On Tuesday, May 21st, Bellingham will host both a "short course" on local planning and another chapter in Whatcom County's very long history of local de-planning.
From 6:30 to 9:30, in the City Council chambers (210 Lottie Street), the Planning Association of Washington and the Washington State Department of Commerce will present “A Short Course on Local Planning,” focusing on topics such as “The Legal Basis of Planning in Washington State,” “Comprehensive Planning and Implementation Basics,” and “Roles and Relationships in the Planning Process.” The agenda is here.
Across the street, the Whatcom County Council will be hosting the latest installment in its very, very long course in how not to plan.
As regular readers of this blog know, the County’s Comprehensive Plan remains out of compliance with the Growth Management Act. The Rural Element still doesn’t comply with part of the law that was passed over 15 years ago. In January of this year, the Growth Management Hearings Board listed some of the ways that the Plan is out of compliance. The County has appealed some of those issues to court, but it is obliged to fix the rest.
On Tuesday night, the Council will hold a public hearing on the Planning Commission’s recommendations relating to the issues that the County didn’t appeal. Here’s the agenda.
Remarkably, the Planning Commission has recommended that not complying with the Hearings Board’s decision is the appropriate response for many of the remaining issues. Here’s the Planning Commission’s recommendation.
Perhaps the Planning Commission is concerned that We the Taxpayers haven’t paid enough to the County’s Seattle law firm yet – after all, “only” $46,000 has been billed to the County for the first four months of the year, with the court hearing on the county’s appeal nowhere in sight yet.
Speaking of lawyers -- in the Planning Commission’s defense, it appears that the only legal advice that it has received was from the lawyer for some property owners who are suing the Board and the County. Yes, it’s the same lawyer who compared the Planning Commission’s responsibility to comply with the Growth Management Act with being loaded into a cattle car to Auschwitz. (Not kidding. For those who missed it, the exact quote is here.)
While it is ironic that the Short Course in local planning will conflict with the County Council meeting, it does provide the public with an interesting choice: learn how local planning should be done in the City Council chambers, or watch how it shouldn’t be done in the County Council chambers.