"}
The Gristle

Slaughterhouse Five

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE: Like a worn horseshoe returned again and again to the forge, Whatcom County land-use policy is slowly being beaten into a better shape.

Whatcom County Council last week offered to settle with the City of Bellingham over the Caitac property, ending nearly nearly 20 years of turmoil on property north of the city. And a decision is expected within weeks from the state growth board on the Rural Element to the county’s comprehensive plan for growth, a review many observers expect will again go badly for the county, requiring additional work to continue to bring it into compliance with state growth goals, another round to move the ball closer to the goal.

The county and city, together with Caitac USA Corp. and the planning advocacy group Futurewise, appear to have reached a compromise over Caitac’s plans to build a resort hotel and to cluster homes on 12,500-square-foot lots around the North Bellingham Golf Course. The compromise allows for the hotel but, importantly, appears to keep in place current zoning on 552 acres north of the Guide Merdian to one house per 10 acres, consistent with rural development.

As part of the agreement, the city and Futurewise agreed to drop appeals of the rezones they had filed with Skagit County Superior Court and the state’s Growth Management Hearings Board. Caitac had retreated from a plan to build a large-scale housing development—Larabee Springs—north of Bellis Fair Mall but continued to push for double the permitted housing density on a frequently congested strip of the Guide Meridian at Smith Road.

It is difficult in a paragraph to describe the ferocity with which Caitac investment capital hijacked and derailed sensible land-use planning in Bellingham’s north end, a sensitive planning area that rubs against those of Whatcom’s two other larger cities. Money served to seduce public opinion, to force distortions on population growth estimates, on land supply and housing market analyses, that endure to this day in Bellingham’s 2006 Comprehensive Plan—still in place substantially unrevised as the guiding document for the city’s road and water system planning, its foolhardy numbers still exerting influence on city policy. Money likewise polluted the public discussion of development along Guide Meridian that formed a contentious element of the county’s dismal Rural Element under review by the GMHB. And because that money also empowered a vision of economic development and build-out favored by a particular “drill, baby, drill!” worldview, it also spilled into our politics as campaign contributions and outcomes both subtle and gross.

In 2009, that money and energy helped radicalize Whatcom County Council, transforming them from a deliberative body trying to bring county planning into compliance with the state’s Growth Management Act into a group determined to fight GMA down to the county’s last nickel.

Empowered by voters, council immediately performed a remarkable coup d’etat on the Whatcom County Planning Commission, removing circumspect commissioners (with planning backgrounds!) and replacing them with pro-growth zealots of a more fierce ideology. The change created a closed information loop for County Council, where their own assertions about unrestricted growth were amplified and parroted back to them by a new planning commission majority. Commissioners created an aggressive, noxiously abusive environment for public participation at their meetings, narrowing topics and barking down attendance, further sealing the feedback loop.

Which brings us ’round to the topic of slaughterhouses.

They’re needed! Also needed are reasonable rules that might regulate how livestock might be processed in a humane manner that suits and benefits an agricultural community. Encumbering that, of course, is the sort of sprawling rural development favored by council policy that encroaches on farms and limits their operations.

Whatcom County Council asked their angry army on the Planning Commission to study the issue and return with recommendations. All commissioners had to do was take staff recommendations on the size and location of such facilities and craft that into a reasonable recommendation that might be approved by council. Instead, commissioners held a worksession in June without first opening the matter for public opinion and returned with a ridiculously exploded recommendation that transformed small-scale operations into full-scale slaughtering industries with up to 20 full-time employees and zero setbacks from neighboring properties, able to receive animals for slaughtering and rendering imported from any source. Commissioners recommended a “permitted use” for such facilities, free from most regulatory requirements—meaning no planning permit is required for their construction and operation, no environmental review is necessary for individual projects, and limited public process or comment opportunity is provided for neighboring property owners.

Hallelujah, all barriers lifted for a bloody new heavy industry!
Council asked its planning commission for a small change to a map. Commissioners returned with a fierce new model for the shape of the Earth.

“My beef is that there was little real input from Whatcom County farmers on the proposal,” Planning Commissioner John Lesow shrugged. “The final recommendation upped the number of employees to 20 before the conditional use process kicked in and restored some setback provisions. Still not enough meat in the amendment, in my opinion.”

The commission’s reeking pile of offal was slid, by a vote of 5-2, under the nose of council last week. Council members, perhaps sadder and a bit wiser from the bruising they’ve suffered from their policy decisions, felt their gorge rise and pushed the plate back to Oct. 9. No guts, no glory.

Zoots Banner
Past Columns
A Stitch In Time

September 28, 2016

Closer to home

September 21, 2016

Zombie Stumbles On

September 14, 2016

Drip-drip-drip:

September 7, 2016

Much ADU about nothing

August 31, 2016

A Matter of Equity

August 24, 2016

A Lock on the Crypt

August 17, 2016

Zombie Terror

August 10, 2016

A Raucous Caucus

August 3, 2016

Lockup Lockstep

July 27, 2016

Polar Wastes

July 20, 2016

Chapter Two

July 13, 2016

Close the Schools!

June 22, 2016

Closing a Circle

June 8, 2016

Roads to Nowhere

May 25, 2016

Trails versus Jail

May 18, 2016

Events
Today
Eat Local Month

4:00pm|Bellingham and Whatcom County

A gold medal standard

4:00pm

Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

The Music Man

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

The Miracle Worker

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Little Women

7:30pm|Whidbey Playhouse

Wild Things

9:30am|Whatcom Falls Park

Quilt & Fiber Arts Festival

10:00am|La Conner

Parkinson's Dance Class

10:00am|Ballet Bellingham

Spanish Storytime

10:30am|Lynden Library

Ferndale Farmers Market

1:00pm|Cherry Street

Get an edible education

4:00pm

Autumn Celebration Dinner

5:30pm|Bellingham Senior Activity Center

Love, Loss and What I Wore

7:30pm|Heiner Auditorium

Hellingham

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Handling the truth

9:35pm

Mount Baker Theatre Bellingham Farmer’s Market
Tomorrow
Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

The Music Man

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Little Women

7:30pm|Whidbey Playhouse

The Miracle Worker

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Quilt & Fiber Arts Festival

10:00am|La Conner

Get an edible education

4:00pm

Love, Loss and What I Wore

7:30pm|Heiner Auditorium

Hellingham

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Handling the truth

9:35pm

Run Like a Girl

8:00am|Fairhaven Park

Model Train Show

9:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Benefit Garage Sale

9:00am|T.G. Richards Building

Twin Sisters Farmers Market

9:00am|Nugent's Corner

Cabbage Class

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

Mount Vernon Farmers Market

9:00am|Riverfront Plaza

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Healthcare Film

9:30am|Bellingham Public Library

Whatcom Artist Studio Tour

10:00am|Whatcom County

Fermentation Fun

10:00am|Blaine Library

Skagit Valley Festival of Family Farms

10:00am|Skagit County

Fall Fruit Festival

10:00am|Cloud Mountain Farm Center

Film is Truth Anniversary Party

10:00am|Bellingham Public Market

Fall Family Fun

10:00am|Glen Echo Garden

Birding Walk

10:00am|South Whatcom Library

Porpathon

10:00am|Salish Sea

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|Peace Portal Drive

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Buddy Walk

11:00am|Fairhaven Village Green

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

National Geographic's 50 Greatest Photos Opening

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Banned Books Week Read-In

12:30pm|Village Books

Intro to NaNoWriMo

1:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Artist Lecture

1:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Matched Makers Opening

2:00pm|Museum of Northwest Art

Timber Rose

2:00pm|North Fork Library

Traditional Jazz

2:00pm|VFW Hall

Blessing of the Animals

3:30pm|Cornwall Park

Poetry Palavers

4:00pm|Village Books

Edison Opening

5:00pm|Smith & Vallee Gallery

Matzke Art Auction

5:00pm|Matzke Fine Art Gallery and Sculpture Park

Celebrating Jack Prelutsky

5:30pm|Western Library

Fred Morrison

7:00pm|Littlefield Celtic Center

The Aimees

7:00pm|BAAY Theatre

USA Dance

7:00pm|Presence Studio

George Winston

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Folk Dance Party

7:30pm|Fairhaven Library

Tannahill Weavers

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Bellingham Chamber Music Society

7:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Village Books Everybody’s Store
Sunday
The Miracle Worker

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

The Music Man

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Little Women

7:30pm|Whidbey Playhouse

Quilt & Fiber Arts Festival

10:00am|La Conner

Love, Loss and What I Wore

7:30pm|Heiner Auditorium

Handling the truth

9:35pm

Model Train Show

9:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Benefit Garage Sale

9:00am|T.G. Richards Building

Skagit Valley Festival of Family Farms

10:00am|Skagit County

Fall Fruit Festival

10:00am|Cloud Mountain Farm Center

Whatcom Artist Studio Tour

10:00am|Whatcom County

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Community Breakfast

8:00am|Rome Grange

Fueling Education Fun Run

9:30am|Washington Park

Sunday Market

1:00pm|Alger Community Hall

Walk the Wall

1:30pm|Lake Padden

Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day

2:00pm|Lake Padden Park

White Christmas Auditions

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Bruce Molsky

7:00pm|YWCA Ballroom

Sunday Night Fusion

7:00pm|Presence Studio

see our complete calendar »

{/exp:stash:get_list} Andrew Subin Everybody’s Store Bellingham Farmer’s Market Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Mount Baker Theatre CW BOB 2016 Zoots Side Bar Village Books Northwood Steak and Crab Artifacts Wine Bar Swinomish 2016