Public outcry forces Whatcom Council to slow down

July 12, 2016

CONTACT: Kathryn Stenger
Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports
425.773.1622 or [email protected]

Changes to comp plan limiting Cherry Point to receive full public process

BELLINGHAM — After continued discussion, the Whatcom County Council today wisely decided not to make wholesale changes to the comprehensive plan introduced by Councilman Carl Weimer, opting instead for a process that will allow for greater public input and draw review of the proposal out through 2017.

The council debated the proposed changes Tuesday during a continuation of the hastily scheduled July 5 meeting, and held first thing the morning after the July 4 holiday.

The council again heard from strong local opposition, including Northwest Jobs Alliance of Whatcom County, local residents, area businesses and labor leaders on the negative impact of the proposed changes, and the process by which the amendments were brought forward. As a result, the council will be drafting a resolution to the county planning commission to be reviewed at a later date that will outline proposed changes to the current draft Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan — a plan that still in its final stage of completion before being passed later this year.

“Today’s decision by the council will ensure a fair and democratic process is followed and that changes of this magnitude are not jammed through,” said Kathryn Stenger, spokeswoman for the Alliance for Northwest Jobs Alliance. “Private citizens, labor unions and members of the business community all rallied to call the council out on this short-sighted and unfair process.

“They’re talking about putting a halt to the county’s biggest private industrial zone, potentially impacting hundreds, if not thousands of family-wage jobs at a time they should be working to expand job opportunities,” said Stenger.

“Whatcom County has the least affordable rental housing in the entire state, and ranks next to last in terms of single-family home ownership. Whatcom County needs more family-wage jobs to improve those numbers, and amendments like this won’t help increase those job opportunities. If the council is really concerned about the future of Whatcom County, it needs to get serious about protecting its existing economic drivers and find ways to attract and retain new private employers,” she added.

“Otherwise, the jobs outlook for Whatcom County isn’t going to change much — in fact, it might even get worse. And that won’t be good for the families and working people of Whatcom County, or the public services people all depend on.”

“The council’s whole approach on this has been wrong from the beginning – from the late notice of the proposed change to the last minute hearing the day after a national holiday, to today’s hearing. They’re attempt to rush these proposed changes through would have denied the public their due process,” said Brad Owens, president of the Northwest Jobs Alliance, a Whatcom County-based economic development group.

“It’s not fair to property owners and it’s certainly not fair to the people of Whatcom County who rely on these industries and businesses for good-paying jobs and the revenue they bring to our county, schools and public safety. Today’s decision was a good one. Now we need to keep that momentum going.”

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