COB Planning Commission To Focus On Health Issues, Sept. 17 / Facebook post, Whatcom Hawk, Wendy Harris

cob planning 091722 hrs  September 16, 2015  Wendy Harris

On Thursday, in conflict with the waterfront cleanup meeting with DOE on RG Haley and Cornwall Landfill, the Bellingham Planning Commission will hold a GMA update work session on urban villages and health. 7PM, city council chambers.

Now, I am not a doctor, or a health expert, but it appears to me that the infill policies the city is following are the problem, not the solution. Putting people and businesses inside the blast zone of an area that is busy with oil trains and coal trains most likely does not promote health. Increased population densities increase light pollution, noise pollution, storm water pollution and air pollution, and the number of accidents on bikes or in cars or while walking increases, crime increases, the amount of time spent in traffic or in searching for parking increases and along with it, our stress increases. Trails are healthy, but not when it comes at the cost of our wildlife and ecosystem integrity. Same thing with biking paths. And building hundreds of studio only units up against a freeway or busy exchange, exposing low income and elderly to dangerous diesel fumes, lights and noise is not healthy. Filling in all our wetlands and destroying biodiversity and cutting down trees and vegetation only amplifies the problem. Seems like the PC has a lot of thinking to do.

Here is a personal health concern. After more than a year, I can not find a house anyplace in the county, including Bellingham, and the primary problem is smoke from burning wood.. either from fireplaces or from firepits. I appears to me that we burn more wood than ever before, summer and winter, and very little of it is from financial necessity. With increasing levels of childhood asthma, and an aging population facing diseases like COPD and emphysema, why is there no place in the city to escape from dangerous smoke fumes? The danger is established and could lead to future respiratory problems in those currently with healthy lungs.

Las Vegas, Nevada prohibited wood burning fireplaces and firepits around 1990. It is a issue being discussed in San Jose, CA. Do we have to wait until our air quality gets that bad before we take any action? Burning wood for recreation is the worst of all possible reason to endanger someone else’s health and should not be allowing within city limits. And new homes and fireplace retrofits should be required to switch over to gas inserts. I know there is no political will to do what needs to be done, but how about a compromise. Set up one or two areas in town as designated “no burning” zones. Isn’t it a violation of the ADA or the federal Fair Housing Act for the city not to have any safe place for respiratory patients to live?

Read Wendy’s post on the Whatcom Hawk Facebook page here.

Bellingham Planning Commission meetings are held every other Thursday at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 210 Lottie Street Bellingham, WA.  Click the link to go to the “Public Meetings and Key Events” page for the City of Bellingham to find links on the calendar for upcoming Planning Commission meetings (among other things).

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