Whatcom County Council May meeting roundup


The latest news from May Whatcom County Council meetings.

Custer area drainage improvement district

County council unanimously adopted an ordinance, after a public hearing during its May 9 meeting, that changes the method of assessment for property owners in the Custer area’s drainage improvement district. 

The primary channels for drainage improvement district 7 are the upstream reaches of California Creek, and tributary to Drayton Harbor, as well as several other unnamed tributary ditches in the area.

The district’s assessment system will be based on a combination of a relative ratio per acre and a relative ratio of improvement value per lot. There will be a minimum fee for lots smaller than one acre. The existing method of assessment is based solely on a relative ratio per acre per lot and does not take into consideration the greater contribution of runoff from and benefit to the district’s higher density development.

More information on the revised assessment can be found at here

Bellingham way station

Council unanimously approved the county executive to award Unity Care NW a $2 million grant for capital funding for the Way Station project in Bellingham during the May 9 council meeting. In a separate action, council also amended the project budget to add nearly $2.4 million for a funding total of $5.8 million.

The Way Station, at 1500 N. State Street, will provide individuals and families experiencing homelessness with a range of health and social services to assist their transition to sustainable housing. Whatcom County Health and Community Services department, PeaceHealth, the Opportunity Council and Unity Care NW have partnered to repurpose the county’s property into a facility that will serve people in need of hygiene, medical and behavioral health care.

Unity Care NW is a nonprofit health care provider in Bellingham and Ferndale. 

Funding for the Way Station project comes from Unity Care NW, the county’s behavioral health fund, which includes a state grant from the department of commerce, and the public utilities improvement fund.

More information can be found at bit.ly/3nUSr2u. The project budget amendment can be found here.

Flood response equipment

Council unanimously approved a resolution during its May 9 meeting to authorize the county executive to purchase flood equipment using a state department of commerce grant. 

Nearly $4.3 million will be spent on a public safety communications network; flood warning sirens; automated sandbagging machines; administration and overhead; response support containers for supply storage; an integrated public notification system and more, according to the resolution.

Short-term vacation rentals

Council unanimously introduced an ordinance during its May 23 meeting for a public hearing at council’s June 20 meeting on Title 20 Zoning Code Amendments for short-term vacation rentals. 

The amendments provide definitions, allowances and permit types that will help the county’s planning commission regulate vacation rentals and their impacts on neighboring properties.

More information on the proposed amendments can be found here.

Lighthouse Mission funding

In a change from its previous decision, council requested administration bring forward a $750,000 contract with the Lighthouse Mission in Bellingham to fund the shelter’s kitchen equipment and specialty furnishings in a motion during its May 23 meeting. The motion passed with a 4-1-2 vote, with councilmember Carol Frazey opposed and councilmembers Todd Donovan and Kaylee Galloway abstaining.

Council originally denied the new homeless shelter funds because as a Christian organization its hiring practices conflict with Whatcom County policy that prohibits religious bias of any kind. 

Funding for the contract would come from the county’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, according to the meeting agenda.


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