Sunday, May 18, 2014

An Orwellian Time - Where Nothing Is What It Seems to Be

Michael Bobbink has been a Hearing Examiner since 1984. His decisions have shaped some of the most destructive land use practices in Whatcom County.

Any person who uses Sam Crawford as a reference for land use services gives me pause. (November 7, 2011 letter from Bobbink to Whatcom County)

In 1997, Bobbink recommended approval of the Cherry Point development, ruling that the "overall value and functions of wetlands...should increase if the applicant fully complies with the mitigation plan and if it is successful." He also ruled that the final EIS "has concluded that there is not a probability of a significant adverse environmental impact from this proposal."

In 1998, he allowed a 700,000-gallon sewage detention tank in Lake Whatcom that permitted the "construction of  600 new homes", and allowed a second sewer line along Lake Louise Road.  His reasoning: "Denial of utility services to existing property owners without compensation is not the appropriate way to protect Lake Whatcom." (Whatcom Watch, "A Roller Coaster Ride: The Proposed Second Sudden Valley Deer Line", by S.A. Hewitt, March 2000)

Mr. Bobbink's rulings also enabled hundreds, if not at least a thousand more development rights to be created in our agricultural lands. From 1976 until 2001, Whatcom County allowed the creation of parcels less than 40 acres in size if it facilitated more intensive agriculture. Mr. Bobbink ruled that "the exemption should allow, but not require, more intensive farming on both parcels." ("Breaking Up the Farm, Zoning rules erode farm protections. If developed, ag land may double in population", Bellingham Herald, Ericka Pizzillo, April 23, 2000.)

Many of you have followed the story of the closed doors permitting of the illegal clearing at Cherry Point, site of the proposed coal terminal.  I took on Big Coal -- and lost, thanks to bizarre rulings of Mr. Bobbink.

The coal developers made a motion to dismiss my appeal on several grounds. The term is called "Summary Judgment", yet the Whatcom County Hearing Examiner has no rules for how to handle such motions. Perhaps that is why there have never been any prior motions for Summary Judgment in Whatcom County!

There are just four reasons where the Hearing Examiner could dismiss an application without a hearing. You'd think that the Hearing Examiner would find one of those reasons if he was to dismiss the appeal? Not Mr. Bobbink.

He chose to dismiss the case without an open record hearing. Adding insult to injury, he made me pay for the hearing that the coal developers requested. His reasoning in his decision reflect the past 30 years of bad land use decisions here in Whatcom County.

I filed a request for reconsideration, something that is allowed under the rules when within three days of receiving a decision. The request cited several errors and omissions in Bobbink's decision, including a procedural mistake of the Hearing Examiner.

If you are the Whatcom County Hearing Examiner, you are required to render a decision within 10 days following conclusion of all testimony and hearings. (Unless the rules say otherwise, a day is a day, and not a "working day".WCC 20.92.430 requires 10 days for a decision.) Apparently, this simple instruction doesn't work for Michael Bobbink. Mr. Bobbink thinks the "shorter timeframe makes no sense." After all, the "Code...does not indicate what relief there is for failures of Planning or the Hearing Examiner to meet imposed time deadlines."

He denied my request for reconsideration. I guess those pesky deadlines only pertain to others.

Now I must decide by this Wednesday May 21st -- ten working days from when the decision was made, whether to appeal the decision to the Whatcom County Council. It will cost $300 plus the cost of a transcript. These appeals cost more than what the coal developers had to pay for the permit to destroy 9.1 acres of forest, impact nearly 4 acres of wetlands and damage an archaeological site.

The land disturbance violation should have been raised in 2011 because it could have prevailed through the courts. It really is a good case, and still is a good case due to the bungling of decisions by Whatcom County.

Mr. Bobbink's contract is up for renewal each year, with a full review slated for 2015. It is time that we look for others to perform this service. Enough damage has been done to our environment, and with the Gateway Pacific Terminal project set to be heard by this same person - oh my.

As for my six month battle, I'm curious what others think. Continue the fight? Or, maybe wait and file on Day 11 "because the shorter timeframe makes no sense?"  After all, what's good for the goose....

P.S. If you think I should carry on the fight, I need some financial support.  Send me a PM (last name or on Facebook to let me know you might contribute $25 - $50 to carry this battle forward.


  1. I am in for $50. Thanks for doing what you are doing friend.

  2. "If your doctor says you have high cholesterol and you have a high risk of a heart attack, only idiots go home and search the internet until they find a web site that says cholesterol doesn’t exist." Bill Mckibben.

    We all have to do what we can to keep the coal in the ground, now. Please join me in supporting Dave, the $50 is a challenge to 5 others. Frank

  3. Bobbink grants shoreline variances for views, without any proof that a view is impaired, and in contradiction of a clear reading of the code. He has bullied me, and publicly called me a liar, and in other ways insulted me for exercising my rights as a citizen. And he made it very clear, without stating as much, that if I showed up in his courtroom, he would automatically rule against my position. I am in for 50 bucks.

  4. Count me in. I still remember his asinine rulings on the Squalicum Mountain road issue, the famous " urban sized services aren't urban services if they are in rural areas!"

  5. Still another $100 or so to get committed but getting close. We really do appreciate all the work you do David.

  6. Keep up the good fight, David. Count me in for $100

  7. David. I'm in for $25. It's a small token of my appreciation for all that you've done.

  8. Thanks to everyone for your support and encouragement. It is always humbling to know that people have confidence in what you are working on.

    I will file the appeal and put forth my best arguments. It is the right thing to do, and my hope is that change will happen as a result of these efforts.

    For those willing to donate, I should have sent you a message one way or the other - unless I just can't seem to locate your contact information. If you haven't heard from me, send me a private message. Thanks.

  9. David - I know it is after the fact, but I just found this posting. If you could use more (is there anydoubt?), I am in as well.

  10. David,
    Thanks for your good work. I pledge $50. to support it. Kindly post details on how to complete the pledge.
    Abe Jacobson