[Our Guest Writer, Scott Jones, is a Bellingham resident along with his family. He is President of the South Hill Neighborhood Association. He founded and ran Beyond Clothing, a custom American made clothing company, for 17 years. He is a local advocate for Affordable Housing, Food Security, and a high quality of life for Bellingham and Whatcom residents.]
ABC RECYCLING’S REGULATORY MANEUVERS
CREATE CONCERNS FOR HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Waterfront Metal Pile | Birchwood Metal Shredder
Metal Shredder Meeting
ABC Recycling continues to act as more of a city-wide adversary than a good neighbor. The day before a moratorium vote that would have enabled the community time to ensure safety, ABC flooded the County Planning department with hundreds of pages of documents. With the giddiness of a middle schooler, they announced that their heavy industrial and dangerous project was vested as Heavy Industrial within a residential area. When in fact it was not.
This was only one of the latest ploys by ABC Recycling to manipulate local and state laws, along with public opinion, to their benefit.
On December 5th, residents will have their first dedicated opportunity to press for the honest truth from ABC directly. We hope health and environmental safety are top of mind. The time is 6:30, and ABC’s chosen location is the Squalicum Boathouse at 2600 N Harbor Loop Drive. With incredible community concern and few ABC provided seats, it is recommended to arrive early. (See meeting info here)
Waterfront Metal Pile – First, and Final Environmental Opportunity
There are also considerable updates on the Metal Pile down at the Waterfront. It is now known that no environmental review has been performed at the Waterfront Metal Pile location, the Log Pond, for the Metal Storage activity. When SEPA, Washington’s State Environmental Policy Act, kicks in for the smallest of projects, ABC, Port and City staff found illegitimate loopholes so that the noise, air and water pollution are literally unregulated.
The community now has its first opportunity to force a SEPA review of the Metal Pile. Due to the ‘significant process change’ the Department of Ecology is requiring that ABC obtain their own Stormwater Permit for the Log Pond. With documents filed in their Notice of Intent, it is figured that ABC will attempt to circumnavigate safety regulations once again. This by arguing the activity has been considered in past Environmental Impact Statements at the Waterfront. In fact, this activity is new and has not passed SEPA or EIS review.
Please write to the Department of Ecology and demand a SEPA and EIS review (information linked here). Time is limited.
Bypassed Laws and Regulations
The State (SEPA), City of Bellingham (codes and ordinances) and even the Port have rules and laws that are to keep the community and the environment safe, along with a high quality of life for residents. One that will be top of mind for readers is a Conditional Use. 20.16.010 – “Certain uses because of their unusual size, infrequent occurrence, special requirements, possible safety hazards or detrimental effects on surrounding properties…” The Metal Pile ticks every box on this entire list. Any one of these issues would normally have triggered Bellingham laws requiring some action by the city’s planning director, or senior planners. Yet nowhere, in any communication or available public document from the City, is a Conditional Use Permit even mentioned.
So, no Conditional Use. What about how different this is from anything else down at the Port? They couldn’t possibly compare it to other activities thus allowing it outright, right? Benign boulders on barges? No!
Somehow, the planning department found a way to designate a dangerous, polluting, long term, scrap metal storage facility as qualifying for the same land-use designation as an existing ‘barge loading terminal’ for shipping boulders. 1) dangerous instead of inert, 2) shipped by a large ocean-going ship instead of a flat bottomed barge, 3) different industrial NAICS numbers (important), 4) is massive in comparison, 5) is 25 years instead of a few, and 6) heavy industrial (not allowed) instead of light industrial. Specifically, a ‘barge loading terminal’ – BMC 20.37.420(E)(10), was chosen without recognition of how ridiculous the choice was. Compared to past activities at the Waterfront, the new scrap metal storage facility is unequivocally new.
Or Does Maritime Use override it all?
Is it legal because of its maritime application then? This assumption would bring the Waterfront Environmental Impact Statements and the City’s Waterfront Sub-area Plan into play. Both sets of documents and analysis began as early as 2008 and were majority complete by 2013. Within both, there is significant recognition that maritime activity is important to the Waterfront.
So far, the City, Port and ABC are contending that any activity resulting in a shipment, falls under maritime use, and is thus allowed by that “right.” Once again, this is false. All mention of ‘marine industrial’ activity in the Waterfront EIS is in conjunction with the phrase, ’light industrial.’ Once the activity has reached the level of Heavy Industrial, the activity is no longer allowed (see link here).
Further the Waterfront EIS from its inception in 2008 has stated that acceptable industrial activity would not require mitigation measures. The metal pile has dealt significant and detrimental impacts to the community and the environment, and thus is not an “acceptable industrial activity” as defined by either the Waterfront EIS or the Waterfront Sub-area Plan.
The City’s Position
When the director of our planning department, Blake Lyon, was asked what it would take to make him change the waterfront Land Use designation to something that more accurately reflected the reality on the ground, he said, “Litigation, or a judge.”
Instead, we hope your letters and communications to the Department of Ecology, will allow an administrative solution to this horrific situation. SEPA is a powerful tool, and the Metal Pile is an extreme environmental danger that will profoundly affect our quality of life. With your help, we will prevail to create the Waterfront that was agreed to by the City and Port, and promised to residents. But it’s going to take everyone.