County to consider changes in local zoning regulations

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Whatcom County Council has agreed to consider revisions to the Point Roberts Special District and subarea plan (WCC 20.72) being undertaken by the Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee (PRCAC). The proposal by the Independent Business Council (IBC) to discontinue using the Point Roberts specific code section did not make the cut.

At their July 7 virtual meeting, council voted 5-1 to approve the docket of changes to the county comprehensive plan they will consider this year. The PRCAC review process, which has been underway for over a year, was on the list, while the IBC proposal for a moratorium on 20.72 pending an economic assessment of its impact, was not.

Meeting virtually on July 16, PRCAC reviewed changes toits proposed revisions of the code being suggested by county planning and development (PDS) staff.

In the mall town commercial (STC) district, PRCAC voted to limit storage containers per lot to three but did not agree to the PDS suggestion that truck trailers not be allowed as storage containers.

Committee members also gave the thumbs down to the PDS suggestion that leasing vacant lots and RVs for temporary or permanent habitation be prohibited. “There was discussion that existing codes limiting RVs to one per lot were enough to prevent more trailer parks and we didn’t need to be more restrictive,” said PRCAC chair Stephen Falk.

A motion from the new voters’ association representative Rick Hulsey to put the current prohibition on automobile repair, sales and storage in small-town commercial back on the table ended up in a 2-2 tie and Falk said they could revisit the issue at their next meeting when the committee was back to full strength. At-large member Pamala Sheppard was absent and new chamber of commerce representative Judson Meraw was only able to attend a portion of the meeting for technical reasons.

Though Falk pointed out the issue of allowing automotive businesses in the STC zone had been “discussed to death” since the committee began considering revisions to 20.72 in 2019, Hulsey maintained changing circumstances for the Point made it important to have such services available somewhere on the Point. “If we can’t put it in STC, where can we?” he said.

Dennis Auto, the Point’s only automotive repair business, is a grandfathered use in the STC zone but if it does not operate for 12 months, it will lose that status. Point Roberts has limited property with industrial zoning on Peltier Drive. Allison Calder said wetlands adjacent to those properties would make permitting of automotive repair shops unlikely.

“If we were to change zoning and add another area of industrial, though, I can’t [be] imagine in whose back yard, it would be possible,” Falk said.

County planner Cliff Strong said once they received the latest changes to proposed zoning revisions, they will prepare to move the matter before the county planning commission which will hold a public hearing before forwarding a recommendation to county council. .

“They are booked with backlog right now,” Strong said, after not meeting for several months. He anticipated the planning commission would not begin reviewing the proposed changes until fall or winter 2020.

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