Sunday, July 6, 2014

Whatcom Rural Element V with more to come

Rural planning is tough business. A lot of the biggest challenges are inherited from decisions made decades ago. One simple current example was the decision made in Snohomish County back in the the 1960s to a allow a subdivision of land next to the Stiiliguamish River (Seattle Times landslide history) . The path to fixing old planning decisions is not an easy one, but has Oso demonstrated sometimes is necessary.

 I have not posted anything on Whatcom County's Rural Element Planning since the Hearings Board ruled on on the plan in June 2013 (rural-element-iv-splintered-issues-and-costs). At the time, I noted that the water part was complicated and left it at that. One aspect of the the plan the County had won on was monitoring the population growth in the rural areas. The Hearings Board ruled in favor of the County's plan. That ruling was appealed to the State Court of Appeals. The appellants lost the appeal this week (bellinghamherald/environmentalists-cases-vs-whatcoms). The result is the County can track growth in the rural area, and if that growth does not match the projected low rate, the County may do something about it. I say "may" because the plan provides no specificity as to just what will be done - that little problem, if it comes up, will be up to at least a partially new set of County Council members and planners.

There were other issues the County had lost before the Hearings Board and there has been some discussion going on about settlement on some of those issues. As this is litigation, the details are not out there in public yet. If a settlement agreement is reached, additional process will have to take place to pass the various ordinances and policies.

The two big issues that are causing struggle are planning on water quality and water quantity. Based on Ralph's article Ralph Schwartz Article, the County Council is not interested in reaching an agreement on water quantity, but talks are still continuing regarding water quality. Both these issues will get further attention on future posts in the near future. 

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