The REAL Problem With CostcoPermalink +
Thu, Aug 16, 2012, 11:50 pm // 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.
Mon, Nov 23, 2015, 5:41 am // Dick ConoboyThe student housing project for 648 individuals called NXNW (North by Northwest) on Lincoln Street is moving forward briskly. This is an update.
5 comments; last on Nov 25, 2015
Mon, Nov 16, 2015, 10:41 pm // John ServaisCouncil to allow three weeks for written comments on tax exemption proposal for high density buildings in quiet Fairhaven neighborhood
9 comments; last on Nov 19, 2015
Mon, Nov 16, 2015, 4:30 am // Dick ConoboyThere is no reason to rush an updated ordinance on ADUs when we do not even know what the current number is or where existing illegal units are…
8 comments; last on Nov 25, 2015
Sat, Nov 14, 2015, 5:33 pm // Guest writerBy Shannon Maris. Detached ADUs - the 'mother in law' mini cottages - are being considered by the city of Bellingham. This impacts every home owner.
3 comments; last on Nov 19, 2015
Wed, Nov 11, 2015, 4:23 am // Dick ConoboySome personal thoughts on thanking our veterans for their service
1 comments; last on Nov 11, 2015
Sun, Nov 08, 2015, 9:25 pm // Guest writerAn overview of Whatcom County's method of processing ballots and counting votes.
2 comments; last on Nov 14, 2015
Fri, Nov 06, 2015, 4:37 pm // John ServaisSatpal Sidhu wins council seat. Virtually all the ballots are now counted. Challenges and a few special are left.
1 comments; last on Nov 06, 2015
Thu, Nov 05, 2015, 9:17 pm // John ServaisJail sales tax is being rejected - and the NO vote is increasing. Sidhu - Kerschner still undecided. Props 2, 3, 9 and 10 all should pass.
1 comments; last on Nov 06, 2015
Wed, Nov 04, 2015, 6:45 pm // John ServaisSecond tally of 10,000 more ballots is in. Jail sales tax is now being rejected. Probably 15,000 or more ballots to go.
2 comments; last on Nov 05, 2015
Wed, Nov 04, 2015, 12:05 am // John ServaisThe first returns - probably 60% of the final vote - shows contradictory propositions passing and most candidate races decided.
7 comments; last on Nov 04, 2015
Mon, Nov 02, 2015, 8:04 am // Dick ConoboyGrowing Veterans was created to empower military veterans to grow food, communities, and each other.
2 comments; last on Nov 04, 2015
Sun, Nov 01, 2015, 9:31 am // John ServaisWhere more substantial evidence is presented against proposition 9 - and why you should vote REJECTED on it.
24 comments; last on Nov 04, 2015
Sat, Oct 31, 2015, 2:02 am // John ServaisAs an independent citizen and political junkie, here is how I am voting - with brief reasons for my choices.
8 comments; last on Nov 03, 2015
Tue, Oct 27, 2015, 6:56 pm // Tip JohnsonThe latest addition and the issue in review
Mon, Oct 26, 2015, 11:39 pm // Whatcom CitizenA perspective on the our changing news system, the consequences, and the challenges for the future. With a suggestion of the solution.
5 comments; last on Oct 28, 2015
Mon, Oct 26, 2015, 3:32 pm // Tip JohnsonWhen they feel you just don't need to know
4 comments; last on Oct 28, 2015
Mon, Oct 26, 2015, 1:57 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein the operative information is $$$ECRET
3 comments; last on Oct 29, 2015
Sat, Oct 24, 2015, 1:26 pm // John ServaisWhatcom group plans meeting workshop to submit comments to Washington Dept of Ecology against Skagit/Bakken oil trains.
6 comments; last on Oct 26, 2015
Tue, Oct 20, 2015, 2:53 pm // John ServaisAfter 126 years in business, Fairhaven Pharmacy closes for the last time at 6 p.m. today. Historic Fairhaven Association to do Halloween photos.
1 comments; last on Oct 20, 2015
Tue, Oct 20, 2015, 9:25 am // John ServaisCounty Executive - and candidate for reelection -Jack Louws has written county officials with his regrets over jail mailer.
8 comments; last on Oct 24, 2015
Sun, Oct 18, 2015, 11:37 am // John ServaisThe jail sales tax proposition is a road to perdition for our county. It is a waste and has been deceptively promoted.
4 comments; last on Oct 20, 2015
Fri, Oct 16, 2015, 4:52 pm // Tip JohnsonWith a smarmy October Surprise
9 comments; last on Oct 19, 2015
Thu, Oct 08, 2015, 7:14 am // John LesowA Canadian radio station is trying to install huge radio towers in Point Roberts for a Canadian audience. Citizen movement has fought them.
Sat, Oct 03, 2015, 2:47 pm // John ServaisJames King to return to Alaska and take job with U.S. Forest Service. Mayor will appoint a new parks director.
1 comments; last on Oct 04, 2015
Fri, Oct 02, 2015, 10:48 am // David CampThe "... new jail just doesn't pencil out", writes a well qualified accountant. A look at the future costs of the proposed jail.
11 comments; last on Oct 09, 2015
Tue, Sep 22, 2015, 4:54 pm // John ServaisThere is a good alternative for a decent jail - but we first must vote down the jail sales tax proposal in November.
5 comments; last on Sep 24, 2015
Sat, Sep 19, 2015, 3:37 pm // John ServaisWendy DeFreest, of Avenue Bread, will open a new "burger joint" called The Filling Station by late October in Fairhaven. It will not be a sandwich cafe.
Tue, Sep 15, 2015, 5:26 pm // Tip JohnsonFEMA camp or new county seat?
13 comments; last on Oct 15, 2015
Sun, Sep 13, 2015, 8:42 am // John ServaisBeware walking RR tracks on the Fairhaven waterfront in the event of unexpected encounter with a high speed train
2 comments; last on Sep 18, 2015
Mon, Sep 07, 2015, 8:06 pm // Tip JohnsonMains a' bursting - Avast!
Wed, Aug 26, 2015, 9:17 am // John ServaisPadden Creek daylighting project strays far from city promises to homeowner that his property would remain intact.
4 comments; last on Sep 05, 2015
Mon, Aug 24, 2015, 4:11 am // Guest writerChristopher Brown guest writes how traditional communal warrior reintegration practices could help our returning combat veterans.
Wed, Aug 19, 2015, 6:55 pm // Whatcom CitizenA Whatcom Citizen writes of protest movements and how our proposed county mega jail is related to them.
15 comments; last on Sep 04, 2015
Wed, Aug 19, 2015, 4:00 am // Dick ConoboyMoves to set the minimum wage to $15, even if successful, are woefully insufficient. And why aren't people speaking out about abusive work scheduling?
2 comments; last on Sep 17, 2015
Mon, Aug 17, 2015, 11:17 pm // Guest writerBruce Radtke, a retired Bellingham librarian, reported to be assaulted by police for handing out leaflets
5 comments; last on Aug 27, 2015
Sun, Aug 16, 2015, 2:39 pm // Guest writerIs the tail wagging the dog? Edward Alexander guest writes on why predictive software for our police needs basic questions answered before purchase.
1 comments; last on Aug 22, 2015
Thu, Aug 13, 2015, 10:29 am // John ServaisNothing in the Herald this morning, so NWCitizen is informing citizens of shootout at Cornwall Park.
1 comments; last on Aug 13, 2015
Sun, Aug 09, 2015, 10:52 am // Guest writerBarbara Perry has been researching the secretive election processes of the Whatcom Conservation District. Really secretive. Probably fraudulent.
1 comments; last on Aug 12, 2015
Tue, Aug 04, 2015, 7:09 pm // John Servais9:52 - final post for tonight. A running blog about the election results on this August evening. Feel free to comment.
8 comments; last on Aug 06, 2015
Tue, Aug 04, 2015, 9:14 am // Dick ConoboyWhile the city deals with permitting on the Hansen rental megaplexes, the council has asked for proposals from staff on design standards for historic areas.
9 comments; last on Aug 07, 2015
Tue, Jul 21, 2015, 11:42 pm // Guest writerEric Hirst provides us all with a well researched report on Whatcom County water issues - rights, Lake Whatcom, ground water and more.
10 comments; last on Aug 12, 2015
Tue, Jul 14, 2015, 3:13 pm // John LesowThe fight to keep Point Roberts from becoming a Radio Tower Farm is not over.
3 comments; last on Jul 22, 2015
Mon, Jul 13, 2015, 4:38 am // Dick ConoboyBellingham police are obviously trained to de-escalate armed confrontations. This is the way it should be.
6 comments; last on Jul 14, 2015
Thu, Jul 09, 2015, 7:27 am // John ServaisLois Garlick has died. For many decades, she and George served as environmental stewards and leaders in preserving wildlife and nature.
2 comments; last on Jul 10, 2015
Wed, Jul 08, 2015, 8:27 am // John ServaisLast minute political maneuvering by liberal council seeks to counter conservative review commission ballot proposals.
1 comments; last on Aug 12, 2015
Tue, Jul 07, 2015, 8:13 am // John ServaisThe Charter Review Commission made Monday evening's meeting their last - and forwarded 8 charter amendments to the County Council
3 comments; last on Jul 08, 2015
Tue, Jul 07, 2015, 4:34 am // Dick ConoboyFor Rent: York neighborhood, new, 7 bedroom single-family home, near WWU. Only $44,000 a year. City planning not paying attention.
6 comments; last on Jul 09, 2015
Mon, Jul 06, 2015, 3:30 pm // John ServaisTwo dirty tricks by the uber-conservative minority on the Charter Review Commission aimed to put their agenda before the council.
3 comments; last on Jul 07, 2015
Thu, Jul 02, 2015, 1:55 pm // David CampTrees are dying for lack of water! Only citizen action can save them.
Thu, Jul 02, 2015, 6:47 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, 4:00 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, 5:00 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.
8 comments; last on Jul 22, 2015
Mon, Jun 22, 2015, 4:00 pm // David CampA look at the proposal in historic financial context with projections and several questions for the proponents.
8 comments; last on Jul 10, 2015
Mon, Jun 01, 2015, 2:49 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, 7:17 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, 10:50 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein we ponder the fate of humanity
Mon, May 18, 2015, 10:17 pm // John ServaisJoy Gilfilen is challenging incumbent Jack Louws for County Executive.
4 comments; last on May 20, 2015
Fri, May 15, 2015, 5:10 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, 4:30 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, 1:05 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
Election InfoAuditor Election page
State Results - Nov 3
Whatcom Results - Nov 3
Coal, Oil & TrainsCoal Stop
Community Wise Bham
Powder River Basin R. C.
Local Blogs & NewsBellingham Herald
Bham Business Journal
Bham Politics & Econ
Friends of Whatcom
Get Whatcom Planning
League of Women Voters
Western Front - WWU
Local CausesChuckanut C. Forest
City Club of Bellingham
Futurewise - Whatcom
Lummi Island Quarry
N. Cascades Audubon
NW Holocaust Center
Salish Sea Org.
Save the Granary
WA Conservation Voters
Whatcom Peace & Justice
Governments- Whatcom County
Port of Bellingham
State Results - Nov 3
US Supreme Court
US The White House
NWCitizen 1995-2007Early Northwest Citizen
Weather & ClimateCliff Mass Weather Blog
Nat Hurricane Center
Two day forecast
Watts Up With That?
Edge of Sports
Famous Internet Skiers
Good Web SitesAl-Jazeera online
Change The Mascot
Foreign Policy in Focus
Julia Ioffe/New Republic
Middle East Times
New American Century
Personal bio info
Portland Indy Media
Project Vote Smart
Stand for the Troops
Talking Points Memo
The Crisis Papers
War and Piece
Quiet, Offline or DeadBellingham Register
Bhm Herald Politics Blog
Citizens of Bellingham
Cordata & Meridian
Facebook Port Reform
Intrnational Herald Tribune
N. Sound Conservancy
No Leaky Buckets
Protect Bellingham Parks
The American Telegraph