12/7 update: The Whatcom County Council rescheduled discussion of the Yew Street rezone to its Feb. 28 meeting.
The current Whatcom County Council’s approach to avoiding land use lawsuits is to zone and rezone to accommodate developers at the expense of the public trust.
A good example is the recurring attempts to allow subdivision development along the Yew Street corridor in the Lake Padden watershed, an area shared by both County and City of Bellingham jurisdictions.
Tonight, Dec. 6 at 7 PM, the County Council holds a public hearing to allow more development despite the City’s past opposition to denser development and promises to sue in opposition.
In a Bellingham Herald article on Monday, Dec. 5, Jared Paben reported that, “City Planning Director Jeff Thomas sent a Dec. 1 letter to the County Council reiterating the city’s opposition to the Yew Street Road urban-growth area at this time. In 2007, the City Council then rejected annexing the then-urban-zoned land.
“’A city study at the time found that if the city annexed the land, it would spend $30 million more than it collected in revenue from the properties over a 20-year period,’ Thomas wrote.”
In a letter to the County Council, People for Lake Padden director Betsy Gross yesterday wrote, “Several years ago, the Lake Padden watershed was given a watershed protection designation, the area was removed from Urban Growth Area status, and a portion of this area was rezoned as an urban reserve, in order to protect the lake from degradation. It would therefore be unwise to undo these decisions without taking into account their potential for negative impacts on the lake.”
The protection, of course, was done by the “old” County Council which was more receptive to protecting the public trust throughout the county; the current Council has been more receptive to development interests active in the Yew Street area-- and the issue of rezoning for higher density keeps coming up.
The fact that current County Executive Pete Kremen, who supported the urban reserve zoning, will be replacing pro-development councilmember Tony Larson next year may have something to do with this holiday-season effort to rezone the area.
In any case, this is a classic case of development interests being put before the public’s interest. The public benefits don’t pencil out economically, nor do they make environmental sense.
That’s pointed out by Betsy Gross of People for Lake Padden, where citizens are taking water samples and Western Washington University interns are doing water quality analysis of the lake and land use studies of the watershed.
Lummi Nation Natural Resources Director Merle Jefferson used a good phrase to describe how the tribe would be assessing the full range of scientific, economic and social issues associated with the coal export facility proposed for Cherry Point. He said the tribe would be pursuing a “knowledge-based decision-making process.”
Whack that County Council mole with some real fact-finding and public process, I say. (Disclosure: I live in the Lake Padden watershed and I believe in a “knowledge-based decision-making process.”) I know that’s supported by others: A Year of Sprawling Achievements
December 5, 2011
To: Councilmember Bill Knutzen, email@example.com
Councilmember Tony Larson firstname.lastname@example.org
Councilmember Kathy Kershner email@example.com
Councilmember Ken Mann firstname.lastname@example.org
Councilmember Sam Crawford email@example.com
Councilmember Carl Weimer firstname.lastname@example.org
Councilmember Barbara Brenner email@example.com
Cc: County Executive Pete Kremen firstname.lastname@example.org
Whatcom County Council email@example.com
Mayor Dan Pike firstname.lastname@example.org
Re: Yew Street Rezoning Proposal
I am writing to you on behalf of the group People for Lake Padden (http://www.p4lp.org <http://www.p4lp.org/> ) requesting that the Whatcom County Council postpone action on rezoning the Yew Street neighborhood until the county has sufficient scientific and land use information to make a knowledge-based decision that protects the Lake Padden watershed and the health of Lake Padden.
Several years ago, the Lake Padden watershed was given a watershed protection designation, the area was removed from Urban Growth Area status, and a portion of this area was rezoned as an urban reserve, in order to protect the lake from degradation. It would therefore be unwise to undo these decisions without taking into account their potential for negative impacts on the lake.
People for Lake Padden is a citizen’s initiative which is collaborating with City, County, and University professionals to conduct scientific studies of this lake and its watershed. These studies and community discussion should inform the discussion and decisions regarding the land use designations in the watershed, education and regulatory measures to reduce the amount of pollutants entering the lake through the watershed, and any zoning or rezoning changes.
Results from these studies will be available in 2012 and shared with watershed residents and with the State DOE, the County and the City of Bellingham. It would be premature to move forward now with any rezoning until the public and the county have had the opportunity to review and discuss the findings and recommendations.
Lake Padden is one of the crown jewels enjoyed by many residents of Whatcom County and the City of Bellingham. The health of our lake is determined by how well we manage our activities as stewards of the Lake Padden watershed. Let’s wait until the studies are done to make any decisions about rezoning the Yew Street portion of the Lake Padden watershed.
Betsy Gross, Director
People for Lake Padden