News

Whatcom 2036

County Council begins hearings on growth plan

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Green and productive lands—they might just be the most important concern to people who live in Whatcom County: The farms, the forests, the lakes and mountains. When family and friends come to visit, these are the sights visitors long to see. They’re our bragging rights.

A natural tension exists in these natural lands, though, between keeping them pristine and keeping them in use as commercially productive areas.

Whatcom County Council continues its update of the county’s Comprehensive Plan, and they’re taking up this important topic next week—the portion of the plan that concerns resource lands. The plan will help guide county policies for these lands for the next 20 years. And Council not only wants your opinion on these policies, but they also need it—public participation is required for Comp Plan updates under the state’s Growth Management Act.

Staff has commented on the update. The county Planning Commission has held numerous meetings and taken comments, particularly from businesses with a financial interest in land-use decisions. The Planning Commission has assembled its reports and made recommendations. Now the county’s legislative authority, County Council, will spend the next several months considering each piece, along with testimony they receive, with the hopes they’ll complete the plan update by mid-summer.

To that end, Council last week carved out additional time at the beginning of their regular evening sessions to receive public comment on various chapters of the Comprehensive Plan. They’ll take each section of the plan in turn, beginning with Chapters 1 and 4 on Tues., March 22.

Chapter 1, laying the groundwork for planning principles and goals, may be the most fundamental:

“Whatcom County’s Comprehensive Plan is intended to guide growth in unincorporated areas for the next 20 years,” reads the early draft of the chapter’s opening. “The fundamental purpose of the Comprehensive Plan is to establish a framework of goals, and policies and action items to guide growth, land use, capital facility and transportation planning, and environmental protection.”

The GMA provides the framework for this regional coordination of goals and policies. Local comprehensive plans must include provisions for land use, housing, capital facilities, utilities, transportation, and—for counties—a rural element. And, in the midst of all this commercial bustle, plans must also protect our quiet, sensitive areas for natural habitat, wildlife and critical resources for future generations.

The Comp Plan attempts to answer: “Will we sprawl into farmland or will we protect this key economic driver? Will we set goals to solve water quantity problems, or will we continue to wait for someone else to solve them for us? Will we attempt to grapple with the issues of global climate change through enlightened public policy? And—to that end—will our plan establish limiting principles on the variety of industries we welcome here that help achieve these goals?

“The development of these goals and policies is necessary,” the section on Resource Lands reads, “to ensure the provision of land suitable for long-term farming, forestry, and mineral extraction so the production of food, fiber, wood products, and minerals can be maintained as an important part of our economic base through the planning period. Without protection of these resource lands,” the chapter cautions, “some of the lands could be inappropriately or prematurely converted into land uses incompatible with long-term resource production. The premature conversion of resource lands into incompatible uses places additional constraints on remaining resource lands and can lead to further erosion of the resource land base.”

In 2000, one-quarter of habitable lands in the county were devoted to agriculture. It is shrinking every year.

“As significant as agriculture is to the economy, these lands are often considered for urban or rural uses, and the amount of land in farm production has been steadily shrinking over time,” staff warned in their report. “This erosion of the farm land base has implications for the county’s wider economy. For example, the maintenance of a sufficiently large land area devoted to farming is necessary to support associated farm processing operations such as milk and berry processing facilities.”

The fishing industry, too, faces a variety of restrictions on its activities, staff warn in their report.

“The populations of many fish species have declined. Chinook salmon and bull trout have been listed under the Endangered Species Act. Moratoria, quotas, and harvest management are already in place for most of the species Whatcom County fishers currently harvest. Nevertheless, the fishing industry contributes substantially to the county’s economy.”

Similar observations are made on forestry.

“The forest resources of Whatcom County have historically been one of the most important natural resources in the region,” staff commented. “Forests cover approximately half of the non-federal lands in the county. In addition to trees for lumber, poles and paper, forest land products include gravel, rock, medicinal products, and ornamental plants. Logging and processing various types of forest products employ hundreds of county residents. Like fishing, however, forestry is subject to limitations, because forest lands provide important associated resources such as water, wildlife habitat, and fish habitat which need to be conserved.”

These are pictures of natural resources out of balance, too heavily harvested or incompletely managed and protected.

As invariably happens, business and commercial interests have spoken early and loudly on these matters. But we do live in a democracy, and Council wants to know what most people think about land-use policy. What do most people want to see in Whatcom 2036? Your elected representatives have made time for you. Make time for them.

More ...
Assessing the 
Damage
Flood damage response continues in Whatcom County

State flood inspectors are in Whatcom County this week to formally assess the level of damage and dollar impact from severe flooding after days of rain released by an atmospheric river that crossed the region, a plume of moisture that stretched across the Pacific. Floodwaters rushed through…

more »
New Climate 
initiatives
Governor proposes bold steps, 
but are they enough?

A coalition of 68 state, regional and city governments led by Gov. Jay Inslee affirmed their commitment to addressing the climate crisis by signing a range of emissions-slashing actions ahead of 2030. This is part of a global call from local and regional governments in recognition of the…

more »
A Working Waterfront
Candidates assess the future of the Port

With waterfront plans under revision, and two of three elected positions available for review, the Port of Bellingham Commission may be the most consequential race in this election.

“The mission of the Port of Bellingham is countywide economic development,” Port Commissioner Michael…

more »
Friday
Paintings of My Life, In Dialogue

11:00am

View Beth Anna Margolis’ “Paintings of My Life” from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through Feb. 23 (closed on Thanksgiving) at Gallery Syre, 465 W. Stuart Rd. The show features a…

Fall Juried Show Closing Week

11:00am

View a “Fall Juried Show” in Lynden for the final week from 11am-7pm Tuesday and Wednesday, and 11am-5pm Friday at the Jansen Art Center, 321 Front St. Also on display are “From Then ‘Til…

Free Parks Day

8:00am

Celebrate autumn by taking advantage of the last Washington State Free Parks Day of 2021. A Discover Pass won’t be needed for day-use visits at state parks, so explore nearby locales to your…

Holiday Bazaar

8:00am

Peruse glassworks, woodworks, metalworks, jewelry, paintings, knit-wear and more at a Holiday Bazaar featuring one-of-a-kind gifts from Whatcom County artists from 8am-5pm daily through…

Wild Things

9:30am

Kids, adults and adventurers can join Wild Whatcom for a “Wild Things” community program exploring local trails and parks from 9:30am-11am every Friday. Please bring a simple, healthy snack,…

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am

Allied Arts’ annual Holiday Festival of the Arts takes place from 10am-7pm daily through Dec. 24 (except on Thanksgiving) at 1411 Railroad Ave. The five-week-long festival will feature works…

Salmon Sighting with NSEA

10:00am

Join the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association for the final Salmon Sighting events of the season taking place from 10am-1pm Friday, and 12pm-3pm Saturday at Bellingham’s Arroyo Park. Join…

Whidbey Art Market

10:00am

After a year’s hiatus, Whidbey Art Market returns from 10am-4pm Friday and Saturday in Freeland at Freeland Hall, 1515 Shoreview Dr. There will be something for everyone—oil, acrylic,…

Future Artifacts

10:00am

“Future Artifacts” shows from 10am-5pm daily through Nov. 27 in La Conner at the Museum of Northwest Art, 121 S. First St. The exhibit features work by Lummi Nation glass artist Dan Friday,…

Amy Popelka at Good Earth

11:00am

Works by featured artist Amy Popelka can be seen for the final week from 11am-5pm daily through Saturday, and 11am-4pm Sunday at Good Earth Pottery, 1000 Harris Ave.

Among the Trees

11:00am

Check out the invitational exhibit “Among the Trees” for the final week from 11am-5pm Friday through Sunday in Edison at i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court. The show features works by numerous…

Studio Conversations

11:00am

Anita Lehmann’s “Studio Conversations: Short Stories” can be viewed from 11am-6pm daily (except Tuesdays) through November in Mount Vernon at Perry and Carlson Gallery, 504 S. First St. Masks…

Quilt Exhibits in La Conner

11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Dia de los Muertos: A Day of Remembrance,”…

Morris and Obbink

11:00am

View works by sculptor Ann Morris and landscape-inspired watercolors and colored pencil works by Kim Obbink for the final weekend from 11am-5pm Friday through Sunday in Edison at Smith &…

Small Arts Works Juried Show

11:00am

Stanwood-Camano Arts Guild’s “Small Art Works” regional juried art show can be viewed from 11am-5pm Wednesdays through Saturdays through Jan. 13 at A Guilded Gallery, 8700 271st St.…

Dendritic Signals

11:00am

View “Dendritic Signals” for the final week from 11am-4pm Wednesday through Saturday at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. The show features abstract artwork in a variety of mediums and colors,…

Lorna Libert at Scott Milo

11:00am

New Pacific Northwest oils by Bellingham-based artist Lorna Libert will be featured from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through Nov. 27 at the Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave.…

Mindport Exhibits

11:00am

One-hour reservation slots are now open for household groups or pods of up to 10 people from 11am-6pm Tuesdays through Saturdays at Mindport Exhibits, 210 W. Holly St. In the months they were…

Up Close and Personal at Whatcom Museum

12:00pm

View “Up Close & Personal: The Body in Contemporary Art,” “Artists x Artists,” “The Fairhaven Hotel,” “People of the Sea and Cedar: A Journey Through the Tribal Cultures and History of the…

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm

The annual “Deck the Old City Hall” returns starting this weekend from 12pm-5pm Friday through Sunday at Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall, 121 Prospect St. View a variety of themed, decorated…

Rebel Artists Black Friday Market

3:00pm

Rebel Artists of Whatcom County will host a Black Friday Market from 3pm-7pm at the Commercial Street Plaza, 1315 Commercial St. The outdoor vendor market will feature local artists and…

Fairhaven Fourth Friday Art Walk

5:00pm

Attend the Fourth Friday Art Walk taking place from 5pm-8pm at galleries and venues throughout historic Fairhaven. Meet artists, see demos, enjoy entertainment and celebrate local creative…

The Lights of Christmas

5:00pm

Attend “A Drive-Thru Christmas” from 5pm-10pm Friday through Sunday in Stanwood at Warm Beach Park, 20800 Marine Dr. The illuminating experience features more than a million lights, festive…

Genre Legends

7:30pm

At 7:30pm and 9:30pm on Friday and Saturday, “Genre Legends” will take the stage at the Sylvia Center for the Arts, 207 Prospect St. Watch the players pick multiple genres for each show and…

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

7:30pm

Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and, of course, Rudolph will make appearances when Music Theatre International’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed…

A Christmas Carol

8:00pm

One of the Skagit Valley’s favorite holiday traditions continues when A Christmas Carol opens this weekend with showings at 8pm Friday and Saturday, and 2:30pm Sunday in Mount Vernon at the…

Shakedown Shows

9:00pm

Fretts, JP Falcon Grady, and an “It’s Kizmet” drag show start at 9pm Fri., Nov. 26 at the Shakedown, 1212 N. State St. The COVID Relief Benefit Show for Make.Shift Art Space will be followed…

Saturday
Paintings of My Life, In Dialogue

11:00am

View Beth Anna Margolis’ “Paintings of My Life” from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through Feb. 23 (closed on Thanksgiving) at Gallery Syre, 465 W. Stuart Rd. The show features a…

Fall Juried Show Closing Week

11:00am

View a “Fall Juried Show” in Lynden for the final week from 11am-7pm Tuesday and Wednesday, and 11am-5pm Friday at the Jansen Art Center, 321 Front St. Also on display are “From Then ‘Til…

Free Parks Day

8:00am

Celebrate autumn by taking advantage of the last Washington State Free Parks Day of 2021. A Discover Pass won’t be needed for day-use visits at state parks, so explore nearby locales to your…

Holiday Bazaar

8:00am

Peruse glassworks, woodworks, metalworks, jewelry, paintings, knit-wear and more at a Holiday Bazaar featuring one-of-a-kind gifts from Whatcom County artists from 8am-5pm daily through…

Wild Things

9:30am

Kids, adults and adventurers can join Wild Whatcom for a “Wild Things” community program exploring local trails and parks from 9:30am-11am every Friday. Please bring a simple, healthy snack,…

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am

Allied Arts’ annual Holiday Festival of the Arts takes place from 10am-7pm daily through Dec. 24 (except on Thanksgiving) at 1411 Railroad Ave. The five-week-long festival will feature works…

Salmon Sighting with NSEA

10:00am

Join the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association for the final Salmon Sighting events of the season taking place from 10am-1pm Friday, and 12pm-3pm Saturday at Bellingham’s Arroyo Park. Join…

Whidbey Art Market

10:00am

After a year’s hiatus, Whidbey Art Market returns from 10am-4pm Friday and Saturday in Freeland at Freeland Hall, 1515 Shoreview Dr. There will be something for everyone—oil, acrylic,…

Future Artifacts

10:00am

“Future Artifacts” shows from 10am-5pm daily through Nov. 27 in La Conner at the Museum of Northwest Art, 121 S. First St. The exhibit features work by Lummi Nation glass artist Dan Friday,…

Amy Popelka at Good Earth

11:00am

Works by featured artist Amy Popelka can be seen for the final week from 11am-5pm daily through Saturday, and 11am-4pm Sunday at Good Earth Pottery, 1000 Harris Ave.

Among the Trees

11:00am

Check out the invitational exhibit “Among the Trees” for the final week from 11am-5pm Friday through Sunday in Edison at i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court. The show features works by numerous…

Studio Conversations

11:00am

Anita Lehmann’s “Studio Conversations: Short Stories” can be viewed from 11am-6pm daily (except Tuesdays) through November in Mount Vernon at Perry and Carlson Gallery, 504 S. First St. Masks…

Quilt Exhibits in La Conner

11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Dia de los Muertos: A Day of Remembrance,”…

Morris and Obbink

11:00am

View works by sculptor Ann Morris and landscape-inspired watercolors and colored pencil works by Kim Obbink for the final weekend from 11am-5pm Friday through Sunday in Edison at Smith &…

Small Arts Works Juried Show

11:00am

Stanwood-Camano Arts Guild’s “Small Art Works” regional juried art show can be viewed from 11am-5pm Wednesdays through Saturdays through Jan. 13 at A Guilded Gallery, 8700 271st St.…

Dendritic Signals

11:00am

View “Dendritic Signals” for the final week from 11am-4pm Wednesday through Saturday at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. The show features abstract artwork in a variety of mediums and colors,…

Lorna Libert at Scott Milo

11:00am

New Pacific Northwest oils by Bellingham-based artist Lorna Libert will be featured from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through Nov. 27 at the Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave.…

Mindport Exhibits

11:00am

One-hour reservation slots are now open for household groups or pods of up to 10 people from 11am-6pm Tuesdays through Saturdays at Mindport Exhibits, 210 W. Holly St. In the months they were…

Up Close and Personal at Whatcom Museum

12:00pm

View “Up Close & Personal: The Body in Contemporary Art,” “Artists x Artists,” “The Fairhaven Hotel,” “People of the Sea and Cedar: A Journey Through the Tribal Cultures and History of the…

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm

The annual “Deck the Old City Hall” returns starting this weekend from 12pm-5pm Friday through Sunday at Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall, 121 Prospect St. View a variety of themed, decorated…

Rebel Artists Black Friday Market

3:00pm

Rebel Artists of Whatcom County will host a Black Friday Market from 3pm-7pm at the Commercial Street Plaza, 1315 Commercial St. The outdoor vendor market will feature local artists and…

Fairhaven Fourth Friday Art Walk

5:00pm

Attend the Fourth Friday Art Walk taking place from 5pm-8pm at galleries and venues throughout historic Fairhaven. Meet artists, see demos, enjoy entertainment and celebrate local creative…

The Lights of Christmas

5:00pm

Attend “A Drive-Thru Christmas” from 5pm-10pm Friday through Sunday in Stanwood at Warm Beach Park, 20800 Marine Dr. The illuminating experience features more than a million lights, festive…

Genre Legends

7:30pm

At 7:30pm and 9:30pm on Friday and Saturday, “Genre Legends” will take the stage at the Sylvia Center for the Arts, 207 Prospect St. Watch the players pick multiple genres for each show and…

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

7:30pm

Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and, of course, Rudolph will make appearances when Music Theatre International’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed…

A Christmas Carol

8:00pm

One of the Skagit Valley’s favorite holiday traditions continues when A Christmas Carol opens this weekend with showings at 8pm Friday and Saturday, and 2:30pm Sunday in Mount Vernon at the…

Shakedown Shows

9:00pm

Fretts, JP Falcon Grady, and an “It’s Kizmet” drag show start at 9pm Fri., Nov. 26 at the Shakedown, 1212 N. State St. The COVID Relief Benefit Show for Make.Shift Art Space will be followed…