industrial use that reduce the amount of land available for farming.  Industrial uses should be restricted to industrial zoning.  The County is already short of its goal to preserve 100,000 acres of farm land, and this is a movement in the wrong direction.  Slaughterhouses increase impervious surfaces associated with stormwater run-off and water quality degradation.  They fragment agricultural land, contrary to County policy and recent agricultural lot reconsolidation efforts.  Fragmentation of farm land reduces the viability of our agricultural industry.  We can not provide greater protection for our agricultural land if we are allowing land use activities that contradict this alleged goal. 

Most slaughter occurs at large, centralized facilities owned by a few multi-national corporations, which, increasingly, are moving urban operations to rural communities.  Negative impacts to rural communities after relocation of a large slaughterhouse are well-documented.  Large slaughterhouses squeeze local farmers out of business.  The Planning Commission proposal, which removes limitation on slaughterhouse size and operation, would allow large slaughterhouses to relocate to Whatcom County.

 Slaughterhouses are likely to invite conflict with rural residential homeowners, who may first become mobilized right before or after a slaughterhouse is located nearby.  Slaughterhouses frequently mistreat animals in violation of the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, with little or no repercussion.  Local communities have no power to ensure humane treatment of slaughter animals.  The Planning Commission failed to consider the alternative option of mobile slaughter units, which are supported by the USDA as a way to provide greater income to rural farmers.

I have discussed my concerns in greater detail in the September issue of the Whatcom Watch. The link for this article is found here. https://docs.google.com/open?id=0BzTIJpNycQV8emU2TW9ORlJod0k.

If slaughterhouses are to be located on agricultural land, restrictions on the size and operations of the facility provide the best protection for the animals, the land and the people of Whatcom County.  Please tell the County Council that you do not support the Planning Commission proposal.  Better yet, tell them that you do not want slaughterhouses at all.   council@co.whatcom.wa.us

Craig Mayberry  //  Fri, Sep 21, 2012, 11:01 am

A couple of comments as a local farmer that is very concerned about this issue.  For us small farmers we currently have a couple of options for processing our animals.  You have Lynden Meat that will do custom slaughters, but is not USDA and therefore limits the markets for local farmers.  You have another custom processor in Shohomish County, but that does not work for Whatcom County and very few farmers use their facility.  You have 2 USDA processors. One is the Island Grown Farmer Cooperative in Bow, but that has limited capacity and very few farmers in Whatcom County use the facility because it is at capacity.  The other option is Keizer Meats who many of the farmers use.  Keizer Meats has been trying to sell their busines and that process has been on and off over the last 2 years.  They are nearing retirement and the future is a little cloudy what will happen there.  They are also limited and cannot grow and therefore have a hard time meeting the demands of local farmers during the fall when most of the cows are processed.  There are currently attempts to start another USDA slaughter facility in the county and hopefully something ulimtately happens there. 

A couple of observations.  First, there are not enough cows in the area that no industrial slaughterhouse will ever be located in Whatcom County, it is irrelevant what the planning codes allow.  This is the last place on earth that a large, industrial slaughterhouse would ever be built simple because they could not draw on a large enough area to make it worthwhile (you cannot bring in cows from Canada, we have the ocean to the west and mountains to the east so the area from which you could draw is very small), so your concerns are unrealistic.  Slaughterhouses are a marginal and low margin business to begin with, we do need some additional capacity in the county either through the expansion of Keizer or another slaughterhouse, but at that point that will meet all of the demand in the county for the next 20+ years.  It is not like you have all sorts of people lined up to start a slaughter facility because it is such great money, it is not. 

If various people in the county make it impossible to either grow Keizer or start a new facility then there will be significant limits that will be place on local farmers to provide local food.  On one hand you have various groups, like Sustainable Connections, that are trying to increase the demand for local food.  If you have other groups in the community trying to limit processing then you end up sending mixed messages and make things even more difficult for farmers.  Let me be as clear as I can on this issue, right now the biggest obstacle to make local meat more available is local processing capacity.  If these types of efforts end up derailing attempts to start a small, local facilty then it will end up having a very negative impact on farmers and local consumers.  I do not believe that is the intention here, but all of your talk about industrial slaughthouse confuses the issue and there will be remedial impacts on the local attempts to build a new facility.  Again, for the third time, there will never be an industrial slaughterhouse in Whatcom county because it does not make economic sense now, nor will it ever.  We have lots of important planning issues that need to be addressed and this is not one of them.  The fact that there is a conditial use permit for facilities over 10 people does not matter.


Wendy Harris  //  Fri, Sep 21, 2012, 5:14 pm

Craig: I agree that there is a shortage of slaughter services in Whatcom County. This is the case throughout Western Washington and is the result of the the consolidation of the slaughter industry.  U.S. slaughterhouses have extremely high kill rates (the speed at which animals are killed and processed on the production line)to maximize profits (and yes, the slaughter industry does exist on a very small profit margin).  Therefore, they need a steady supply of cows, pigs, chickens, turkey, etc. so they contract with large farmers who must supply a high volume of animals to kill.  In this way, small and middle sized farmers are being squeezed out.

What this means is that there is a ready market of farmers through out Western Washington in need of slaughter services.  Therefore, I think the risk of attracting a large slaughterhouse in Whatcom County is real. The Planning Commission proposal does not limit the slaughter animals to Whatcom County farms. And what about the controversy over horse slaughter? Nothing stops the slaughter of other types of animals or the export of slaughter products abroad.

I would like to see the County evaluate the use of a mobile slaughter unit.  Farmers in Pierce County formed a cooperative and with the help of the Conservation District, purchased a USDA certified MSU which produces organic meat.  Some MSU are large enough to require 3 trailers. Studies indicate that there is a market for locally raised, humanely slaughtered meat even though the end product is priced higher.

If that is not a possibility, then let’s makes sure that we restrict the size and operations of slaughterhouses so that it benefits Whatcom County farmers, not multi-national corporations.  If there is no risk that large slaughterhouses will relocated here, then what is the harm in including restrictions in the zoning amendment, just to make sure? And let’s keep slaughterhouses out of the agricultural zone so that we do not reduce the land available for farming.

If farmers want farming to remain viable in Whatcom County, then they need to support zoning that is in the long term interests of the agricultural community as a whole.


Craig Mayberry  //  Fri, Sep 21, 2012, 8:38 pm

Wendy,

We need one small slaughter facitility that can handle a couple of thousand animals a year and that would be more then adequate for farmers needs for the next 20 years.  There is not a lot of livestock in Western Washington simply because the climate does not really make it efficient to raise beef cattle and no one is raising pigs or sheep in any large quantities and for economic reasons that is not going to change.  Large slaughterhouses are designed to do either pigs, cows or sheep, but cannot do all of them and there will never be enough animals of any one type in the area to provide them with the hundreds or thousands that they need in a day.  They would have to ship animals to Whatcom County from Eastern Washington or Bend OR and that makes no economic sense because of the travel and they already have large scale slaughter operations in those areas.  Land prices are too high here, compare to Bend and Eastern Washington, as well to make them economically viable.  Like I stated above this is not a fight worth having because it is not even a remote possibility so why waste the time.  By posting articles in multiple papers and outlets it runs the risk of people not being able to clearly understand the differences between a local slaughterhouse and a commercial operations and we run the risk of inciting concern over even a small one that we do need.
Craig


Wendy Harris  //  Fri, Sep 21, 2012, 9:00 pm

It is exactly my intention to incite concern!  The Planning Department is advising the County Council that the proposal by the Planning Commission may not comply with the GMA.  That alone is reason enough. And again, if you believe that fears of a large slaughterhouse are so misplaced, why not agree to a more restrictive proposal to placate those of us who are over-reacting? If we only need to slaughter a few thousand animals a year, then certainly a mobile slaughter unit would suffice, and would prevent loss and fragmentation of farm land.


Craig Mayberry  //  Sat, Sep 22, 2012, 10:54 am

Wendy,

Do what you want but you are wasting your time on a phantom issue.

In terms of the mobile processing unit you keep mentioning.  Mobile processing units are great under specific circumstances.  IGFC has a mobile processing unit and it is helpful for them to go to the various islands instead of everyone having to come to a fixed locations.  The problem they are having, and the problem with mobile processing units in general is that economically you have to go to a single farm and spend the whole day and process at least 3-4 cows, 8 pigs or about 15 sheep (or some combination) but very few farms have enough animals to do that on a regular basis so what ends up happening is that a bunch of farmers take their animals to one farm that hosts the mobile processing unit that day.  This becomes a logistical nightmare and one of the reasons that IGFC has struggled and why the mobile processing unit in Tacoma is under utilized.  The discussions in the county have been to use the Tacoma mobile processing unit a couple of times a month but have it be on the same farm each time so there is effectively a fixed place.  The reason they want to use the Tacoma mobile processing unit is that it is available and would save the upfront capital and they already have a USDA plan so it saves the time and expense for that.  The other reason is that by using the mobile processing unit you avoid regulations so we could stick it on one farm and dispose of the blood and insides on the farm and not be regulated.  Almost no farmer in the county wants a USDA mobile processing unit that is going to come to their farm, everyone wants it at a fixed location.  The new county regulations may make it easier on the regulation front to have a single location, but in the end the processing unit will be at a fixed location and the only mobile processing unit that would ever be used is if we borrowed an existing one.


John Lesow  //  Mon, Sep 24, 2012, 10:35 pm

Craig,

There have been few expressions of support or revision from Whatcom County farmers on the Slaughterhouse proposal, so your belated comments are overdue. 

Too bad there was not more input from you and other farmers when the Planning Commission was engaged in the wholesale gutting of the original Staff proposal last May.

The current proposal before Council, passed 5-2 by the Planning Commission, should be killed. It is dishonest and, according to legal staff, a possible violation of the Growth Management Act; factors alone should give a thoughtful and responsible County Council pause.  Whether those concerns will resonate with the current Council remains an open question.  We will know tomorrow.

The Slaughterhouse proposal represents the race to the bottom that has characterized the recommendations of this Planning Commission on other issues over the past two years; Rural Element, Lake Whatcom Stormwater regs, etc. 

The original Planning staff report contained procedural safeguards for “Small Scale Slaughterhouses” (sponsored by Councilmember Barbara Brenner) that would have likely addressed the issues noted in your post;  to wit:

1.  The facility employs no more than 10 employees
2.  The facility is supplemental to dairying, raising of livestock, and husbandry of small animals
3.  The facility processes 50 percent agricultural goods produced in Whatcom County that originate from permitted uses
4.  The minimum lot size shall be 10 acres
5.  Code setback provisions apply
6.  Buildings shall avoid prime soils where feasible
7.  No rendering of animal byproducts on site

These recommendations were proposed by County Staff after extensive review.

The Planning Commission has summarily shitcanned most of these recommendations, much to the delight of local property rights advocates.  All 4 of them. 

Unfortunately, most of the beatified Whatcom County Farming Fraternity, of which you are a member, have remained silent with regard to the impacts that have been cited by Ms. Harris, as well as concerns of Planning Staff (including questions of GMA compliance).

You mention Snohomish County.  Snohomish prohibits slaughterhouses in Ag zones.  In neighboring Skagit, slaughterhouses are permitted as an Administrative Special Use.  In other words, special conditions attach prior to approval, as well they should.  But not in Whatcom County.

If passed in it’s current form, Whatcom County would allow Slaughter as a Permitted Use.  No requirement that the facility is supplemental to dairying or livestock.  No minimum lot size.  Minimal setbacks. No consideration for the retention of prime agricultural soils.  And rendering would be OK, too.  Typical of the “no rules”, scofflaw attitude now in vogue in county government.

The Slaughterhouses on Ag proposal is an example of the continuing mongrelization of Whatcom County land use by the Planning Commission.  And remember, we are appointed, not elected.  You are stuck with us for a long time.

Your Adam Smithian attitude on land use would find comfort and support on the current Planning Commission.

That great Invisible Hand would permit all Slaughterhouse Enterprises to live, grow and prosper in complete economic and environmental harmony, devoid of any impacts on the quality of life that the current regime is busily dismantling at the expense of those taxpayers that don’t happen to be farmers.

Seriously,  we need rules—clear, practical and effective rules—to protect Ag land in Whatcom County and the interests of neighboring property owners. 

It is ironic that the Planning Commission and County Council are now, ostensibly, trying to address the problem of “fragmentation” of agricultural lands;  while at the same time actively considering a proposal that would exacerbate that very same problem. 

The Planning Commission has allowed for slaughter in Industrial and Rural Industrial zones.  It is not as if farmers are being deprived of a venue. 

The main driver of this proposal is that the allowance for slaugher on all Ag lands represents an opportunity to increase land value by legislative fiat.  An upzone from Ag to Industrial use accomplished with the stroke of a pen from a compliant County Council.

So you can hardly blame the beleaguered farmer for opposing an activity that could allow him to profit from this new permitted use, irrespective of the impacts on the environment and the residents of Whatcom County.

Such is the nature of politics, as you and I can well appreciate.

John Lesow
Whatcom County Planning Commissiner - District 3


Doug karlberg  //  Tue, Sep 25, 2012, 3:07 pm

Why would the government listen to an attorney with zero real world experience in slaughtering of farm animals in the first place.

Wendy, even in court, only people who are vetted as experts are allowed to give their opinion, and there are good reasons for this policy. This would be good policy for government to follow.

Your scaremongering about phantom industrial slaughterhouses hurts the economics of small family farmers.(or God forbid, big family farmers)

I have watched Wendy get involved in many local issues, and sometimes with good constructive and well grounded arguments, but the economics of slaughtering animals is one which I can see no foundation to listen to Wendy.

People do need jobs, and food processing has been the foundation for Whatcom County for years, and continues to produce jobs directly and spin-off jobs for many in Whatcom County. Ill advised comments that lack a facts based foundation, are harmful for job creation.

In my observations there are a lot of “do gooders’ which I will admit are well intentioned, but do not seem to be well grounded in reality sometimes.

We need slaughter houses, steel mills, dumps, recycling centers, and yes even coal electricity produces products that we all use in our daily lives currently, but it never seems that these “do gooders’ ever want any of these necessary industries in their back yard. They always want them in somebody else’s back yard, and then have them shipped by these dirty industries, to their clean and orderly back yard.

To often it feels like the “do gooders” are telling the rest of us how we “should” be living our lives.

The debacle on Catholic Services and its charitable goal of helping the needy was the latest local liberal hypocrisy. They want to take care of the needy, just not in their back yard.

At Catholic Services they were actually helping the needy (and not just by writing checks)

This is probably terribly unfair to Wendy, whom I do not know, but it would be refreshing to this old curmudgeon to see Wendy use her skills to assist these folks is solving a real problem.

It does not take much research to conclude that Whatcom County could use a local slaughterhouse, and I don’t know if she should get into the broad economics of the slaughterhouse industry, without studying the local industry in detail.

It is hard to become a lawyer, and I respect those who have survived the rigorous study of law, and passed the bar.

Having said this though the study of law is steeped in the utilization of logic and evidence based facts, and Wendy’s assertion that the minor land use action is the inevitable first step on the slippery slope to industrial scale slaughterhouses coming to Whatcom County does not appear to this untrained eye to be based in either sound logic and/or fact based evidence.


Craig Mayberry  //  Tue, Sep 25, 2012, 6:37 pm

John,

“your Adam Smithian attitude on land use would find comfort and support on the current planning commission”. 

It is good to hear from you again, but you are misrepresenting my beliefs.  I have never publicly or privately (even in my own thoughts) advocated that we should not have zoning requirements and leave it to the beloved invisible hand to protect farmers or land.  I am simply responding to the debate over slaughterhouses that there are economic forces at work that make this whole issue non existent.  Slaughterhouses are a tough sell economically and there will never be a large one built in the county.  We do need one more small one of around 10 employees that needs to be placed somewhere in the county.  We are having a tremendously difficult time getting 1 more in the county so all I am saying that if the argument that Wendy is making is that there is all of the suddenly going to be a rush of small and large slaughterhouses in Whatcom County simply because the planning commission relaxed zoning then I think you are dreaming.  My concern is that we are going to lose one, not that we will all of the sudden have 5 to choose from.  My suggestion is that there are lots of valuable and important land use issues that need to be dealt with in the county that will have a very measureable impact on farmers and residents and that time and energy should be focused on those issues, not phantom issues that will never materialize.  Nowhere in that statement can you intrepret it to mean that I do not care about zoning.

By the way, someone will need to explain the “that the facility is supplemental to dairying or livestock” requirement.  I interpret that to mean that the land that contains the slaughterhouse would also have to have dairy cows or other livestock.  If my interpretation is correct then that will make it impossible to have another slaughterhouse because no farmer is going to do this on their farm as a side business.  The 10 acre requirement also will make it impossible to have a slaugherhouse because the economics will make it impossible to recoup the investment in 10 acres of land in this county when the facility only needs a couple of acres at most.


John Lesow  //  Wed, Sep 26, 2012, 8:51 am

Craig,

Always good to hear from you.

Council did not pass the Slaughterhouse proposal last night, citing legal concerns/GMA compliance as reasons for pause.

On the one hand, Council was advised that the proposal was compatible with the County Comprehensive Plan.  (Council Packet-page 5, available online)

Council was also advised that the proposal had potential problems (four were cited) relative to the GMA in a memorandum from the Planning Department. (Council Packet-page 2, also available online)

These contradictions are the face of “inconsistency”, something that has gotten this Council into trouble before.

Months ago, I suggested that Slaughterhouses would not be covered under the RCW section dealing with “innovative zoning techniques”.  The legal opinion that was promised for the Planning Commission was never delivered. 

Last night, Councilmember Kerschner stated—correctly—that Council needed to have this legal information before they could go forward with the zoning amendment.  Which they will definitely do in the next few weeks.  It was clear that the Council majority thinks that Slaughterhouses on all Ag land is a great idea.  So you and Doug Karlberg are in good company.

Doug, I do know Wendy Harris.  Her comments regarding the environmental impacts of slaughterhouses, which include diminution of water supply for farmers and on-site sewage management in the County, are applicable and relevant to this discussion.  I always enjoy your point of view, Doug, but your comments about Wendy—which I assume apply to others who lack the erudition of a good slaughterhouse operator , are disappointing and not on point.

The topic of Slaughterhouses has been mischaracterized in public forums and elsewhere.  It is not as if we are banning Slaughterhouses in Whatcom County.  Slaughterhouses are now permitted in Rural Industrial Manufacturing and Light Industrial areas.  A more appropriate location than your next door neighbor’s property, in my opinion.

Other Counties in Western Washington do not allow slaughter in Ag as a permitted use. 

This zoning amendment puts Whatcom County in the forefront of Washington Counties that permit unrestricted slaughter on Ag land.  So, in addition to being the most noncompliant County in the State with regard to GMA, we are now going to have the loosest regulations on Slaughter.


Doug karlberg  //  Wed, Sep 26, 2012, 1:03 pm

John,

Thanks for the update. As to the legalities of a small scale slaughterhouse and the land use regulations. I will wisely defer to yourself or Wendy, as a freely admit that you tow are experts on the land use laws.

My issue is twofold.

One, primary processing of agricultural products has customarily taken place close to the farms. In my experience, this close to the farm processing is a natural phenomenon worldwide.

A regulations are made by humans, and hence have flaws, that we sometimes do not discover for years, or the folks with agendas either read the laws to be a narrow as possible, or insert definitions which essentially remake the intent of the laws.

Most land use laws were respectful of customary practices, and the processing of food near the sources and on land that is agricultural land is so apparent to anyone who has taken even a few minutes to study the farming.

Processing food products on AG land not only make economic sense, but also preserves the quality of our food.(Saves us money and preserves nutrients) We all win as consumers by this customary practice.

Berries, eggs, and dairy just to name a few are all processed locally near or on ag lands.

A severe reading of “processing” as an industrial use of land if read to the ludicrous degree, would mandate by government fiat that as soon as the egg drops from the chicken, any additional processing must take place on land zone for industry of one classification or another.

One would have to be blind in Whatcom County to not understand the customary relationship between ag land and primary processing of the food products produced by them.

The farm community has to be shaking their heads at some of the city slicker lawyers, on this issue.

Dairy, berries, eggs, and vegetables are all processed on ag land today.

We all benefit from this practices, and if the people that wrote the land use rules did not understand this when they wrote the laws, then our lawmakers would move to look for legitimate loop holes to accommodate a practice which is reasonable and logical, and society benefits.

Beating farmers that produce our food about the head and shoulders with a rule book probably written by people who likely never understood the agricultural community in the first place, seems to a dumb idea to me, and exactly what we should expect from our local government to understand and protect us from.

If I understand the legal position today, it would be allowable to establish a slaughterhouse on Bakerview Spur, but not one one a farm between Lynden and Everson. Correct me if I am wrong.

My second issue with Wendy’s view is the promotion of the idea that this land use will inevitably lead to huge industrial slaughterhouses. Clearly it will not. Most of us old timers understand that most of the larger commercial slaughterhouses have left our county for greener pastures, because they could not make any moo-lah here.

Industrial slaughterhouses need at least 1,000 cows a week to just break even, and there are not enough cows to to feed a industrial scale slaughterhouse, and as Ag land continues to disappear, we are getting less cows in the future.

The laws of economics prevent a industrial scale slaughterhouse from being built here probably forever, and projecting that one might come if this small land use variance were allowed is simply a cheap shot to scare people, because you fear that a facts based argument will not prevail.

We are blessed with good food here in Whatcom County, and we should be thankful to those who produce this bounty for us to enjoy.


John Lesow  //  Fri, Sep 28, 2012, 9:26 am

Doug,

Thank you for your reply. Responses follow.

1.  Yes, it would be possible to put a Slaughterhouse in a Rural Industrial or Light Industrial Zone are under current rules.  Presently, Slaughtering is not permitted on Ag lands.  However, I have no doubt that Council will permit Slaughter on Ag as soon as the legal aspects raised at the last Council Meeting are addressed.

My bet is that on October 9, Council will approve Slaughterhouses on Ag, with few, if any restrictions.  Slaughterhouses will be a “permitted use”; the easiest to get.  Permitted uses do not require notice to neighboring properties or a hearing.  They are much easier to obtain than a Conditional or Administrative Use, which is the standard for most Counties.

2.  Yes, we do allow processing of berries, eggs and dairy products on Ag.  I suggest that the slaughtering of animals and the attendant problems of waste disposal, environmental toxins, water use, etc. are more challenging, from a public policy standpoint, than the sale of berries, eggs and milk.

3.  The Planning Staff drafted what I consider reasonable rules and regulations for “Small Scale Slaughtershouses” last May.  These rules were summarily gutted and, in large part, ignored by the Planning Commission, which favors a more laissez-faire attitude towards slaughterhouses in particular and land use planning in general. 

4.  I am not against small scale slaughterhouses, even on Ag land, as long as they are in fact “small scale” and meet strict standards.  The present measure does not reflect that intent.  My attitudes are obviously more Prussian than yours or Craig’s.  I make no apologies for that.  Besides, my term is up in December and I can assure you that my replacement—given the current makeup of County Council—will have a much looser attitude when it comes to land use regulations.

I truly value the opinions set forth by yourself, Craig and Wendy Harris.  Whatcom County is fortunate to have high caliber advocates that have the skills to present credible, alternative approaches to the conventional wisdom, irrespective of the issue.  The problem comes when those advocates are marginalized and their backgrounds and motivations are caricatured, as is too often the case.  Particularly in the current economic environment, with environmentalists being prime targets in the blame game on a host of land use issues; Lake Whatcom, Rural Element, etc. 

When you were running for Bellingham Port Commission, you stated that your take home paycheck has been based on results alone.  I can certainly relate to that. But I operate within a stringent set of rules and regulations in order to make a dollar.  I see no problem in applying the same perspective to public policy, and will continue to do so for the short remainder of my term.

By the way, I hope you are considering another run at the expanded Port Commission in 2013.  You certainly will get my vote.


Wendy Harris  //  Sat, Sep 29, 2012, 10:29 pm

Karl: I have never stated that industrial slaughter operations are “inevitable”, but without restrictions on size and operation, they are possible.  Sound land use planning is based on what is appropriate, not on what is likely, so arguments regarding the likelihood of large slaughterhouses somewhat misses the point.

We are also overlooking the basic incompatibility of certain land use goals.  We can not provide farmers with rights and access to water if we are also authorizing industrial uses which will compete for the limited supply of ground water.  We can not protect the ag. industry if we are allowing fragmentation of farm land.  We can not protect water quality if we are increasing impervious surfaces in the ag. zone.

We need to be recognize that natural resources are limited and prioritize competing needs.  The Planning Commission and the County Council refuse to do so, and are placing the future of our County in jeopardy with poor planning.


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Fukushima Radiation Found In Canada

Fri, Mar 14, 2014, 9:47 am  //  John Servais

Fukushima radiation has been found 20 miles from Whatcom County farmland along the Fraser River in British Columbia.

1 comments; last on Mar 17, 2014

Is ALEC Jr. Coming to Whatcom County or Bellingham Soon?

Wed, Mar 12, 2014, 7:28 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The infamous American Legislative Exchange Council plans to send its spawn to cities and counties throughout the U.S.

1 comments; last on Mar 24, 2014

Rep. Vincent Buys Appears to Break State Fundraising Laws

Tue, Mar 11, 2014, 10:24 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley catches State Rep. Vincent Buys for soliciting funds during session

0 comments

County Hires GPT Permit Lead as Senior Planner

Mon, Mar 10, 2014, 9:51 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley digs into an unusual hiring decision at the County Planning Dept

1 comments; last on Mar 10, 2014

Whatcom Watch Editor Resigns

Sun, Mar 02, 2014, 2:22 pm  //  John Servais

The editor of the Whatcom Watch, Richard Jehn, has resigned effective today. Chalk up a victory for Craig Cole and Pacific International Terminals.

8 comments; last on Mar 05, 2014

Relevant Documents to Libel Threat

Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 8:29 pm  //  John Servais

The full text of Craig Cole's threatening letter of libel against the Whatcom Watch. And the emptiness of the threat.

16 comments; last on Mar 20, 2014

Action Alert for Tonight: Waterfront Wildlife and Habitat Not Being Protected as Promised

Mon, Feb 24, 2014, 3:33 pm  //  Wendy Harris

We were led to believe the city would review waterfront wildlife and habitat connectivity. It turns out that the city intends to focus only on nearshore fish.

0 comments

Wendy Harris on Citizen Journalism

Sat, Feb 22, 2014, 12:16 am  //  Wendy Harris

Accepting the Paul deArmond award of citizen journalism on Feb 7, Wendh Harris gave this speech. We think it deserves its own post.

0 comments

Craig Cole Threatens Libel Suit

Wed, Feb 19, 2014, 4:48 pm  //  John Servais

Craig Cole, the local contact for the proposed Cherry Point coal port has threatened the Whatcom Watch with a libel lawsuit.

6 comments; last on Mar 20, 2014

Do Changing Liquor and Marijuana Laws Affect DUIs

Mon, Feb 17, 2014, 7:26 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley digs through court data and discovers the real impact of privatization and legalization

0 comments

Bellingham Seeks “Flexibility” To Sell Wholesale Rural Sewer Services

Sun, Feb 09, 2014, 9:35 pm  //  Wendy Harris

The mayor wants to amend a city law to increase flexibility for a GMA provision that should be used rarely, if ever at all.

3 comments; last on Feb 11, 2014

The Hidden Costs of Costco

Sun, Feb 09, 2014, 2:36 pm  //  Wendy Harris

Costco imposes indirect costs on our community that are as real and tangible as road construction expenses.

1 comments; last on Feb 13, 2014

Reid Boiler Works Burns Down

Sun, Feb 09, 2014, 9:13 am  //  John Servais

The old empty Reid Boiler Works industrial building in Fairhaven burned to the ground Saturday night.

0 comments

Panem et Circenses - Why I Did Not Watch “The Super Bowl”

Mon, Feb 03, 2014, 5:30 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Professional and even college sports have morphed into a circus of corporate greed and the fleecing of the public.

3 comments; last on Mar 01, 2014

Have You Exceeded Your Right To Information?

Sat, Feb 01, 2014, 12:35 am  //  Wendy Harris

Filing a public record request could land a citizen in jail under a proposal reflected in a Herald opinion article.

2 comments; last on Feb 03, 2014

Wendy Harris Receives deArmond Award for Citizen Journalism

Wed, Jan 29, 2014, 6:18 am  //  Guest writer

Tim Johnson writes about the first recipient of the Paul deArmond Citizen Journalism award, Whatcom County writer Wendy Harris.

3 comments; last on Feb 08, 2014

Anatomy of a Development Part XI - The Doldrums at University Ridge

Mon, Jan 20, 2014, 5:14 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The developers of University Ridge have been silent since shortly after the hearing examiner's decision on 23 October last year. Will they walk?

0 comments

The Marijuana Bowl

Sun, Jan 19, 2014, 8:39 pm  //  John Servais

Super Bowl ... Weed Bowl ... This bud's for you ... Bong Bowl ... Marijuana Bowl ... whatever. It is on!

1 comments; last on Jan 20, 2014

Port’s Alternative Marina Analysis a Scam

Tue, Jan 14, 2014, 2:19 pm  //  Guest writer

Do we actually need to say that we, as citizens, want accurate information from government officials?

1 comments; last on Jan 14, 2014

City too Poor for Power Pennies or Discrimination?

Fri, Dec 27, 2013, 4:00 am  //  Guest writer

Guest writer Barbara Perry writes about Bellingham Parks refusal to allow motorized wheel chairs to recharge at public electrical outlets.

6 comments; last on Jan 03, 2014

Port Memo Addresses Marina Fraud Allegations

Fri, Dec 20, 2013, 3:56 pm  //  Wendy Harris

A Port of Bellingham internal memo tries, but fails, to justify changes in cost estimates for alternative marina sites.

5 comments; last on Dec 22, 2013

Lummi Influence Over the Waterfront Planning Process Continues to Grow

Tue, Dec 17, 2013, 12:21 am  //  Wendy Harris

Army Corps advised DOE that it will not issue a waterfront permit without Lummi approval

2 comments; last on Jan 13, 2014

Gary Jensen Not Running for State Senate

Mon, Dec 16, 2013, 12:30 pm  //  John Servais

Ferndale Mayor Gary Jensen has decided not to file for the 42nd state Senate seat currently held by Doug Ericksen.

5 comments; last on Dec 24, 2013

Larrabee School; Its Future

Mon, Dec 09, 2013, 12:24 pm  //  Guest writer

Barbara Perry writes about the closed nature of the Bellingham School Board on the future of the Larrabee School.

1 comments; last on Dec 15, 2013

Steal this Waterfront: Costs without Benefit

Sat, Dec 07, 2013, 8:23 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein the direct, indirect, hidden and lost opportunity costs make this a waterfront boondoggle of billions

3 comments; last on Dec 11, 2013

On Monday, City Council Votes “third and final” Approval of Waterfront Plan

Sat, Dec 07, 2013, 12:33 pm  //  Wendy Harris

Local activist calls on Bellingham City Council to table the unpopular waterfront plans and engage in meaningful public process

2 comments; last on Dec 08, 2013

Lecture on County Water Issues Draws Crowd

Fri, Dec 06, 2013, 11:03 pm  //  Wendy Harris

The county will be required to consider water quality and water quantity when planning rural growth.

3 comments; last on Dec 10, 2013

Video Exposes City Council Dysfunction on Waterfront Plan

Thu, Dec 05, 2013, 11:58 am  //  John Servais

The Political Junkie has posted a 3 minute video showing Bellingham City Council members explaining their idiocy for all of us to watch.

2 comments; last on Dec 06, 2013

The Bellingham “Riot” - Let’s Expand the Conversation

Thu, Dec 05, 2013, 5:00 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The post "riot" conversation is terribly lacking in several areas. We must expand the discussion or risk learning little from the experience.

3 comments; last on Dec 15, 2013

Cascadia Weekly Blasts Waterfront Plan

Wed, Dec 04, 2013, 10:53 am  //  John Servais

Bellingham City Council and Port of Bellingham finalize the waterfront plan. In his weekly Gristle, Tim Johnson blasts the corrupt public process.

4 comments; last on Dec 05, 2013

Waterfront Development Bonus Yet Another Bad Idea

Sat, Nov 30, 2013, 8:11 pm  //  Wendy Harris

The waterfront plan allows a development bonus for payments made to the Lake Whatcom land acquisition fund

1 comments; last on Dec 01, 2013

City and Port Ready To Act on Waterfront Plan

Fri, Nov 29, 2013, 9:43 pm  //  Wendy Harris

A number of important issues need to be resolved before waterfront planning is complete, but the city council and port commission are ready to act.

2 comments; last on Nov 30, 2013

Port Unable To Protect Public Safety

Fri, Nov 22, 2013, 9:01 pm  //  Wendy Harris

If the port can not construct the airport safely, should it be entrusted with dangerous waterfront cleanup work?

0 comments

Walmart and McDonald’s - Partners in Institutionalized Cluelessness

Wed, Nov 20, 2013, 5:03 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The advice coming from Walmart and McDonald's to its low paid employees becomes more and more bizarre and inane.

0 comments

Anatomy of a Development - Part X Appeals of the Hearing Examiner’s Decision

Tue, Nov 19, 2013, 5:35 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Ambling's motion to the hearing examiner for reconsideration was definitively rejected. The developer has not met the deadline for an appeal to the Superior Court

0 comments

Smoking Gun: Fraud and Deception

Mon, Nov 18, 2013, 2:18 pm  //  Guest writer

In which we find the hidden core of the waterfront plan is rotten through and through

7 comments; last on Nov 21, 2013

County Releases EIS, Prepares to Purchase Jail Site

Mon, Nov 18, 2013, 10:59 am  //  Riley Sweeney

The county takes two big steps forward on the new jail, while still missing the point

0 comments

Noballmacare and Setting the False Standard

Thu, Nov 14, 2013, 1:39 am  //  Tip Johnson

Dear Mr. President, There's a sucker born every minute, and two to take him.

7 comments; last on Nov 21, 2013

City Council Misled On Waterfront Planning

Wed, Nov 13, 2013, 3:16 pm  //  Wendy Harris

The city adminstration has been providing misleading/ incorrect information to the city council to avoid waterfront plan revisions.

1 comments; last on Nov 18, 2013

Election Analysis: What Happened with the Port Races?

Tue, Nov 12, 2013, 10:21 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley crunches the numbers on Renata and McAuley's races to find answers

2 comments; last on Nov 13, 2013

Puget Neighborhood Likely New Home for 1,300 Students

Tue, Nov 12, 2013, 5:16 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Puget Neighborhood will likely have in the immediate future 1,300 new rental units that will be marketed primarily to the student population.

0 comments

Gloomy Fate For Waterfront Wildlife

Sat, Nov 09, 2013, 9:47 pm  //  Wendy Harris

The COB administration continues in its refusal to analyze waterfront wildlife issues, even though this is a prerequisite step in protecting wildlife from the impacts of development

3 comments; last on Nov 10, 2013

Election Results - November 2013

Tue, Nov 05, 2013, 8:21 pm  //  John Servais

With lots of outside county money flowing in to our local races, this election is weird. But real - and we county residents have spoken.

11 comments; last on Nov 09, 2013

Health Insurance Scams - Washington Not Spared

Mon, Nov 04, 2013, 9:55 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The call of the dollar speaks more loudly to health insurance companies than does the voice and well-being of the consumer, even here in Washington.

8 comments; last on Nov 06, 2013

Anatomy of a Development - Part IX BMC Rule of Three Thwarts Plans

Thu, Oct 31, 2013, 10:19 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Four bedroom dorm rooms have been nixed by the hearing examiner. University Ridge may be in trouble as a cash cow for Ambling Development of Georgia

3 comments; last on Nov 04, 2013

The Slaughterhouse Referendum - Citizens Opposing Widespread Slaughter (COWS)

Mon, Oct 28, 2013, 10:19 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein we discover why we exert our rights - and grab some more petitions before it's too late

3 comments; last on Nov 06, 2013

 

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