The recent Determination of Non-significance (DNS) on the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) ordinance now before the Bellingham Planning Commission raises a profound problem in the current review of land issues and zoning. Not only is the lack of an Environmental Impact Study on the ADU ordinance appalling, the use of the “non-project” rubric in the Environmental Checklist to avoid further study is a pure bureaucratic nostrum that avoids accountability. We can do better than that in Bellingham to protect our environment.
Not only should an environmental study be conducted but it also should include the other land use/zoning issues that are to come before the Planning Commission and the City Council in 2018. It is the , cumulative and irreversible effects of ALL these proposals/actions that will give the citizens a picture of the environmental impacts.
Planned proposals/actions (Planning Commission’s Pigs in a Poke):
- ADU Ordinance Review
- Short Term Rental Ordinance
- Infill Tool Kit Ordinance Review
- Subdivision Ordinance Review
- Illegal Rooming House Review
Each of these, individually, has the potential for serious and long-lasting effects to our environment. Moreover, these actions do not take effect in a vacuum. Taken as a whole, the effects rise exponentially. But nobody is looking at that aspect.
Unfortunately the city, by design or ignorance, has chosen a salami slice approach to issues of affordability and availability of housing without specific goals, which has given us the five separate, uncoordinated actions above. At the same time, subsequent environmental reviews will be served in salami slice fashion, with claims that no one slice is judged sufficiently bad for the environment while the cumulative effects are ignored. This is a disservice to the public who only see these actions meted out one by one, and is a denial of the potential severity of effects.
DNS 2017-0045 and accompanying Environmental Checklist should be rejected in their entirety. A on land use/zoning actions (Planning’s Piggies listed above) with a comprehensive environmental study should be mounted on all five issues.