Citizen Journalism: Whatcom County Council Meeting Report for October 22, 2019

In Local Government, News, Whatcom County Council by CTNW News

Birch Bay’s Golf Cart Zone was one of the main points of interest at the Whatcom County Council meeting on October 22, 2019.

The public meeting was called to order at 7:00 pm. Council members Barbara Brenner, Rud Browne, Barry Buchanan, Tyler Byrd, Todd Donovan, Carol Frazey and Satpal Sidhu were present.

Link to October 22, 2019 Whatcom County Council meeting agenda

Link to October 22, 2019 Whatcom County Council meeting action summary

Video of the full October 22, 2019 Whatcom County Council meeting

Special Presentation — Whatcom County Library Anniversary

Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws read a proclamation for the 75th anniversary of the Whatcom County Library System:

“WHEREAS November 7, 2019, marks the 75th anniversary of the formation of the Whatcom County Library System by local citizens, who understood public libraries would strengthen rural Whatcom County by sharing information to promote understanding, stories to cultivate empathy, and presence to support a community; and,
WHEREAS the Whatcom County Library System is a leader in enabling economic prosperity and personal well being within the county’s diverse communities by providing free, convenient, and equitable access to a wide ranging collection of books, technology, events, and digital services online at the ten library branches, the bookmobile, the library express locations; and,
WHEREAS Whatcom County Library System champions community members’ rights to access information privately and serves as a sanctuary for curiosity, thinking, and free exchange of ideas; and
WHEREAS through collaborations with the public and academic libraries and other partners, Whatcom County Library System inspires life-long learning through discovery, inquiry, and reading for pleasure, especially for children; and,
WHEREAS over the past 75 years, Whatcom County Library System’s staff and volunteers have created programs and environments that foster an engaged community where curiosity is cultivated, literacy flourishes, and democratic ideals thrive.
NOW THEREFORE do I, Jack Louws, Whatcom County Executive, hereby proclaim November 7, 2019, Whatcom County Library System Day in Whatcom County, and I encourage all citizens to join me in congratulating the Whatcom County Library System on its 75th anniversary of service to our county, and invite citizens to participate in special activities at all county libraries on November 7, 2019.”

Louws said Whatcom County is very fortunate to have a robust network of rural libraries and thanked the staff for their hard work. Christine Perkins, Executive Director of the Whatcom County Library System, talked about the history of the county library system.

VIDEO starting at presentation

Public Hearing 1 — Affordable Housing Fund

The first public hearing was for an Ordinance establishing the Affordable and Supportive Housing Fund. No one spoke on this issue. Councilmember Donovan said the state legislature is giving the county a great opportunity to retain some local sales tax money for affordable housing, and he looks forward to seeing what they can accomplish with it.

Approved 7–0.

VIDEO starting at Public Hearing 1

Public Hearing 2 — Birch Bay Golf Cart Zone

An Ordinance reauthorizing a Golf Cart Zone on certain roads in the Birch Bay Area.

The Golf Cart Zone in Birch Bay was created by an ordinance on May 22, 2018 and is set to expire on October 31, 2019, unless it is reauthorized. Public Works Assistant Director Joe Rutan said that in the 18 months since the zone was created there have been no reported accidents involving golf carts. The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office supports reauthorizing the golf cart zone.

Birch Bay resident Cathy Cleveland said the golf cart zone is not in the best interest of the community because of safety issues. She said many of the golf carts don’t have license plates or lights and aren’t street legal. She also said she’s seen several children riding in the back of golf carts without seat belts. “We already have enough traffic in Birch Bay where people are not complying with the rules,” Cleveland said, “we really do not need golf carts riding around not complying with the rules also.”

Billy Brown, Vice President of the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce, said the golf cart zone is good for the community, good for the environment, good for parking, and good for tourism. “The Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and the vast majority of our members support this,” he said.

Birch Bay resident Patrick Alesse said the golf carts too often wind up in the bike lanes when they pull over to let faster cars go by. Alesse said the speed limit should be 20 miles per hour on Birch Bay Drive and on the side streets. “I still feel neutral on the golf carts, but the speed limit should be 20,” he said.

Councilmember Browne said the ordinance does make it clear that the golf carts must be equipped with lights and reflectors and seat belts. “So if someone is operating them without that then they are breaking the law,” he said.

Approved 7–0.

VIDEO starting at Public Hearing 2

Public Hearing 3 — Birch Bay Water and Sewer District

A Resolution amending WCC 100.7 Birch Bay Watershed Aquatic Resources Management District Funding Mechanism by adding an exemption for the Birch Bay Water and Sewer District. (In this case the council is acting as the Whatcom County Flood Control Zone District Board of Supervisors).

This change would give the Birch Bay Water and Sewer District (BBWSD) an exemption from fees associated with impervious surfaces as long as an interlocal agreement between BBWSD and the Whatcom County Flood Control Zone District (FCZD) is in effect. Kraig Olason from Public Works said this is phase 2 of an interlocal agreement that they discussed and passed at the last meeting. No one spoke on this issue.

Approved 7–0.

VIDEO starting at Public Hearing 3

Public Hearing 4 — 2020 Road Construction Program

A Resolution adopting the 2020 Annual Road Construction Program (ACP).

Some of the road construction projects the county is planning to do in 2020 are the Birch Bay berm and replacing the Whatcom Chief. Public Works Assistant Director Joe Rutan said this program is identical to the first year of the Six-Year Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) that was approved on September 24, 2019.

Rutan said the bar for amending this annual program after it is passed is very high because it is used to build the budget, and to amend it would require a unanimous vote. No one from the public spoke on this issue.

Approved 7–0.

VIDEO starting at Public Hearing 4

Open Public Comment Session
Councilmember Barbara Brenner with bouquet of flowers on Oct. 22, 2019

Birch Bay resident Cathy Cleveland recognized the service of Councilmember Barbara Brenner, who will not be running for re-election. Brenner represents the 4th district and has served on the council for seven terms — nearly 28 years. “I just want to say she’s a gem, she’s served her county very well, and she’s served her constituents very well and very neutral,” said Cleveland, “like she’s just there for you in so many different ways.” Cleveland gave Brenner a bouquet of flowers, and later Birch Bay resident Patrick Alesse gave her some bars of chocolate.

Once again, several people spoke about the proposed changes to new rules for recreational boats on Lake Samish. On June 4, the council passed an ordinance (AB2019-046) that imposed a 6 mph speed limit within 300 feet from the shore on Lake Samish, and prohibited wakeboard boats from operating within 300 feet from the shore when water skiing and wake surfing. Then in August, a large group of Lake Samish residents proposed changes to those rules. A new compromise agreement (AB2019-479) is being discussed in committee.

Lake Samish resident Mark Walker said the people who proposed the original ordinance have created their own half-mile ‘lakesuary’. Walker asked the council to pass the compromise agreement and go back to a 150 foot buffer. Lori Henley said she’s lived on Lake Samish for 30 years, and that severe weather causes most of the dock movement, more so than any boats. She said the majority of lake residents didn’t want the new rules and asked the council to change it back.

Jared Greenwood is a local educator and said he rents a home on Lake Samish and doesn’t own property or a boat. He said he currently has engineering students that use lake. “I feel like this ordinance can have a great negative affect on our youth.” Greenwood said with committees, neighbors policing each other, and continued boater education, “we can keep all people happy and take care of issues ourselves.”

Lake Samish resident Paul Jostens said he’s a little frustrated that the compromise agreement is moving too slow and is still held up in committee, while the original June 4th ordinance was approved quickly.

Lake Samish resident Mary Walker said the no wake zone needs to be moved back to the compromise location of roughly 800 feet from the bridge. The June 4 ordinance moved the no wake zone back 2,700 feet from the bridge which significantly reduced the area that boats can use. Walker said that forced boats to crowd in the middle of the lake, which has made the lake less safe and has caused an injury.

Whatcom County resident Max Perry spoke about water efficiency and said, “the county needs a comprehensive online site for all things related to water. There’s the Watershed Management Team, the Public Utility District, the WRIA 1 Planning Unit, the Watershed Management Board: the county needs a one-stop site for citizens to find out what all of these groups are doing.”

County resident Carol Perry said the Watershed Management planning process is broken, and the county needs one body that brings all of the stakeholders to the table. “Not only do you need the Planning Unit and all the stakeholders, the tribes and all: you need that consensus to make decisions because water is such a huge thing,” she said. “There are people in this administration that do not want stakeholders, they don’t want to hear us.” She commented that the WRIA 1 Planning Unit should change its name so that people realize it’s the place for local representation on watershed planning issues.

VIDEO starting at Open Public Comment Session

Consent Agenda

The following items came from Council Finance and Administrative Services Committee. All were approved by consent 6–0 with councilmember Byrd temporarily absent.

1. A Resolution ordering the cancellation of unclaimed checks more than two years old for Whatcom County Jail Inmate Trust Fund prior to June 30, 2017.

2. A contract between Whatcom County and Whatcom Family & Community Network to provide youth prevention programs designed to reduce risk for substance use and poor mental health, in the amount of $65,000.

3. A Resolution in the matter of the sale of surplus personal property and the setting of a date for a public hearing theron pursuant to WCC 1.10.

4. A Resolution in the matter of the sale of surplus real property (building only) and setting a date for a public hearing theron, pursuant to WCC 1.10.

5. Request authorization for the County Executive to accept Sun Life Stop Loss Policy renewal for insurance protection for the self-insured medical program for 2020.

Other Items

(The following item came from the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee):

1. A Resolution establishing a Stakeholder Advisory Committee for the Public Health, Safety, and Justice Facility Needs Assessment.

Councilmember Buchanan said the committee decided to hold off on voting on this resolution and it will be held in committee. He said they’re going to ask the county’s small cities about representation on the stakeholder advisory committee, and they’ll come back in four weeks to discuss it again.

(The next items came from the Council Finance and Administrative Services Committee):

2. Council approval of the Criminal Justice Treatment Account (CJTA) Plan Update 2019-2020. There was no discussion.

Approved 6–0 with Byrd temporarily absent.

3. An interlocal agreement between Whatcom County and the Whatcom Conservation District (WCD) to develop a water use efficiency program for agricultural water users, and develop an incentive program for Ag water users as a component of watershed management efforts.

Brenner said she’s not pleased with the process that led to this agreement, and that it should have gone through the WRIA 1 Planning Unit. WRIA 1 is the Water Resource Inventory Area designated by state law that includes the Nooksack River basin and Lake Whatcom. In the Watershed Management planning process, the Planning Unit is the only group involved that represents the interests of local well users. However, Brenner said the WCD got an earful from Planning Unit members and she believes they will be more helpful in the future, and she’ll support this agreement because it’s for agricultural water users.

Approved 6–0 with Byrd temporarily absent.

4. An interlocal agreement between Whatcom County and the Whatcom Conservation District to develop a water use efficiency program for domestic and municipal water users.

The agreement document says that during development of a Watershed Management Plan Update, water use efficiency was identified as a recommended measure to offset the impacts from permit-exempt wells. Although the Planning Unit was not able to approve a plan update, the measures identified in the proposed plan to offset the impacts of permit-exempt wells, including water use efficiency, did have broad support. The WCD will be working closely with the Whatcom Water Alliance, which consists of all publicly-owned water purveyors in the county, to develop programs that can be applied county-wide to all municipal/domestic water users.

Brenner said to move ahead with something like this what is supposed to be for domestic users, is so disrespectful to the well owners, who are a caucus by the way of the Planning Unit, and to the non-municipal water associations, that they didn’t even deal with the well owners caucus. And by the way, well users and the non-municipal water associations are a huge percentage of county water users, and they do have a place on the Planning Unit. Brenner said moving ahead on a program for domestic waters users was disrespectful to rural well owners and the non-municipal water associations, because the WCD didn’t work with the Planning Unit’s Well Owners Caucus before drafting the agreement. She said the WCD worked with the Agriculture Caucus on the agreement for agricultural water users, so their decision to not work with the Well Owners Caucus “seems very intentional.”

“I do think that the Water District will do a better job — they couldn’t do a worse job than what’s been happening to these people who have been left out — but I’m not supporting this,” Brenner said. “To at least show a little teeny bit of respect for the little guys in all of this — although there’s lots of them — this should be tabled and sent to the Planning Unit for discussion and a vote before we would even do this.”

Approved 6–1 with Brenner opposed.

5. Amendment No. 2 of the Herrera Environmental Consultants Contract for Services to support Lower Nooksack River Floodplain Integrated Planning (Council acting as the Whatcom County Flood Control Zone District Board of Supervisors). No discussion.

Approved 7–0.

6. An Ordinance amending the 2019 Whatcom County Budget, request no. 13, in the amount of $375,570. There was no discussion.

Approved 7–0.

7. An Interlocal Agreement between Whatcom County and the Washington State Office of Financial Management, in an amount not to exceed $60,000, for the purposes of expanding outreach in our community for the 2020 Census. No discussion.

Approved 7–0.

(These last two items had no committee assignment):

8. A Resolution supporting the renaming of Squaw Creek to Páatstel Creek.

Frazey said the Nooksack Tribe asked the council to change this because “squaw” is a derogatory term for Native American women.

Approved 7–0.

9. A Resolution establishing Council meeting dates for 2020.

Brenner said she usually never supports the meeting dates, but since she won’t be on the council next year she will abstain this time.

Approved 6–0, with Brenner abstaining.

VIDEO starting at Other Items

Council Appointments to Boards, Commissions, and Committees

1. Appointments to two vacancies on the Horticulture Pest and Disease Board, applicants: Andrew Taylor and Diana Bedlington. (this committee controls and prevents the spread of horticultural pests and diseases).

Appointed 7–0.

Introduction Items

1. An Ordinance adopting interim zoning regulations for the siting, establishment, and operation of temporary homeless facilities.

This ordinance adopts interim zoning regulations for the siting, establishment and operation of temporary tent encampments; and sets twelve months as the effective period of the interim zoning regulations to allow the County to study the land use impacts of such uses. This ordinance shall be effective for not longer than twelve months following its effective date, but may be renewed for one or more twelve-month periods if subsequent public hearings are held and findings of fact are made prior to each renewal.

2. A Resolution authorizing the sale of surplus personal property pursuant to WCC 1.10.

3. A Resolution authorizing the sale of surplus real property (building only) pursuant to WCC 1.10.

All items were introduced for public hearings by a vote of 7–0.

Committee Reports  and Councilmember Updates

Donovan said the Natural Resources Committee got a presentation from staff on the shellfish protection district and the work that the pollution identification control program has been doing for the last 20 years. They also got a presentation on the floodplain planning process and an update on the grant funding available for expanding it. He also thanked the Citizen Advisory Committee volunteers for their work cleaning up Drayton Harbor and Portage Bay.

Sidhu said Finance had a presentation from Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center, and how they make a difference in avoiding so many things that could end up going to court. He also invited people to attend their 2019 Peace Builder Awards Gala on Friday, November 15, at 5 pm at BTC Settlemyer Hall.

Brenner said the Public Works Committee discussed a Whatcom County Health Dept. Syringe Services Program expansion, which would include getting a new van and doing more outreach. “One of the most important points that came through to me is that by having this, more people actually do consider changing what they’re doing and getting help to change what’s happening to them,” Brenner said. “So this gives me hope.”

Buchanan said the Criminal Justice Committee saw a presentation on district court and probation, electronic home monitoring and the domestic violence offender treatment program. They also saw a presentation by the Superior Court Clerk on the functions of the court and the functions of the clerk.

VIDEO starting at Committee Reports and Councilmember Updates