Letters to the Editor – WCC 20.72

The Editor:

Brian Calder and Tommy O’Brien have formed a new group, the Point Roberts Independent Business Council (PRIBC). Their mission statement can be found here:


PRIBC is calling for the repeal of Section 20.72 of the Whatcom County Code – and asking community members to sign a petition in support. Several dozen residents and businesses have indeed signed on – perhaps without appreciating the impact of such a move.

Section 20.72, also known as the Point Roberts Special District, is “An overlay zone which imposes additional controls and creates opportunities not available in the underlying zone districts to fit the needs of Point Roberts. This district is designed to protect the rural character of Point Roberts while allowing opportunities for community growth and self-reliance.” The full text can be found here:


The move to repeal 20.72 is deeply problematical for several reasons that the members of PRIBC and the signers of the petition may not know about.

First, without 20.72 we wouldn’t have won the nearly three-year fight to block the radio tower array that was slated to be built at the corner of Tyee and McKenzie. There is a height restriction in 20.72 which, as the judge ruled, takes precedence over other regulations, including those of the Federal Communications Commission. If 20.72 were repealed, we would lose our protection against similar inappropriate projects.

Second, PRIBC’s material maintains that the regulations in 20.72 hamper the economic development of Point Roberts. There is no evidence of any business failing to open because of the regulations contained in 20.72. There are myriad reasons why economic development is difficult here, but 20.72 isn’t one of them. There are aspects of 20.72, in particular those that were appended from the character plan, that create problems but these are being addressed by the PRCAC.

Third, PRCAC has almost completed its mission to revise 20.72 and make recommendations to council for code scrubs and text amendments. It’s folly to repeal the current version of 20.72 at this time and similarly inappropriate to undertake a business development study before the PRCAC has finished its efforts.

To be clear, we support having an independent economic development study, one that can make sensible recommendations for changes in the WCC – but not until after PRCAC has filed their report and council has acted.

Arthur S. Reber

Suzanne M. Rosser

Point Roberts


The Editor:

I am concerned by the effort of the Point Roberts Independent Business Council (PRIBC) to eliminate WCC 20.72 (Point Roberts Special District) and surprised by the level of support PRIBC claims to have received.

WCC 20.72 is far from perfect, arguably out of date, but probably not a serious detriment to economic development in Point Roberts. In any case, there is a major effort going on right now by PRCAC to thoroughly review and revise 20.72 to better serve today’s needs and preferences in Point Roberts, including reducing any undue restrictions hindering economic growth.

Why in the world would we want to eliminate an existing mechanism that allows us to have “special” Point Roberts-specific restrictions and regulations of our choosing, and instead fall exclusively under general cookie-cutter county-wide regulations over which we have little control? We will probably never be in place to incorporate Point Roberts. Instead, I favor at least keeping and strengthening any mechanisms and special provisions we can in order to enhance our own self-determination and local options.

Fix 20.72 as needed; don’t repeal it.

Mark Robbins

Point Roberts

  1. Without a doubt, 20.72 was helpful in the case of the radio towers. And has sat benign for decades. Until someone ran around the Point snapping pictures and weaponizing 20.72 – someone too cowardly to even come forward, and caused the ruin of people’s lives and businesses for no real reason at all. The latest caused collateral damage in my life. While the building that houses Auntie Pam’s Country Store was snitched out, for housing vehicles in the very back of the lot, and the county paid a visit, they determined that the building is only permitted for one business – a parcel business. If this isn’t straightened out soon – say goodbye to Auntie Pam’s. I have spent over 7 years building my business and now I don’t know if it is going to exist. Can you imagine? I have no viable options for moving and now I don’t even have an option to sell my business. The county in the meantime has literally made thousands of dollars in fines. Is it any wonder that PRIBC has received so much support?

    • Pam, I’m an old friend and customer and ally in the political and cultural wars. The issue with that property is under review by PDS. Virtually every organization on the Point supports amending 20.72 so that the issue you identify can be corrected. As noted in various earlier letters and posts, PRCAC is on the job, working to streamline 20.72 so that the issues that need regulation (invasive projects, inappropriate construction) are kept distinct from those that merely need mediation. Radio towers are inappropriate. An SUV rental agency, a storage facility, a storage tanker business are not — they merely need to be shielded from view.

      Amendments, code scrubs and additions to WCC 20.72 that PRCAC is working on will do this. Repealing it will have a cascade of unintended negative consequences in the future.


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