A month ago I wrote that there were changes in the offing with the composition of the Planning Commission to avoid possible group bias. [My original article can be found here.] Today (5 Dec) those changes were voted into law by all seven council members at the evening council session. The draft amendment considered at city council today read:
Section 1: Bellingham Municipal Code Section 2.42.020 -
Membership is hereby amended as follows:
A. [No change.]
B. [No change.]
C. The membership of the commission, should, to the extent practical, reflect a broad range of opinion, experience and expertise with the objective of providing sound advice representative of the citizenry. To achieve that purpose, the membership of the commission should, to the extent practical, include residents from different neighborhoods within the City, citizens of underrepresented and diverse communities, and citizens active in neighborhood or community affairs.
D. No more than three voting members of the commission may engage principally in the buying, selling, developing, construction of, or investment in real estate for profit as individuals or be members of any partnership, or officers or employees of any corporation, that engages principally in the buying, selling, developing, construction of, or investment in real estate for profit. This paragraph also applies to
professionals, consultants, and advisors who contract directly with clients and customers that engage principally in the buying, selling, developing, construction of, or investment in real estate for profit. The limitation of this paragraph includes, but is not limited to: real estate investors (land and real property), realtors, real estate developers, development and environmental consultants, architects, appraisers, contractors, and landscapers. This limitation also applies to those who actively engaged in any of these activities or occupations within the last five years.
E. No more than two members shall be engaged in the same kind of occupation, business, trade or profession.
F. The desired composition and limitations regarding membership set forth in subsections C, D, and E, above, are for the purpose of guiding the mayor and city council in appointment and confirmation. Subsections C, D, and E shall not provide a basis for challenging any activity of the commission in the execution of its powers or duties.
Section 2: Present members of the commission shall continue to serve as members until the expiration of their current terms, as provided in subsection A. above prior to this amendment.
After discussion at the Committee of the Whole session this afternoon, Council voted to adopt that draft with three revisions for consideration at the evening session:
1) In subsection 1.F, the word “guiding” was removed from the first sentence. There was concern that “guiding” might make paragraphs C, D and E unenforceable.
2) In subsection 1.D, Michael Lilliquist recommended that the words “who contract directly with clients and customers that” were replaced by the words, “for whom a a majority of clients.” This change is consistent with the original intent of supporters and is considered neutral.
3) The effective date will be April 1, 2017. This represents a compromise with Mayor Linville and a few council members and allows her to keep several present members on the commission.
On January 1st, three commission members likely will be reappointed. These are Ali Taysi, Phyllis McKee and Steve Crooks. Jeff Brown, whose term expires in January 2019,has indicated to the mayor that he desires to be replaced right away. Tom Grinstad will be replaced on or before April 1st, his two term maximum having been met. By April 1, there will be only three members with ties to development as outlined in the amended ordinance: Ali Taysi, Phyllis McKee and Garrett O’Brien. [The present roster of the commission can be found here for reference.]
Here is a YouTube a video of Council’s 40-minute discussion on the ordinance from this afternoon.
I am calling on all Bellingham residents who are interested in contributing to the planning process in Bellingham to submit an application as soon as possible for the two openings created by Brown and Grinstad leaving the commission. It is important to demonstrate that citizens who do not have ties to the development industry are willing to serve. The application can be found here.