Countypreparing to issue new planning rules

Published on Thu, Feb 10, 2005 by ack Kintner

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County preparing to issue new planning rules

By Jack Kintner

Whatcom County Planning and Development Services plans two workshops next week to introduce new rules affecting development and other activities near five different types of critical areas, according to county planning manager Sylvia Goodwin.

The two public workshops are to be held next Tuesday and Wednesday night, February 15 and 16. The first will be at Shuksan middle school in Bellingham and the second at the Lynden Community Center. Both will run from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m.

Goodwin described the rules, contained in a 103-page booklet “Draft Critical Areas Ordinance,” as an update of the county’s critical areas ordinance that was first passed in 1997 as mandated by the state’s Growth Management Act (GMA).

“It needs updating to conform to ways the GMA has been amended to include additional requirements on critical areas,” Goodwin said, “having to do with how much and what kind of development is allowed on land that has critical areas. It sets up buffers and also has procedures for people who want to develop in a critical area. It still allows for that kind of development as long as certain standards are met.”

The five types include areas that are geologically hazardous such as landslide areas or old mine sites, areas that are frequently flooded, aquifer recharge areas, wetlands and habitat conservation areas (HCAs). They’re identified approximately by the county’s critical area maps, but are also extensively defined in the draft ordinance, giving a kind of checklist for landowners and developers to use to see if their property qualifies.

Around Blaine, Goodwin pointed out areas the ordinance would cover. “There are three major fish-bearing creeks, eroding bluffs in the Point Whitehorn and Birch Point areas, a lot of wetlands and the aquifer recharge area all along H Street Road east of Blaine,” Goodwin said.
The workshops are being held to introduce the draft of the ordinance during a month-long public comment period that began with the document’s release last Friday and ends March 4.

The draft then goes before the county planning commission on Thursday, March 24, at 6:30 p.m. in the Whatcom County Council chambers.
Copies of the draft are available on disc or printed out at the county planning office at 5280 Northwest Drive in Bellingham, or on-line at the project website, www.whatcomcounty.us/pds/shorelines_critical_areas/workproducts.jsp.