Board rules county zoning changes invalid

Published on Wed, Jan 5, 2011 by By Jeremy Schwartz

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The Washington state growth board has ruled portions of Whatcom County’s comprehensive plan are invalid because they do not comply with state laws governing growth in rural areas.

The ruling affects about 13,500 acres in Whatcom County and could halt development on thousands of acres of that land, said Roxanne Michael, the county’s long-range planning division manager.

In the Birch Bay area, the ruling affects 236 acres along I-5 from Birch Bay-Lynden Road to Loomis Trail Road. The county’s proposed updates to its comprehensive plan would have changed the land’s zoning to a designation that allows more intense rural development.

However, the state growth management board ruled the county’s definitions for small towns, resort communities and other rural areas were not compliant with the state’s growth management act. The board claimed the county’s definitions would “…promote the inappropriate conversion of undeveloped land into sprawling low density development.”

The board also extended the county council’s deadline to March 29 to finish its work on the rural update of the county’s comprehensive plan. The county council has been working more intensely on the rural element issue since the end of 2009, when the state supreme court ruled the county council must revise its comprehensive plan to include the appropriate rural area definitions.