Noncompliance 2013: The GamePermalink +
Sun, Jan 06, 2013, 11:49 pm // Wendy Harris
The recent Growth Management Hearings Board decision was clear about Lake Whatcom. Whatcom County remains noncompliant with the Growth Management Act because it has failed to protect the lake’s water quality. To become compliant, the county needs to: 1) prohibit any excess phosphorus run-off from new watershed development, and 2) reduce the phosphorus generated from existing development. That’s it…. a combination of actions that accomplish those two goals. How hard could that be? Welcome to Noncompliance 2013!
Several Lake Whatcom regulations are pending before the county council that will require revision to comply with the GMA and the Growth Management Hearings Board decision. In the spirit of Noncompliance 2013, I thought it would be fun to follow the council’s compliance efforts, tracking how it interprets the hearings board decision.
If you want to play, here is how it works. To understand the compliance requirements, you need to read about 3 pages of the decision that pertains to Lake Whatcom. It starts with the first complete paragraph on page 51 and ends after the first paragraph on page 54. https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B4uUR0E44bH3bDFYSkstY29CSnc/edit. But really, it just reiterates what I stated above. The county must: 1) prohibit any excess phosphorus run-off from new watershed development, and 2) reduce the phosphorus generated from existing development.
Watch the hilarity as the council hems and haws its way through GMA compliance requirements that it does not want to enact. (Just be careful not to fall and injure yourself in loopholes. They are larger than they appear.) There might even be a special appearance from some of those zany kids at the Whatcom County Planning Commission, and an opportunity to hiss at the evil villains from the Department of Ecology. Most importantly, do not forget to bring your wallets, because council could not sponsor Noncompliance 2013 without the public’s generous support and tacit approval.
Ready to play? I will warm you up with some proposals that are likely to play a role in Noncompliance 2013.
Clustering Amendment to Moratorium
Every six months, the council has wisely extended the moratorium on subdivision of lots under five acres in the Lake Whatcom watershed. This protects the lake from the impacts of new growth until the county adopts protective land use regulations.
Last month, Councilmember Sam Crawford introduced a revised moratorium allowing subdivision and boundary line adjustments of lots under five acres where clustering is used and the overall density is not increased. Clustering places houses closer together, with the primary benefit being creation of open space and reduction of development costs.
Clustering, by itself, does not address excess phosphorus run-off. And it will not achieve a zero phosphorus standard for new watershed development. (Remember our two goals?) The hearings board stated that “the necessary measures to protect water quality must go beyond down-zoning.” Mr. Crawford’s amendment would permit more watershed development without more protection, which sort of defeats the purpose for the moratorium.
There is another problem with the amendment. In a broader county-wide context, the hearings board determined the county’s clustering regulation failed to protect rural character and prevent sprawl because the open space that is created is not permanent. Therefore, it did not comply with the GMA. If the county’s clustering regulation does not protect the rural area generally, it certainly will not protect Lake Whatcom, which requires even greater protection.
Hopefully, even council has the wisdom to let the clustering amendment die a silent death, but jokers are wild during Noncompliance 2013. Watch to see which version of the moratorium is extended.
Zero Excess Phosphorus Standard
In the last hearings board decision, (Noncompliance 2012,) the hearings board stated that “Comprehensive Plan commitment to a zero-discharge policy and expedited adoption of regulations is probably indicated.” Pete Kremin promised DOE as much even before that, when he was still the county executive. Fast forward to today and… oops, still no updated stormwater regulation for the Lake Whatcom watershed. It is Noncompliance 2013, and the county has still failed to adopt “measures that protect Lake Whatcom water quality, as instructed by Ecology (DOE).”
The county did dabble in updated stormwater regulations for new development last year, but only as a very low priority. The only thing hurried was the return of the proposed draft to the planning department after it came forward with a zero excess phosphorus standard for the lake. Honestly, what was the planning department thinking?
The planning commission watered down the stormwater regulation to allow 25% excess phosphorus run-off for new watershed development. The commissioners were not fooled by the “fake” science relied upon by state and federal agencies. Instead, they were guided by their own non-biased technical experts, local engineers and consultants who work for developers. (The technical team met at least twice and the public was not invited.) The technical team determined that a zero excess phosphorus standard could not be achieved.
But that is not the way the hearings board sees it. Remember those two goals? The hearings board expects the county to prohibit any excess phosphorus run-off from new watershed development and 25% is more than “any.” Council will be forced to deal with this conflict in Noncompliance 2013 and the discussion promises to be priceless.
Small Lot Exemption
In fact, council has already discussed the planning commission's recommendation to allow a 25% excess phosphorus allowance. And council immediately focused on the real heart of the issue. They asked whether this stormwater proposal would make new watershed development more expensive. Because that would not be fair.
Apparently, equity requires that today’s property owners develop property at the same relative cost as property owners 25 years ago. So if we are now imposing higher environmental standards, and that makes development more expensive, then somebody else ought to pay for this increased cost…for example, all the thirsty people who want clean water. Most especially, the cost should be paid by people who live in the watershed. (The old ones, not the new ones who will be subsidized.)
Based on cost concerns, the council is considering an exemption from the new stormwater standards for lots that are 10,000 square feet or less. The exemption would apply to more than 700 lots, or roughly half of all undeveloped watershed property. The county council has referred this matter back to the planning department for further consideration.
Clearly, the council has failed to take the theoretical basis of the exemption to its logical conclusion. By providing property owners the right to develop property unrestricted by the costs of compliance with public health and safety regulations, the council is reversing centuries of common law prohibitions against the use of property in a manner that harms neighbors. It is reversing long standing U.S. Supreme Court law regarding zoning and the police power.
Wow. It is shaping up to a very memorable Noncompliance 2013. Thanks for playing, and Happy New Year everyone.
Tue, Mar 11, 2014, 10:24 am // Riley SweeneyRiley catches State Rep. Vincent Buys for soliciting funds during session
Mon, Mar 10, 2014, 9:51 am // Riley SweeneyRiley digs into an unusual hiring decision at the County Planning Dept
1 comments; last on Mar 10, 2014
Paper Dreams in Fairhaven
Sun, Mar 02, 2014, 2:22 pm // John ServaisThe 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
Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 8:29 pm // John ServaisThe full text of Craig Cole's threatening letter of libel against the Whatcom Watch. And the emptiness of the threat.
14 comments; last on Mar 04, 2014
Mon, Feb 24, 2014, 3:33 pm // Wendy HarrisWe 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.
Sat, Feb 22, 2014, 12:16 am // Wendy HarrisAccepting the Paul deArmond award of citizen journalism on Feb 7, Wendh Harris gave this speech. We think it deserves its own post.
Wed, Feb 19, 2014, 4:48 pm // John ServaisCraig Cole, the local contact for the proposed Cherry Point coal port has threatened the Whatcom Watch with a libel lawsuit.
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Mon, Feb 17, 2014, 7:26 am // Riley SweeneyRiley digs through court data and discovers the real impact of privatization and legalization
Sun, Feb 09, 2014, 9:35 pm // Wendy HarrisThe mayor wants to amend a city law to increase flexibility for a GMA provision that should be used rarely, if ever at all.
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Mon, Feb 03, 2014, 5:30 am // Dick ConoboyProfessional and even college sports have morphed into a circus of corporate greed and the fleecing of the public.
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Sat, Feb 01, 2014, 12:35 am // Wendy HarrisFiling a public record request could land a citizen in jail under a proposal reflected in a Herald opinion article.
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Wed, Jan 29, 2014, 6:18 am // Guest writerTim Johnson writes about the first recipient of the Paul deArmond Citizen Journalism award, Whatcom County writer Wendy Harris.
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Mon, Jan 20, 2014, 5:14 am // Dick ConoboyThe developers of University Ridge have been silent since shortly after the hearing examiner's decision on 23 October last year. Will they walk?
Sun, Jan 19, 2014, 8:39 pm // John ServaisSuper Bowl ... Weed Bowl ... This bud's for you ... Bong Bowl ... Marijuana Bowl ... whatever. It is on!
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Tue, Jan 14, 2014, 2:19 pm // Guest writerDo we actually need to say that we, as citizens, want accurate information from government officials?
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1 comments; last on Dec 15, 2013
Sat, Dec 07, 2013, 8:23 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein the direct, indirect, hidden and lost opportunity costs make this a waterfront boondoggle of billions
3 comments; last on Dec 11, 2013
Sat, Dec 07, 2013, 12:33 pm // Wendy HarrisLocal activist calls on Bellingham City Council to table the unpopular waterfront plans and engage in meaningful public process
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Fri, Dec 06, 2013, 11:03 pm // Wendy HarrisThe county will be required to consider water quality and water quantity when planning rural growth.
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Thu, Dec 05, 2013, 11:58 am // John ServaisThe Political Junkie has posted a 3 minute video showing Bellingham City Council members explaining their idiocy for all of us to watch.
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Thu, Dec 05, 2013, 5:00 am // Dick ConoboyThe 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
Wed, Dec 04, 2013, 10:53 am // John ServaisBellingham City Council and Port of Bellingham finalize the waterfront plan. In his weekly Gristle, Tim Johnson blasts the corrupt public process.
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Sat, Nov 30, 2013, 8:11 pm // Wendy HarrisThe waterfront plan allows a development bonus for payments made to the Lake Whatcom land acquisition fund
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Fri, Nov 29, 2013, 9:43 pm // Wendy HarrisA 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
Fri, Nov 22, 2013, 9:01 pm // Wendy HarrisIf the port can not construct the airport safely, should it be entrusted with dangerous waterfront cleanup work?
Wed, Nov 20, 2013, 5:03 am // Dick ConoboyThe advice coming from Walmart and McDonald's to its low paid employees becomes more and more bizarre and inane.
Tue, Nov 19, 2013, 5:35 am // Dick ConoboyAmbling'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
Mon, Nov 18, 2013, 2:18 pm // Guest writerIn which we find the hidden core of the waterfront plan is rotten through and through
7 comments; last on Nov 21, 2013
Mon, Nov 18, 2013, 10:59 am // Riley SweeneyThe county takes two big steps forward on the new jail, while still missing the point
Thu, Nov 14, 2013, 1:39 am // Tip JohnsonDear Mr. President, There's a sucker born every minute, and two to take him.
7 comments; last on Nov 21, 2013
Wed, Nov 13, 2013, 3:16 pm // Wendy HarrisThe city adminstration has been providing misleading/ incorrect information to the city council to avoid waterfront plan revisions.
1 comments; last on Nov 18, 2013
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Tue, Nov 12, 2013, 5:16 am // Dick ConoboyPuget Neighborhood will likely have in the immediate future 1,300 new rental units that will be marketed primarily to the student population.
Sat, Nov 09, 2013, 9:47 pm // Wendy HarrisThe 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
Tue, Nov 05, 2013, 8:21 pm // John ServaisWith 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
Mon, Nov 04, 2013, 9:55 am // Dick ConoboyThe 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
Thu, Oct 31, 2013, 10:19 am // Dick ConoboyFour 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
Mon, Oct 28, 2013, 10:19 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein we discover why we exert our rights - and grab some more petitions before it's too late
3 comments; last on Nov 06, 2013
Mon, Oct 28, 2013, 12:00 am // Dick ConoboyIndependent voters are for independent thinkers on the city council. Vote for Burr and Petree.
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6 comments; last on Nov 01, 2013
Sun, Oct 20, 2013, 7:07 pm // John ServaisKen Bell has my vote over Mike McAuley for port commissioner. And Renata Kowalczyk has it over Dan Robbins.
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3 comments; last on Oct 04, 2013
Wed, Oct 02, 2013, 5:40 am // Riley SweeneyRiley uncovers how the Coal Industry is funding conservative candidates in Whatcom County
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Sat, Sep 28, 2013, 5:05 pm // Wendy HarrisThe city and port have not addressed wildlife impacts from waterfront development and this should be done before a waterfront plan is enacted.
Sat, Sep 28, 2013, 2:20 pm // John ServaisAs the right wing radicals seek to shut down our national government this week, we need to push back with common sense.
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Fri, Sep 20, 2013, 7:09 am // Dick ConoboyHearing held on 11 September. Comment period extended 10 days. Effects on home owners already manifest.
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Thu, Sep 19, 2013, 6:08 am // Riley SweeneyRiley examines who is donating to which candidates
Mon, Sep 09, 2013, 12:07 am // Wendy HarrisThe staff will be explaining the public's concerns, but the public is not allowed to testify.
Fri, Sep 06, 2013, 2:52 pm // Wendy HarrisElected officials continue to rely on inaccurate and misleading reports by the city and port staff regarding waterfront development.
Wed, Sep 04, 2013, 8:37 am // John ServaisAn attempt at linking to one or more writers who can help us make sense of going to war with Syria. An alternative to Kerry-Obama.
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