The REAL Problem With CostcoPermalink +
Fri, Aug 17, 2012, 12:50 am // Wendy Harris
There is a problem with Costco, but it does not involve Canadians. The problem is found much closer to home and involves an offer of municipal assistance for a private development project that lacks public transparency and disclosure.
In July, the Bellingham Herald reported that Mayor Linville was talking with Costco about relocating to a new site to expand operations. While no details were provided, the mayor indicated her desire to keep Costco in Bellingham, but assured the public there would be no backroom deal. She stated, "nothing will happen in private that the public should know about." Turns out, this was not such an accurate prediction.
On August 3, 2012, the Herald revealed that the mayor offered assistance to Costco in replacing its existing store. In a letter dated June 20, 2012, obtained by the Herald through a Public Records Act request, the mayor offered $1.5 million in road construction to improve store access from I-5, subject to city council approval. The mayor also offered Costco the assistance of experienced Planning and Public Works staff for site-specific questions and concerns regarding state and federal agencies. Other proposed forms of assistance listed in the letter were redacted.
The city administration and Costco appear to be in agreement over the proposed development site, nine acres of undeveloped land along Bakerview Road. It is noteworthy that Costco has already hired a consultant, Ed Sewall of Sewall Wetland Consulting, Inc., to work on this project. There has been at least one meeting, and a number of email communications between the administration and Costco.
This would be less concerning if Costco had a permit application on file, but it does not. Assisting a large corporation to expand operations at an undeveloped site containing wetlands regulated under local, state, and federal law, before permits are filed and public notice is issued, is the essence of a backroom deal.
In contrast, the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers refused to meet with Costco in advance of a submitted application, and limited its assistance to pre-application information. The Costco consultant notified his client that the U.S. Army Corp. “won't commit to any guarantee of approval or anything at this point,” and then solicited input and suggestions from city employees regarding the situation.
The Department of Ecology (DOE) wetland specialist went on a site tour with Costco, and then sent an email detailing mitigation requirements for the state permit required for site development. Again, the Costco consultant shared the DOE email with city employees.
While federal and state governments are engaged in efforts to enforce the requirement to avoid environmental impacts, including infill of wetlands, unless it is proven to be necessary, the mayor’s letter states that “the City is prepared to offer Costco the project management expertise of our Planning and Public Works staffing addressing site specific questions and concerns that might arise from State and Federal agencies. Obviously, questions and concerns about state and federal permits are best answered by state and federal employees. There is evidence that Costco’s consultant is contacting City staff after obtaining information and instruction from DOE and U.S. Army Corp., instead seeking advice on how to respond to state and federal mitigation requirements. It is a conflict of interest to direct City staff, responsible for processing and approving Costco’s City permit application, to assist Costco with its state and federal permit applications.
By far the most disturbing part of this story is the administration’s refusal to respond to a Washington Public Records Act request filed with the Bellingham Herald. The June 20, 2012 letter from the mayor to Costco was redacted based on asserted application of the “deliberative process exemption.” The city is attempting to stretch the reach of the deliberative process exemption beyond established legal boundaries. The authority for its position is less than clear and is the lengthy subject for another blog post. This particular exemption expires after negotations are complete, although it is unclear how this is defined by the city in this situation or how the public will know. (Other cases involved union contracts and lease contracts.)
However, the consequences of the city’s position are unequivocal. The mayor is setting precedent for hammering out secretive proposals with large developers before a development permit application is even submitted, essentially undercutting regulations that govern development proposals and public process. Sure, these regulations will still be followed, but the outcome of city staff review is predetermined, and the city council will afford greater deference to a proposal personally negotiated by the mayor. This reduces citizen influence on a process that is supposed to be transparent.
We all understand what is really going on. The Mayor is trying to sweeten the pot to keep Costco from relocating. None of this, however, justifies actions that whittle away our rights to an open and transparent government operating under fair and objective standards.
Tue, Jul 07, 2015, 9:13 am // John ServaisThe Charter Review Commission made Monday evening's meeting their last - and forwarded 8 charter amendments to the county council
1 comments; last on Jul 07, 2015
Tue, Jul 07, 2015, 5:34 am // Dick ConoboyFor Rent: York neighborhood, new, 7 bedroom single-family home, near WWU. Only $44,000 a year. City planning not paying attention.
Mon, Jul 06, 2015, 4:30 pm // John ServaisTwo dirty tricks by the uber-conservative minority on the Charter Review Commission aimed to put their agenda before the council.
2 comments; last on Jul 07, 2015
Thu, Jul 02, 2015, 2:55 pm // David CampTrees are dying for lack of water! Only citizen action can save them.
Thu, Jul 02, 2015, 7:47 am // Dick ConoboyIf your 4th of July holiday is much more quiet this year, you can thank Clay Bulter who passed away at the end of May.
Mon, Jun 29, 2015, 5:00 am // Dick ConoboyThe Samish Neighborhood Plan has been the subject of three undesired rezones in the last year. The city ignores its own guidelines to the detriment of all.
Thu, Jun 25, 2015, 6:00 pm // John ServaisUpdated at 6 pm. Our county justice system has spent 6 years trying to teach Luba Pekisheva that she should not defend herself. Justice denied and miscarried.
5 comments; last on Jun 30, 2015
Mon, Jun 22, 2015, 5:00 pm // David CampA look at the proposal in historic financial context with projections and several questions for the proponents.
7 comments; last on Jun 28, 2015
Mon, Jun 01, 2015, 3:49 am // Dick ConoboyThree extraordinarily large (7-bedroom) single family home rentals are proposed by developers Dave and Jon Hansen on Iron St. in the York Neighborhood.
7 comments; last on Jun 10, 2015
Mon, May 25, 2015, 8:17 pm // John ServaisYoung Chiara spent 3 nights hanging from the anchor chain of Shell Oil's Arctic Challenger as a protest to arctic oil drilling.
Thu, May 21, 2015, 11:50 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein we ponder the fate of humanity
Mon, May 18, 2015, 11:17 pm // John ServaisJoy Gilfilen is challenging incumbent Jack Louws for County Executive.
4 comments; last on May 20, 2015
Fri, May 15, 2015, 6:10 pm // John ServaisRunning update of who is filing for office in Whatcom County. Posts during day Friday and final update Friday evening.
4 comments; last on May 17, 2015
Wed, May 13, 2015, 5:30 pm // John ServaisUpdated | Ski to Sea race does not need to race through sensitive Chuckanut Community Forest Park for special mountain bike leg. City did not renege.
10 comments; last on May 15, 2015
Sun, Apr 26, 2015, 2:05 pm // Guest writerTani Sutley writes a second article on the increasing number of vacation rentals - and the County Council bill to let them expand dramatically.
4 comments; last on May 02, 2015
Thu, Apr 09, 2015, 5:03 am // Dick ConoboyThe Puget Neighborhood is about to become a bit more crowded but less than originally planned. 600+ students to be housed south of Fred Meyer.
6 comments; last on Apr 12, 2015
Sat, Apr 04, 2015, 1:15 pm // John ServaisThe port's latest bone-headed deal calls for the good citizens of Whatcom County to consider the options...unless we're enjoying our Groundhog Day.
3 comments; last on Apr 07, 2015
Thu, Apr 02, 2015, 8:30 pm // Tip JohnsonThe difference between a threat and a promise
5 comments; last on Apr 03, 2015
Wed, Apr 01, 2015, 12:20 am // John ServaisPort of Bellingham today sold out our public waterfront to a foreign shell company formed 6 days ago. Sold it cheap and with a screwy arrangement.
32 comments; last on Apr 05, 2015
Sat, Mar 21, 2015, 11:16 am // Guest writerKamalla Kaur worked with David Mason on his biographical materials and offers this tribute to his illustrious life.
2 comments; last on Mar 23, 2015
Fri, Mar 13, 2015, 5:00 am // Dick ConoboyThe Whatcom County Council has sent discussion on changing the meth ordinance back to the Public Works, Health and Safety Committee
Thu, Mar 12, 2015, 1:06 pm // John ServaisAdd your thoughts and remembrances. Robyn du Pre` was a stalwart and true environmental advocate for Bellingham and Whatcom County. She died this week.
9 comments; last on Mar 23, 2015
Thu, Feb 26, 2015, 10:39 am // Riley SweeneyRiley shares some insight into the national political parties
5 comments; last on Mar 09, 2015
Wed, Feb 25, 2015, 6:31 am // Dick ConoboyIn a hearing, possibly on 3 March, the Whatcom County Council will consider an ordinance changing the rules for contaminated meth use sites.
1 comments; last on Feb 27, 2015
Mon, Feb 09, 2015, 6:00 am // Dick ConoboyNot all rent-to-own propositions are an unwise method to buy a home but some are schemes to rip off the unsuspecting tenant.
Mon, Feb 02, 2015, 9:34 am // Guest writerNo ballot mailed to you. You must request a ballot for voting in the Whatcom Conservation District election. Deadline to apply is Feb 9. By Barbara Perry
Thu, Jan 29, 2015, 10:56 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein Bellingham's billion dollar boondoggle is revisited
4 comments; last on Mar 03, 2015
Tue, Jan 27, 2015, 9:55 am // Terry WechslerThe Lummi requested on Jan. 5, 2015, that the federal government, through the Army Corps of Engineers, honor Art. V of the Treaty of Point Elliott and deny…
1 comments; last on Feb 04, 2015
Sun, Jan 25, 2015, 12:32 pm // Guest writerAdventures of George Pickett in the Pacific Northwest Wilderness
5 comments; last on Jan 28, 2015
Sat, Jan 24, 2015, 3:15 pm // Terry WechslerThe fourth area refinery crude by rail infrastructure project to receive permits without benefit of environmental review is being appealed, and provides an opportunity to make precedent.
Fri, Jan 23, 2015, 12:13 am // John ServaisThe second annual award for Citizen Journalism will be to The Political Junkie himself who runs the Sweeney Politics blog, Riley Sweeney.
2 comments; last on Jan 24, 2015
Tue, Jan 20, 2015, 3:07 am // Guest writerGuest article by Sandra Alfers. Water and sewer connections drive unwanted annexation. Trickle Creek homeowners are muzzled by a "no protest zone."
1 comments; last on Jan 20, 2015
Sun, Jan 18, 2015, 10:14 pm // Guest writerEllen Murphy gives us a poem for this Martin Luther King day of remembrance.
2 comments; last on Jan 21, 2015
Sun, Jan 18, 2015, 9:15 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein the ridiculous is ridiculed
5 comments; last on Jan 21, 2015
Thu, Jan 08, 2015, 2:54 pm // Guest writerTani Sutley guest writes about the vacation rentals situation and presents goals for the county council to consider for improving our rural neighborhoods.
1 comments; last on Jan 10, 2015
Wed, Dec 31, 2014, 1:16 am // Guest writerDuuhhh! Try doing without it. Marian Beddill provides an overview of our rural Whatcom County water situation and the efforts to find fair solutions.
3 comments; last on Jan 08, 2015
Wed, Dec 24, 2014, 1:23 pm // Riley SweeneyThe Herald gave us their top 10 stories, Riley gives you his top 5
Thu, Dec 18, 2014, 5:04 pm // John ServaisOne part of the environmental study for the proposed Cherry Point mega coal terminal has been completed and released. It deals with ship collisions - they call it…
2 comments; last on Dec 22, 2014
Thu, Dec 18, 2014, 12:26 pm // John ServaisBellingham Public Works shows how tone deaf they can be to business concerns. They insisted on street work that takes away up to 80 parking spaces in Fairhaven…
Tue, Dec 16, 2014, 3:51 pm // Dick Conoboy7-0! City Council Unanimous. Rentals Will Be Inspected in Bellingham. Thanks go to WWU students for speaking out to city council.
5 comments; last on May 02, 2015
Thu, Dec 11, 2014, 5:05 am // Dick ConoboyThe Bellingham City Council has added an inspection component to the registration-only rental ordinance proposal of Councilmember Murphy
4 comments; last on Dec 16, 2014
Wed, Dec 10, 2014, 6:37 am // Dick ConoboyThe ban on consumer fireworks that took effect last summer is valid all year, even New Year's Eve
1 comments; last on Dec 11, 2014
Tue, Dec 09, 2014, 1:31 pm // John ServaisThe Horizon Lines ship - the many year resident of the Port of Bellingham - broke loose this morning due to failure of some system. A few photos.
3 comments; last on Dec 10, 2014
Tue, Dec 09, 2014, 2:25 am // Guest writerTani Sutley writes of how unregulated vacation rentals are invading the Lake Whatcom watershed. She urges action before the Planning Commission meeting on 11 December.
4 comments; last on Jan 03, 2015
Wed, Dec 03, 2014, 2:20 pm // Richard LewisPoet Richard Lewis reflects on Elizabeth Warren
3 comments; last on Dec 07, 2014
Sun, Nov 23, 2014, 4:27 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein Whatcom's Klan heritage may be oozing from some cracks
8 comments; last on Dec 06, 2014
Sat, Nov 22, 2014, 3:48 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley dives into the data with precinct maps and historical perspectives
Thu, Nov 20, 2014, 9:15 am // Dick ConoboyCampus Crest Communities, Inc. has officially offered for sale the Lincoln St. property that was to be a student apartment development.
2 comments; last on Nov 23, 2014
Wed, Nov 12, 2014, 1:51 pm // John ServaisUpdated Nov 12. Howard Harris, the founder of the Bellingham silent peace vigil at the Federal Building in Bellingham, has died. He and Rosemary were leaders in our…
Tue, Nov 11, 2014, 2:34 pm // John ServaisOn this Veterans Day, a note about how vets need our government to step up - as has never been done. And a personal note on the power…
3 comments; last on Nov 13, 2014
Thu, Nov 06, 2014, 6:53 am // Dick ConoboyThe Campus Crest apartment complex may be the "victim" of a corporate restructuring plan.
3 comments; last on Nov 10, 2014
Tue, Nov 04, 2014, 12:28 pm // John ServaisWhile smearing Seth Fleetwood over a common tax arrangement, we discover Doug Ericksen also has a benign tax lien - one he denied.
6 comments; last on Nov 11, 2014
Mon, Nov 03, 2014, 8:14 pm // Richard LewisPoet Richard Lewis weighs in on the Tea Party values
Sat, Nov 01, 2014, 12:29 pm // Tip JohnsonOr why to vote for Nyima, the dog, for County Prosecutor
4 comments; last on Nov 03, 2014
Thu, Oct 30, 2014, 2:18 am // John ServaisA link to Riley's Political Junkie for excellent recommendations - and a few thoughts of my own.
1 comments; last on Oct 30, 2014
Thu, Oct 23, 2014, 11:01 am // Tip JohnsonIt's just how things roll in Whatcom County
5 comments; last on Oct 26, 2014
Wed, Oct 22, 2014, 2:44 pm // John LesowUpdate Oct 22: John Lesow has posted a comment with considerable more information on this issue.
1 comments; last on Oct 22, 2014
Tue, Oct 14, 2014, 6:36 am // Riley SweeneyRiley does a local political comedy show
1 comments; last on Oct 15, 2014
Wed, Oct 08, 2014, 6:24 pm // John ServaisThree final candidates for Bellingham Planning Director spoke today at a cozy 'meet and greet' of government employees and developers.
6 comments; last on Oct 11, 2014
Sat, Oct 04, 2014, 12:23 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein we see that sometimes government can do what business can't.
9 comments; last on Oct 07, 2014
Election InfoCounty Candidate Filings
State Elections Website
Whatcom County Elections
Coal, Oil & TrainsCoal Stop
Community Wise Bellingham
Powder River Basin R. C.
Local Blogs & NewsBellingham Herald
Bham Herald Politics Blog
Bham Politics & Economics
Bhm Biz Journal
Friends of Whatcom
Get Whatcom Planning
League of Women Voters
Western Front - WWU
Local CausesChuckanut Community Forest
City Club of Bellingham
Futurewise - Whatcom
Lummi Island Quarry
N. Cascades Audubon
NW Holocaust Center
Reduce Jet Noise
Salish Sea Org.
Save the Granary Building
WA Conservation Voters
Whatcom Peace & Justice
Port of Bellingham
State Elections Website
US - The White House
WA State Access
WA State Elections
WA State Legislature
Weather & ClimateCliff Mass Weather Blog
Nat Hurricane Center
Two day forecast
Watts Up With That? - climate
Edge of Sports
Famous Internet Skiers
Good Web SitesAl-Jazeera online
Change The Mascot
Foreign Policy in Focus
Innocence Project, The
Intrnational Herald Tribune
Julia Ioffe/New Republic
Middle East Times
New American Century
Paul Krugman - economics
Personal bio info
Portland Indy Media
Project Vote Smart
Stand for the Troops
Talking Points Memo
The Crisis Papers
War and Piece
NwCitizen 1995 - 2007Early Northwest Citizen
Quiet, Offline or DeadBellingham Police Activity
Citizens of Bellingham
Cordata & Meridian
Facebook Port Reform
N. Sound Conservancy
No Leaky Buckets
Protect Bellingham Parks
The American Telegraph