By all accounts, the evidence given to the Growth Management Hearings Board in the latest water diatribe was cherry picked to make it appear that the county has done "absolutely nothing" in the last ten years to protect water, allowed pollution, and failed-failed-failed to protect fish (check out the decision's voluminous footnotes). And it seems that the all-appointee GMHB ate-up the mountain of vague reports and odd accounts of "science" presented by Futurewise's attorney and WWU prof, prior planning commissioner Jean Melious. Check out the Stalheim-Melious blog "Get Whatcom Planning." It's regularly loaded with bitter complaints, dramatic interpretations of law, and rather pathetic and phobic-sounding posts about germs and "poop" in an unfair world.
Melious pleaded to the GMHB that dire neglect and "lack of water" have created a crisis that requires strict "measures" despite the reality that this is, and will very likely remain, a rain capital on the Pacific Ocean. (Uh, step outside but better take your umbrella.)
With this "ruling" - Melious and Stalheim and their very tight band of city supporters fiercely intend to have their way in many respects: reductions of land use to 20% or lower, even stricter restrictions of "impervious surfaces," more plantings, etc. and so forth. There was even talk between Melious and the board about a "moratorium" on permits if need be, which is something citizens cringe to hear. The Lake Whatcom moratorium has lived on and on - well over 10 years.
Denying folks the use of water and land - the property they've dreamed to use, paid taxes on, and will continue to pay taxes on - was discussed glibly as a practical necessity for what? To retain "rural character." Would all these regulatory impositions and losses be compensated? Forget that. Color that precious rural character increasingly desperate and frustrated as the rural community itself is run not by residents but by regulation.
Mind you, Futurewise isn't the only party looking to win big in this legal battle that has waged on for years. The grossly ballooned conservation industry and tribes stand to do very well cashing in on restrictions and resources they've cobbled-up to the tune of "How dry I am". It's sad to think that few everyday folk can afford the outrageous cost of environmental "restoration" that never quite meets elusive and ever changing goals. Elaborate retrofitting for stormwater and other "solutions" can run into the tens of thousands, and some have little practical value most particularly in sparsely settled rural areas. (Remember, all this is supposedly saving rural areas - the "rural element" of the comprehensive plan.)
Other "solutions" waiting in the wings are crippling (like buying credits from the newly-created Lummi Wetland and Habitat Mitigation Bank, at $200,000 per credit or share), or from the Washington Water Bank which has been sniffing the environs. Some very cozy crony relationships have developed, including well paid-partnerships that - let's face it - have become routine patronage. Planning-buddy outfits like Farm Friends and ReSources are constantly on the dole - along with sole source relationship vendors like Dumas, Blake, and Peterson. Facilitators can work deals from agencies simultaneously for "outreach" while fishing and nudging grants along that rely on this crisis scenario. (Facilitators coordinated the recent "certainty" symposium at considerable cost).
The deepest price of all this is paid by the public in personal disappointment if permits are denied to those who can't afford expensive testing and other requirements. The ability to put a thrifty trailer or modest home on a rural lot is slipping out of reach. It skews rural life, which used to be practical. It may be no big deal for the rich. But even those who can afford kneel-and-deal permits may be forced to encumber their deeds forever to trusts or to forfeit extra buffers and open space, just to build or to get water. It's unsettling to think that rural property owners should be commandeered to agree to unspecified future demands to merely use their land, or to access water in this wet place. But that's what "measures" mean to Futurewise and friends. The planning bureaucrats have paved an impervious trail that led to this point. How did Stalheim put it when he challenged council? Something like, "We've built a case". Yes, he did - they did.
Finding a place for a home has become very tough for the young, the struggling, for retirees, and others who can barely get by in this county. Those with only lint in their pockets have avoided the high-tax, high-rent cities to live in rural areas. That demographic - that reality - is well known. Now, thanks to the strong-arm tactics of Futurewise and the growing mitigation industry, rural living will become even more unaffordable for the neediest.
Given this ugly trend, WE thought we'd share this excerpt from a Tom DeWeese, American Policy Center piece. It's depressing; sorry about that. But it hits close to home, here on the heels of yet another Futurewise-GMHB decision:
NIMBYS, BANANAS AND GREENS
By Tom DeWeese
"The real political parties in America are the NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard) and the BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything). These two political forces are driving the future of the nation by dictating the policy agendas of the Republicans and Democrats. Soon, the national bird will no longer be the noble eagle, but the ostrich.
Americans are becoming adolescent children who want towns to remain small, yet they themselves have children who must have schools, jobs and homes of their own. They want to build their homes in rural areas with beautiful vistas, yet complain when someone else wants to do the same thing. They argue that a neighbor’s new home has blocked their “view shed,” never considering that their home used to be someone else’s view shed or open space. Americans support programs to lock away land to keep wilderness pristine, free of human development, power lines and cell towers. Yet they want to use their cell phones and computers wherever they go. They want three car garages to house the family van, the daughter’s little bug and the husband’s sports car; but don’t blight the landscape with filling stations, refineries or power plants.
There’s no place in our pretty, clean, politically-correct, well-ordered world for industry to make the things we need, yet when all of our toys don’t work, Americans are outraged and they want heads to roll. Fix it!
Yes, what silly children Americans have become. But, one can hardly blame the results of three decades of implementing the radical agendas of special interests like the Sierra Club and The Nature Conservancy. These rich and powerful groups have spent billions of dollars to push their agenda of no growth (called Sustainable Development) through Congress and into our local communities. And they use the news media and corporate commercials to constantly barrage us with the “Go Green” message to indoctrinate the rest of us to feel guilty about our very existence. We’re sorry we need to use energy. We’re sorry that we have to grow food to eat. We’re sorry that we keep inventing creature comforts for ourselves.
The answer from a sorry society, while not giving up our toys, is to just ban the building of the things that make them work. It all sounds so noble."...
"...Our elected representatives play silly games. The Greens relentlessly push their anti-civilization agenda. And the indignant NIMBY’s and BANANA’s continue to sleep, satisfied that their world is well controlled. These are the cadre of self-serving brats who now are selling out America to their whims.