Lake Padden watershed and proposed urban growth expansion
I have written about Lake Padden development before: lake-padden-to-urbanize-or-not-urbanize and am not sure I would add much to it other than emphasizing a few procedural/historical points.
The City of Bellingham has designated the Lake Padden area as a future urban area for many years. In 2007 Whatcom County partially pulled the area the city planned to urbanize out of the growth area. A portion was left in that had proposed vested subdivisions and existing urban development. In 2008, the City of Bellingham rejected an annexation petition for that growth area based on the high costs of road, sewer, water, police, fire and stormwater service to the area. Later in 2008 the proposed subdivisions that had been left in the growth area failed to become final due to the inability to obtain water and sewer service. In 2009, Whatcom County again assessed Bellingham's growth plans. The County found that Bellingham's growth area was too large and with a lack of a capital facilities plan for paying for urbanizing the Padden area, the County removed the Lake Padden area from urban growth area status.
The County decision to push back Bellingham's growth plans was challenged to the State's Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board. However, the Board has never heard the case. Instead the County Council is considering settling the case by simply agreeing to put the area back in the Bellingham growth area. Hence, on Tuesday evening the Council will be voting on putting the area back in the City's growth area despite the fact the there is no capital facilities plan to pay for the infrastructure to serve the area.
Lake Padden is no longer a planning issue. Designating this area as a urban area requires ignoring the huge costs that are documented in the City of Bellingham Annexation Report. The ordinance was written by attorney's representing the real estate developers contrary to planning staff - the planning staff of the county do not support the ordinance. Lake Padden has become a political issue. But then it always has been. The difference is that with the Growth Management Act financing growth plans is much more transparent that it once was.
So while protecting the lake as a water asset is a critical goal, protection of tax payers and utility rate payers should not be forgotten. While development interests in the watershed will claim that stormwater systems can be constructed to protect the lake, policy makers should ask for the detailed plans and costs, including maintenance. Accomplishing that can not be done unless the lake is much better understood.
On a personal note, I am greatly appreciative of the efforts of citizens who recognize how important this issue is and wish them the best. Mike Sato has a nice intro to the water quality issues http://salishseacommunications.blogspot.com/2012/02/community-led-protection-of-bellinghams.html
And the People For Lake Padden have put together some great information http://www.p4lp.org/
One final note: Reading the Washington Landscape's most read post was a bit on Lake Padden, but it was primarily based on a oblique Google Earth image of an esker on the Waterville Plateau esker-near-lake-padden?