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Last Night at County Council

Lady_Justice It was a full house at Council up to the moment that Council approved their interim-ordinance on marijuana production, processing and retailing.  Once this ordinance was passed by a unanimous vote of 7 – 0, the crowd dispersed to the Courthouse Rotunda and had a fairly noisy meeting.  The discussion was audible for about 30 minutes after the Council vote, so we’ll have to wait to learn what the outcome of that will be.  I do know that the people in attendance at the public hearing (which was not mandated) were heavily against approval of the interim-ordinance.

Open session did not start until after 9:45 pm, so after making my comment it was time for me to go home, but I have pasted a copy of the outcome of last nights council meeting below.

Upon listening to the many comments by the public and council, I formed some thoughts that I wonder about and wanted to share here.

The water issue, especially the Hirst, Brakke, Stalheim, Harris and Futurewise v. Whatcom County lawsuit is the most important issue facing Whatcom County now and likely far into the future.  A recent Bellingham Herald article spoke to a potential settlement being proposed by Futurewise.  A settlement would be done behind closed doors without the transparency of the public’s knowledge.  A privately done-deal that private rural landowners would have to abide by and likely would mean another loss of property rights to them, and property tax dollars to the County that would be shifted to those properties that are not affected by such an agreement.  Skagit County mitigated their water issue.  The property owners were none too happy with the outcome of that settlement.  Yet, once again there was discussion at the Council’s Finance Committe meeting yesterday afternoon, to remove the funding to pay for this litigation to be done on the behalf of all Whatcom County and Washington State residents.  Why would Council even consider short changing the people they are charged to represent?

With all of the hullabaloo over passing the marijuana, cannabis ordinances, I want to commend County Council Member Rud Browne for being honest with those attending last nights meeting on this issue.  Councilman Browne commented during the discussion that just because the State gives them a license, or the County passes an ordinance which allows for the legal growing, manufacturing and sale of cannabis…that does not guarantee that they will have access to a water permit to operate under.  One reason for that is the Council has not definitively assigned cannabis grow operations.  Are they an agricultural operation, or are they an industrial operation?  Big difference when it comes to water rights and water law.  It struck me that the Council seems eager to get this operation on a fast track to approval. The talk last night was for the development of 21,000 s.f. operations, and I did not hear any mention of limiting the size and scope of this burgeoning industry in unincorporated Whatcom County.

In stark contrast, compare how the local, Whatcom County Livestock Farmers worked hard with the Planning Commission and the Council to pass an Agricultural Packing Houses ordinance to allow this operation as an accessory use up to 7,000 s.f., and as a conditional use for operations larger than that.  The Whatcom County Cattle Association and the Planning Commission had originally recommended for accessory use up to 10,000 to 15,000 s.f., but the Council caved to outside pressure from Futurewise and city dwellers to limit accessory use to 7,000 s.f.  At yesterday’s County Planning and Development meeting their was discussion about converting all agricultural packing house operations to be allowed only under conditional usage, insuring that no small operations will ever happen in Whatcom County.  There may be others who will have the financial capacity to put in a larger packing house, but the County’s goal is to insure that no large scale operations are developed in Whatcom County.  Not so for cannabis grow operations as I mentioned earlier, no one appeared to blink an eye at a 21,000 s.f. operation in the rural community, claiming their right to farm.

Ag Packinghouse Discussion Part 1 Ag Packinghouse Discussion Part 2

My purpose here is not to favor one agricultural operation over the other.  My purpose is to point out the hypocrisy of the Council’s actions.  Everyone deserves equal treatment under the law and favoritism should not be allowed.  That is what the Founders understood and that is why Lady Justice is blind.

~ Kris Halterman

COUNCIL COMMITTEE SCHEDULES

NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE
Members: Barry Buchanan, Sam Crawford, Carl Weimer
9:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Council Chambers, 311 Grand Avenue

Special Presentation

  1. Presentation from the East Whatcom Community Council Clean Air Committee on issues associated with poor air quality in the Columbia Valley and discussion of how a variety of agencies and citizens in that area have come together to address those problems (AB2014-135)

Committee Discussion

  1. Update of Purchase and Development Rights Program by the Purchase of Development Rights Oversight Committee and County staff (AB2013-363A)

Other Business


FINANCE AND ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES COMMITTEE
Members: Sam Crawford, Barry Buchanan, Rud Browne
11:00 a.m. Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Council Chambers, 311 Grand Avenue, Bellingham

Special Presentations – Whatcom County Businesses
Presentations are being hosted quarterly this year by the Finance and Administrative Services Committee to gain greater awareness and understanding of a variety of Whatcom County businesses and their impact on our local economy. Presentations from each business representative will be 10-15 minutes in length and have been scheduled and facilitated with the assistance of the Port of Bellingham Economic Development Division.

  1. Informational briefing from Whatcom County businesses, featuring: Gary Graham from Shuttle Systems, Drew Zogby from Alpha Technologies, and Ian Rae from Chuckanut Builders (AB2014-132)

Committee Discussion and Recommendations to Council

  1. Ordinance amending the 2014 Whatcom County Budget, eighth request, in the amount of $9,053,575 (AB2014-114)
  2. Resolution amending the Whatcom County Flood Control Zone District 2014 budget, second request, in the amount of $42,700 (AB2014-115) (Council acting as the Whatcom County Flood Control Zone District Board of Supervisors)
  3. Discussion and possible action on an Economic Development Investment (EDI) Program – EDI Board recommendation to modify guidelines to add single and multi-family home construction as an allowable use (AB2013-332) (from 1/28/2014)

Council “Consent Agenda” Items

  1. Request approval for the County Executive to enter into a contract amendment between Whatcom County and the Camp Horizon Foundation for the operation of Bay Horizon Park (AB2014-122)
  2. Request approval for the County Executive to enter into a contract between Whatcom County and Herrera Environmental Consultants, Inc. for design and technical support for the Lower Canyon Creek Salmon Habitat Restoration/Flood Hazard Management Project, in the amount of $59,027 (AB2014-123)

Other Business


PUBLIC WORKS, HEALTH, AND SAFETY COMMITTEE
Members: Barbara Brenner, Pete Kremen, Ken Mann
1:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Council Chambers, 311 Grand Avenue, Bellingham

Committee Discussion

  1. Discussion of contingency planning for potential interruptions of ferry service for Lummi Island (AB2014-133)
  2. Discussion of on-site sewage system replacement within Bellingham City limits (AB2014-134)

Other Business


PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE
Members: Ken Mann, Barbara Brenner, Rud Browne
3:00 p.m. Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Council Chambers, 311 Grand Avenue, Bellingham

Committee Discussion

  1. Discussion of an interim ordinance related to packinghouse applications in Agriculture Zones (AB2014-060A)

Other Business


COUNCIL COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
6:00 p.m. Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Council Conference Room, 311 Grand Avenue

Committee Discussion

  1. iscussion with Chief Civil Deputy Prosecutor Daniel Gibson regarding pending litigation, Quarrles v. Whatcom County (AB2014-018)
    [Discussion of this item will take place in executive session (closed to the public) pursuant to RCW42.30.110 (1)(i)]
  2. Discussion with Senior Deputy Prosecutor Karen Frakes regarding pending litigation before the Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB) and pending judicial appeals from GMHB decisions (AB2014-018)
    [Discussion of this item may take place in executive session (closed to the public) pursuant to RCW42.30.110 (1) (i)]

Other Business


COUNTY COUNCIL AGENDA and ACTION TAKEN

REGULAR COUNCIL MEETING
7:00 p.m., Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Council Chambers, 311 Grand Avenue, Bellingham

CALL TO ORDER
ROLL CALL

Councilmembers Present: Weimer, Buchanan, Mann, Browne, Brenner, Crawford, Kremen
Absent: 
None

FLAG SALUTE
ANNOUNCEMENTS

MINUTES CONSENT

  1. Board of Health for February 4, 2014
    Approved Consent 7-0
  2. Surface Water Work Session for February 18, 2014
    Approved Consent 7-0
  3. Regular County Council for February 25, 2014
    Approved Consent 7-0

SPECIAL PRESENTATION

  1. Quarterly report from the Behavioral Health Revenue Advisory Committee, presented by Jackie Mitchell, Whatcom County Health Department (AB2014-124)
    Presented

PUBLIC HEARINGS
Audience members who wish to address the council during a public hearing are asked to sign up at the back of the room before the meeting begins. The council chair will ask those who have signed up to form a line at the podium. Each speaker should state his or her name for the record and will be given three minutes to address the council. Council staff will keep track of time limits and inform speakers when they have thirty seconds left to conclude their comments. When a large group of individuals supports the same position on an issue, we encourage the selection of one or two representatives to speak on behalf of the entire group.

  1. Ordinance allowing, on an interim basis, marijuana production, processing, and retailing as authorized by Washington State Initiative 502, and medical marijuana facilities as authorized under Chapter 69.51A RCW (AB2014-074B)
    Adopted 7-0, Ordinance 2014-019
  2. Ordinance amending Ordinance 2012-043, the Whatcom County Unified Fee Schedule, to accommodate changes to Whatcom County Code 2.27A, Aquatic Invasive Species (AB2014-117)
    Adopted 7-0, Ordinance 2014-020
  3. Resolution regarding application for two Community Development Block Grants (AB2014-116)
    Adopted 7-0, Resolution 2014-017
  4. Ordinance establishing charges/fees for providing Advanced Life Support (ALS) Ambulance Transport Services in Whatcom County (AB2014-121)
    Substitute Adopted 7-0, Ordinance 2014-021

OPEN SESSION (20 MINUTES)
During open session, audience members can speak to the council on any issue not scheduled for public hearing or related to the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal project (GPT). Each speaker should state his or her name for the record and will be given three minutes to address the council. Council staff will keep track of time limits and inform speakers when they have thirty seconds left to conclude their comments.

CONSENT AGENDA
Items under this section of the agenda may be considered in a single motion. Councilmembers have received and studied background material on all items. Committee review has taken place on these items, as indicated. Any member of the public, administrative staff, or council may ask that an item be considered separately.

  1. Request approval for the County Executive to enter into a contract amendment between Whatcom County and the Camp Horizon Foundation for the operation of Bay Horizon Park (AB2014-122)
    Approved Consent 7-0
  2. Request approval for the County Executive to enter into a contract between Whatcom County and Herrera Environmental Consultants, Inc. for design and technical support for the Lower Canyon Creek Salmon Habitat Restoration/Flood Hazard Management Project, in the amount of $59,027 (AB2014-123) (Council Acting as the Whatcom County Flood Control Zone District Board of Supervisors)
    Approved 7-0

OTHER ITEMS

(From Finance and Administrative Services Committee)

  1. Ordinance amending the 2014 Whatcom County Budget, eighth request, in the amount of $9,053,575 (AB2014-114)
    Adopted 4-3, Brenner, Mann, and Weimer opposed, Ordinance 2014-022
  2. Resolution amending the Whatcom County Flood Control Zone District 2014 budget, second request, in the amount of $42,700 (AB2014-115) (Council acting as the Whatcom County Flood Control Zone District Board of Supervisors)
    Approved 5-2, Crawford and Mann opposed, Resolution 2014-018
  3. Discussion and possible action on an Economic Development Investment (EDI) Program – EDI Board recommendation to modify guidelines to add single and multi-family home construction as an allowable use (AB2013-332) (from 1/28/2014)
    Approved recommendations 5-2, Mann and Crawford opposed

(No Committee Assignment)

  1. Ordinance amending the Whatcom County Code regarding lot clustering standards in the Rural (R) District (AB2014-113)
    Adopted 6-0-1, Browne abstained, Ordinance 2014-023
  2. Request confirmation of the County Executive’s appointment of Barbara Juarez to the Whatcom County Public Health Advisory Board (AB2014-125)
    Confirmed 7-0
  3. Request confirmation of the County Executive’s appointment of Doug Bestle and Robert Wilson to the Whatcom County Veteran’s Advisory Board (AB2014-126)
    Confirmed 7-0
  4. Request confirmation of the County Executive’s appointment of Tom Goetzl to the Whatcom County Ethics Commission (AB2014-127)
    Confirmed 7-0
  5. Request confirmation of the County Executive’s appointment of Annie Honrath to the Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee (AB2014-128)
    Confirmed 7-0
  6. County Executive requests County Council appoint one of their members to be the alternate representative on the Washington State Association of Counties Board of Directors (AB2014-129)
    Councilmember Kremen Appointed 7-0

COMMITTEE REPORTS

INTRODUCTION ITEMS 
Council action will not be taken.. The council may accept these items for introduction (no action) in a single motion. Changes, in terms of committee assignment for example, may be made at this time.

  1. Ordinance installing stop signs on roads within the County (AB2014-131) (proposed schedule – April 8 public hearing)
    Introduced 7-0
  2. Ordinance repealing and replacing Whatcom County Code Section 1.14, Election Precincts, to amend certain election precinct boundaries, approve new precinct boundaries as necessary, and adopt a book of election precinct maps by reference (AB2014-130) – Agenda Revision
    Introduced 7-0

OTHER BUSINESS
REPORTS AND OTHER ITEMS FROM COUNCILMEMBERS
ADJOURN
The next regular council meeting is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, April 8, 2014, in the Council Chambers, 311 Grand Avenue, Bellingham.

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