Whatcom County Planning Commission directs staff to consult with Cherry Point industries / Noisy Waters Northwest

Click the graphic of a simple drawing of a white furry creature with big black eyes drinking from a straw in a glass of bubbly liquid to access the audio recording of the 9/26/19 Whatcom County Planning Commission meeting

October 4, 2019 Dena Jensen

That cute little graphic at the top of this post is displayed on a link to the Whatcom County Planning Commission’s not-so-cute 9/26/19 work session regarding the Cherry Point Comprehensive Plan and code amendments. I listened the the whole 3 hour – close to 4 – meeting. It was alarming and disappointing for a number of reasons I described in a letter to the Commissioners that I will post here. 

Basically the Commissioners decided at the end of the work session to have planning staff work with Cherry Point Industry representatives regarding recommendations for adjustments to the amendments they will provide to the Planning Commissioners. Just industry representatives, you ask? Yes. That’s it.

 Planning staff was supposed to hold a meeting with those Cherry Point folks that some of the Planning Commissioners could attend (but not enough to form a quorum). It seemed to be indicated that maybe the public could (or could have) attended, but finding that planning staff meeting on the County website has not been a successful research project for me. Sad that such information is tricky to come by. 

Here is my letter to the Planning Commissioners, copied to the Council, Mark Personious in Planning, and Executive Louws:

Sent: Thursday, October 3, 2019, 07:33:20 PM PDT

Subject: Regarding Cherry Point Amendments: If there is a table, bring all stakeholders to it

Dear Whatcom County Planning Commission:

I listened to your 9/26/19 meeting, and wanted to address some things that came up for me regarding that work session. It was very frustrating to hear Planning Commissioner Gary Honcoop speaking at length about his perspectives on the proposed amendments, while asking relatively few questions of the numerous legal counsels that were available. It had been stated in the meeting that those lawyers, one from Cascadia Law Group and two for the County, Karen Frakes and Royce Buckingham, would be available for that whole work session, and maybe one more (at least for the lawyer from Cascadia Law Group) to answer Commissioners’ questions.

I do appreciate what questions were asked of legal counsel. However, I would have liked to have seen all Commissioners spend a lot more time, during that nearly four hour meeting, focused on getting legal questions answered related to how to best proceed on reviewing the amendments and procuring needed information in order to improve the proposed Comprehensive Plan and code amendments. I was frankly shocked at how little other Commissioners, besides Commissioner Honcoop, participated overall in the discussion.

Next, I want to express that it is very disturbing that Planning Commissioners are only expressing an interest in County staff getting feedback from Cherry Point Industry representatives. I will note that industry has had a presence at your last two meetings and has delivered a lot of information that the Planning Commissioners have acknowledged. Industry legal counsel was called upon to speak with Planning Commissioners during the course of their work session, and other Industry representatives were called on to speak.

Other stakeholders, however were not called on/allowed to speak, and for Cherry Point there are many stakeholders. Also, there are scientific experts, besides those who work at the refineries, who should be present and called upon to contribute their expertise and cross-check information provided by Cherry Point Industry representatives regarding the industry-related questions that Commissioners and staff have about the Comprehensive Plan and code amendments.

During the Whatcom County Council’s review of the Cherry Point amendments there was a repeated appeal to bring Cherry Point Industry to the table, and I do not object to them being at a table, as long as other Cherry Point stakeholders are at that table and are consulted to the same degree that industry representatives are. Here is an example of a list of stakeholders that should indicate to you other entities you should be consulting, if you are going to be consulting with industry representatives. http://file.dnr.wa.gov/publications/aqr_rsve_cherrypt_workgrp_members.pdf

Dena Jensen
Birch Bay, WA

Links to public comments from two other individuals requesting the Whatcom Planning Commission consult with other entities besides Cherry Point Industries: https://wa-whatcomcounty.civicplus.com/DocumentCenter/View/43650/Ramel-20190916

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