Character plan will merge with zoning code

By Meg Olson

Whatcom County Council has unanimously approved a measure to slide the existing character plan from the subarea plan into zoning code to make community review of its provisions more flexible.

“After many months of discussions in the community we voted unanimously to ask the council to approve this ordinance,” said Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee (PRCAC) chair Joel Lantz at the May 16 county council meeting. “This will allow us flexibility and reduce redundancy that comes from having two separate documents that state the same thing.”

The Point Roberts Character Plan, last revised in the late 1990s, is part of the county’s comprehensive plan, and as such can only be revised during the annual comprehensive plan revision process. A character plan review committee spent two years and over two dozen meetings revising the plan and forwarded a draft to PRCAC for their approval and submission to council. When the February meeting of the advisory committee saw an upsurge of community sentiment to scrap the plan all together, the committee headed in another direction. They asked to have the meat of the plan moved into county zoning code, which has a less restrictive revision process.

“There are a lot of different opinions,” Lantz said, and they didn’t surface during the recent years of character plan review. “The committee is going to work hard to get consensus the best we can.”

Lantz said the committee would “now start the hard work of coming up with text amendments as to what parts of the character plan, the new character plan, the community wants to have.”

Community members John Lesow and Steve Wolff both supported the ordinance, though Lesow suggested the new character plan be officially added as an addendum in addition to the proposed design guidelines from the old one that are to be added to the zoning code. “This is the distillation of 28 meetings over two years,” he said. “This is what Point Roberts people want for their community.”

Wolff asked that the county carefully consider the level of community support as the process moves forward and text amendments come before them, and only consider approving changes that PRCAC forwards with unanimous committee-member support.

“There are many people who don’t want the character plan changed at all and others who want it completely repealed. Luckily we’ve ended up somewhere in the middle,” he said.

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