Monday, September 2, 2013

Build It and They Will Come

Lynden is surrounded by agricultural land - prime farmland.

If water is provided to Lynden and surrounding water associations, what safeguards are there to prevent unforeseen consequences?

If Lynden expands, it will expand into agricultural lands.

I'm not going to talk about expansion of urban areas in this blog post, other than to let you know that this topic is hot on the burner of Whatcom County and the cities. 
But, in this blog post, I want to focus on the development rights and the potential consequences of extending water outside of urban areas - and to areas with prime farm soil. 

If water is extended to areas outside of the cities, what is the potential that the 1,787 existing development rights in lands zoned Agriculture in Whatcom County would get developed?

These rights were created through various "interpretations" of agricultural zoning over the years. For those of you around during that time, you might recall:
  • The "more intensive agriculture exemption". This exemption allowed the creation of parcels less than 40 acres in size if it facilitated more intensive agriculture. The Hearing Examiner (Bobbink) interpreted the exemption to allow, but not require, more intensive farming on both parcels. ("Breaking Up the Farm, Zoning rules erode farm protections". Bellingham Herald, April 23, 2000)
  • The "600 foot frontage exemption".  This exemption allowed land divisions of any size as long as it had 600 feet of frontage on a public road. 
  • The "retiring farmer exemption".  If the "retiring farmer" resided on their property for five years, they could keep the farmstead and sell the farm. Nothing says the farmer had to be a certain age, so when someone "retired" to work at Intalco, they were allowed to divide the land.
  • The "gift exemption".  If you "gifted" your land to a family member, you didn't have to comply with county land division regulations. 
Here is an example of the development rights that exist on agricultural lands just north of Lynden and the Badger Road.

Bajema Property - yellow lines are parcel lines
The Bajema property shown above is in the Delta Water Association. From what I gather, Delta would be part of any transfer of water to the associations around Lynden as they are facing nitrate issues. This land is designated Agriculture, and could have ten new homes built on it with water provided by Delta. 

But, this example is just the tip of the iceberg. Whatcom County has just completed an updated Agricultural Land Cover Analysis and Build-out Analysis. I got on the Department of Health's website and mapped out three of the water associations I had heard were part of the need for a clean water supply. I then overlaid those water associations on the Agricultural Land Cover Analysis and Build-out Analysis. 

The map below shows that these water associations are in prime farmland area. 
AG Land Cover Analysis - May 13, 2013
These three water associations could serve 313 new residential development rights.  (See map below.)
Potential Build- Source: Whatcom County GIS
Here are some links to documents that I gathered about Lynden water:

Lynden - WDOE Memorandum of Agreement
WDOE "White Paper" on Lynden Water Rights and Supply Options
North Whatcom County Regional Source Feasibility Study
Coordinated Water System Plan (2006) Map


  1. I think it might be more like "zone it and they will come". Great review.

  2. Actually, it is "un-zone it, build the water line and they will come". All we need is a baseball field.

  3. How can the GMHB allow the extension of urban services (in this instance water) through or into areas not designated for urban growth?