[Update. 9:00am, October 4th: MacKenzie Graham will leave the Planning Commission at the end of 2020.]
As I explained in my article on September 17th (Planning Commission To Have Four Vacancies), the Bellingham Planning Commission would be mostly “rookies” on January 1st when Ali Taysi, Phyllis McKee and Steve Crooks come to the end of their second terms. Since my article, the fourth vacancy left over from the Linville administration was filled when Mayor Fleetwood appointed Rose Lathrop. But the discovery that Mackenzie Graham was likely leaving hiked the potential vacancy number back to four.
Given the very important zoning changes that are on the schedule for consideration by the Planning Commission, there is a move at city hall to ask several departing members to stay on. I know for sure that Steve Crooks will leave. If Taysi and McKee remain, which is most likely, then the commission will still be short two members with a roster looking like this on January 1st:
Ali Taysi - completes two terms on December 31st, 2020
Phyllis McKee -completes two terms on December 31st, 2020
Scott Jones- began first term on January 1st, 2020
Rose Lathrop* - began first term summer 2020
Mike Estes- current term expires January 1st, 2023
The mayor must also take into account changes to the municipal code that limit to three the number of those serving on the commission who come from the “development” sector such as Taysi and McKee. The limit was created several years ago after the city council learned from this newsite that commissioners were almost all from the “development” and related industries. (Consequently, since Lathrop, Taysi and McKee are from the “development” side of the house, the two vacancies cannot be filled with “developers”) Since the Planning Commission officially weighs in on all Type VI legislative processes (21.10.040 Types of land use decisions) such as those involving rezones, Comprehensive Plan reviews, neighborhood plans, etc., proper representation from the citizenry was deemed absolutely necessary.
Obviously, the importance of planning decision recommendations from a full Planning Commission cannot be overstated.
*Rose Lathrop is Green Building and Smart Growth program manager at Sustainable Connections. She is also the former (Feb 2002 - Dec 2016) executive director of the Northwest Washington Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. This places her in the “development” sector category for appointment purposes.