Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Here we go again...

First, many kudos to Larry Horowitz for publishing an excellent article about David Auer's removal from the Bellingham Planning Commission by Mayor Pike. Mr. Auer's informative and thought provoking presentations to the Commission helped many citizens understand the planning process. He was a talented and effective City Planning Commissioner and he will be missed.

Second, Greg Kirsch really needs to find a new hobby. His articles attacking private citizens and elected officials are totally out of hand.

Check out his latest post attacking Pete Kremen and County Council members. http://www.nwcitizen.us/entry/the-significance-of-insignificance
Before we go any further - I would like to acknowledge a couple of facts:

1. No matter how many ways Mr. Kirsch tries to spin it, the County Executive is not personally responsible for every "growth-related evil" that has taken place in Whatcom County.

Past County Councils and County Executives approved land use decisions based on previous public policy and land use laws.

Like it or not, we are living with the consequences of those decisions. Finger pointing and assigning blame to current elected officials does not further our goal to cooperatively find solutions to growth-related problems. *

GMA Background:

In 1990 Washington adopted comprehensive growth management legislation by passing the Growth Management Act (GMA).

The GMA requires that cities and counties with growth greater than 20% in the past 10 years, or with 50,000 people + 10% growth over 10 years, adopt comprehensive land use plans. Plans must consider the following elements: the uses of land, existing and projected housing needs, existing and projected public facility needs, existing and projected utility needs, open space corridors, and existing and projected transportation needs consistent with land use.

Localities are also required to define urban growth areas based on 20-year growth forecasts outside of which only non-urban growth is allowed. A locality’s subsequent development regulations must be consistent with the comprehensive plan. Plans may be modified only once a year.

Each County has a plan. That plan also provides for the siting of essential public facilities. Essential public facilities, like the Lake Whatcom Treatment Center, require services from special districts, such as water and sewer service. A facility can be an essential public facility, even if its construction pre-dates the adoption of the GMA.

The GMA encourages Washington localities to use innovative growth management techniques like cluster housing, planned unit developments, impact fees, transfer of development rights, and to form regional transportation organizations.

Developments, like those being proposed for Squalicum mountain may or may not meet permiting requirements.

Mr. Kirsch may oppose the proposed developments, but he does not have the right to prevent the property owners from submitting applications for permits or stopping the County Council from reviewing them.

Granted, the GMA also has a concurrency requirement that can block new development if necessary. Concurrency refers to the timely provision of public facilities and services relative to the demand for them. To maintain concurrency means that adequate public facilities are in place to serve new development as it occurs. The Growth Management Act (GMA) gives special attention to concurrency for transportation...

Please note that the GMA does not prohibit or limit growth in the rural area, just urban growth in the rural area. In addition, Special Purpose Districts (water, sewer, school, port, etc.) planning for the expansion of facilities and services is not required to be consistent with local comprehensive plans.

If Mr. Kirsch would like to see the GMA modified, he should contact his state legislators and ask them to draft legislation to correct actual or perceived inconsistencies in the law.

In other words, the GMA is not the panacea that Mr. Kirsh makes it out to be. Those of us who worked in Olympia and watched this bill evolve over the years know that it contains many glitches that can create growth-related problems for communities.

Blaming Pete Kremen for the majority of growth-related problems in Whatcom County is, well, for the lack of a better phrase, politically immature.

Pay raise:
2. Yes, Pete Kremen received a pay raise - because the Washington State Legislature recently adopted legislation providing Washington Prosecutors with a pay raise.

Whatcom County had an ordinance on the books that stated the County Executive will be paid a percentage of the salary of the County Prosecutor. When the County Prosecutor received a raise, courtesy of the state legislature, our County Executive also received a raise.

The County Council (our elected legislators) did not revise the Ordinance that provided the County Executive with a raise in time to prevent the raise from going into effect.

Like two dozen other states, newly adopted legislation in Washington goes into effect on July 1, of each year, unless otherwise specified. Now, would someone please explain to me how the County Council got bushwhacked by Pete Kremen?

Determination of Non-Significance:

Regarding the DNS. The entire community just experienced a major flood. I know that a number of property owners who live at the bottom of Academy Road and along other portions of North Shore have written or called the County requesting a review of the proposed Squalicum Mountain development in light of recent flood damage from excessive stormwater runoff flowing down through the Academy drainage basin.

To the best of my knowledge, the County has responded positively to our concerns and the concerns of the City. We appreciate the fact that the County is reviewing the initial determination of non-significance and look forward to working with them.

GMA information:

Futurewise review of the GMA: http://www.futurewise.org/resources/resources/GMA_another_look.pdf

GMA Concurrency information: http://www.mrsc.org/subjects/planning/curren.aspx

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