Council Actions May 7, 2013

WCC_2013_Group_Photo_thumb1Tonight at the Whatcom County Council evening meeting there were a number of issues that were  discussed which will have huge implications on personal property rights to all of us.  Here is a brief rundown of what transpired that I believe we all need to keep our eyes and ears tuned in to:

  • AB2013-102 – Proposed amendments to Whatcom County Code Chapter 20.51, Lake Whatcom Watershed Overlay District; PLN2011-00015.  This is related to the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) to remove surface water runoff and reduce phosphorus loading in the Lake Whatcom Watershed.  This presentation showed the proposed Dept. of Ecology “code updates,” and will require that undeveloped property in the Lake Whatcom Watershed have in place the planning and implementation, of a stormwater dispersion system before commencement of any development.  The property owner will be required to qualify for an NPDS (National Pollutant Discharge System) permit before being allowed to develop the land.

How long before this new regulation is required of anyone wanting to sell their home located on the watershed?

How long after that before all property owners in the watershed are required to install an NPDS certified stormwater dispersion system?

Perry Esteridge (real estate law specialist) will join me on the June 1st, 2013, SML program to discuss this.

  • AB2013-170 – Executive Louws put forward an alternative plan to fully fund EMS and maintain level of service.

Great work Executive Louws!

  • AB2013-160 – Resolution to spend $53.2k from the Flood Control Fund to help pay for the new Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS), permit and inspection program.  The additional funds are to be used to relieve the inconvenience to water craft owners who will be required otherwise to pull their boat out of Lake Samish, haul it to Lake Whatcom for inspection and then return the boat to Lake Samish.

Why?  Because this AIS program should not have been implemented in the manner that it was, in the first place.  Poorly constructed code is best scrapped than fixed.  This resolution passed Council tonight.

  • AB2013-164 – Ordinance to authorize interfund loans to finance cash flow for road capital project budgets.  Remember that descriptor;  “Road capital project budgets.”  This passed Council with the amendment that the Executive’s office provide Council with an annual report on the status of the fund transfers.

The establishment of project budgeting from the Road Fund does promote transparency to the Council and the Public.  An annual report to the Council on the transfer activity from the Road Fund to their project budgets will give Council better oversight for accountability and provide a greater level of trust for the tax payers.  This ordinance passed Council tonight.

  • AB2013-171 – Request to approve a settlement agreement with Professional and Technical Employees 17, Collective Bargaining Agreement.  In a nutshell, this was to provide the employees with a medical plan at the individual cost of approx. $1140.00 per month/per employee.  Each plan will have a $500 individual deductible/$1500 deductible per family.  Each plan will require the employee to make a monthly contribution of $100 towards premium payment.  They are also offered an alternative choice to participate in a non-qualified $2000 (high deduction)per individual/ $6000 maximum deductible per family plan.  This plan also includes an out of pocket maximum of $4000 for individuals/$12,000 for families.  This non-qualified plan is Health Savings Account (HSA) eligible and will receive a County contribution of $1250 per individual/$2500 per family.  This plan has the same monthly premium, but with no employee contribution to the cost of the monthly premium.

No offense to the employees here, but this is a very costly plan in comparison to what I found online and I have to question who’s receiving the excess revenues from this deal?  This request was approved by Council tonight.

  • AB2013-145A – Discussion to amend WCC 2.27A, Aquatic Invasive Species. This discussion was voted to move forward; 4 to 2, with Councilmembers Weimer and Mann voting against.  In a nutshell this was the outcome of the amendment to AB2013-145A that was approved to be moved forward:

· Graduated fee?  Yes

· One time inspection for resident boats?  Yes

· Council move towards a state-wide education and inspection(?) program that is under the WSDFW.

  • AB2013-177 – Discussion and approval of the Draft Public Participation Plan (PPP) for the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan and Development Regulation, due for completion in 2016.  The discussion added the Planning Unit as the named entity for WRIA1 and added the newly re-formed Forest Advisory Committee to the PPP.  This discussion was approved by Council 6 to 0.

During the public comments period of tonight’s public meeting, Planning Commissioner Onkels spoke to Council about the flawed science used to bring about the findings from the Dept. of Ecology on phosphorus loading and the pending TMDL implementation as a result of this flawed study.  The audio file of Comm. Onkels public comment will be posted here soon

Lastly, I wanted to share this letter provided to me by Greg Brown that he read at during the public comments segment of tonight’s public meeting:

Whatcom Land Trust Intervention in Petree Challenge to Growth Mgmt. Hearing Board

i.e., Reconveyance – Motion No.: 13-2-0016

WLT Reasons:

1. “to help protect the drinking supply for half of the residents of Whatcom County”

-professional testimony at these Council meetings disputes this claim

2. “to create high quality recreational opportunities in a mature forest environment on the doorstep of the county’s major metropolitan area”

-the public has yet to have a clear picture of what recreational activities will be provided although most understand them to be less than is available now.

3. “to establish a magnet for energetic entrepreneurs and skilled workers to locate in Whatcom county”,

-again this is an assertion and not a fact, in the majority of similar land tranfers this has not proven to be true (Ref. “Eco-Fascists” by Elizabeth Nickson), and

4. “To enhance and protect an expanse of rich habitat”

-has the Department of Resources not protected the “rich habitat”?

These reasons will be at a “nominal cost to the County”. I contend that the public does not know what the cost will be and to use “nominal” is to put a spin on the story. Reality tells us that this will cost many, many times the somewhat arbitrary numbers provided by our Parks Director.

My last points are:

When the Public disclosed to the Council that the Parks Department was entertaining an option for Whatcom Land Trust to manage these reconveyed acres (same agreement as they have with other parks) with no accountability to the WLT and all the costs to the County, the Council promised the Public that this would not happen.

Although the WLT has participated from the very beginning, in what many believe were/are not so transparent ways (intervention over the phone – public?), in order to achieve the Reconveyance; and that although they were able to broker a questionable agreement with the Mt. Baker School District, they have no money in the game. The money brokered is advertised as an “anonymous” donor.

Why does the Whatcom Land Trust want to Intervene? I know what my answer is…

Greg Brown

4363 Saddlestone Drive

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  1. That’s a good question, Greg. Bill Knutzen tried to introduce an amendment into the reconveyance resolution to ensure that the county would not farm out the administration to a third-party, non-transparent, rent-seeking, public-private partnership that would not be responsible to the citizen-voters.

    Everybody on the council agreed with the intent, but they said they were afraid to meddle with the legalese for fear of invalidating the agreement. The amendment failed, but they all said they would never allow third party administration of this park-like thingy. Ken Mann even said he would “sign in blood”.

    Now it appears as if WLT really does have a vested interest in this deal. I think it would behoove the council to get out the lancets, because we need their signature now.

  2. Greg,

    Great work! Thanks for summarizing the meeting and keeping us informed.

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