What’s the Rush? Whatcom County Parks Department pushes for passage of Parks Plan Now!

With the pending Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan update looming for finalization in 2016…people need to pay attention and take time to write the County Council on important items on the upcoming Council agenda.  One of the items is a presentation on the update for the Parks Recreation and Open Space plan. 

Long-time Whatcom County resident, author and historian, Jack Petree has submitted a letter to the Council addressing this issue before their Tuesday, 3:00 pm, March 11th, 2014 presentation in the Whatcom County Council Chambers.

~ Kris Halterman

TO:  Whatcom County Council, Whatcom County Planning Commission, Whatcom County PDS, Whatcom County Parks Director

RE:  AB2014 – 119…  According To State Agency, Whatcom County Has Already Missed The Deadline For Submission Of Parks Plan – Next Submission Date is March 1 of 2016 So There Is Time For A Proper Public Process Regarding The Comprehensive Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan With No Penalty So Long As The 2016 Deadline Is Met.

Council, Commission, PDS and, Parks Director,

March 11, the County Council Planning Committee will begin discussion of a newly developed Whatcom County Comprehensive Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan.

The primary reason for rushing a Whatcom County Parks plan through without following the process laid out in State Law and in Whatcom County Code has been the idea that to qualify for State grants the plan must be adopted and to the State immediately.

After reading State Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) documents regarding eligibility for the State grants I called the State contact person for the State grant program.  That person confirmed what I’d gleaned from the state’s documentation regarding grant eligibility.

Because an adopted Comprehensive Parks and Recreation Open Space plan was not submitted to the state by March 1st, grant eligibility cannot be re-established effectively until March 1st of 2016.

This means there is no practical reason to rush the plan through without the public process required by the Growth Management Act and by Whatcom County Code.

Proceeding through the proper process now has a second benefit in that the new plan could be seamlessly introduced into the required 2016 Comprehensive Planning process required to be complete by 2016 so, following proper public process, including Planning Commission perusal of the plan allows for a single process that will allow two planning requirements to be met.

Thank you for your time and courtesy in looking into this important issue.

~ Jack Petree – 2955 Sunset Drive – Bellingham

Whatcom County Parks Department is bringing forward a new Whatcom County Comprehensive Parks Recreation and Open Space plan.  The Department is asking the County Council to adopt the plan immediately.

So far, the plan has had no public scrutiny of any kind.  It was given to the Parks Commission in December with little or no discussion, the Planning Commission was briefed on the plan in January but, it was made clear the Commission was to have no decision making participation in the plan.

The excuse for no public input on the plan included a contention that the Parks plan adopted in 1989, before the Growth Management Act was even made law, is the official Comprehensive Planning document for Whatcom County Parks.

The approach creates a morass of conflicting parks documents, a conflict illegal under state law as well as serious violations of the requirement that public process accompany the adoption of a document that will guide park operations for six more years.

If you’re concerned about lack of public process, e-mail a comment to that effect to your County Council at Council@co.whatcom.wa.us.

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