Thursday, August 23, 2007

Lake Whatcom: BLOG Feedback & Lake Tahoe Ideas

I do get feedback on my blog from time to time, and want to acknowledge some of the opinions and ideas expressed.

My early postings were targeted at contemporary actions regarding growth discussions, plus some political intrigue that got me into hot water for a while - which is OK because it comes with the territory I've ventured into.

Since then, I've mostly focused on background information related to long-term issues. These have tended to be longer pieces that require some fortitude to wade through - or at least that's the comment I've mostly heard. Longer, more technical articles just aren't as readable, understandable or as stimulating and current as many blog readers would prefer. I can dig that, because I feel the same way.

So, I will now try to jazz things up a little, to be fairer to those who don't prefer to be policy or issue wonks, but would like a little more bite-sized contemporary commentary instead. But, before I do that let me explain that all of these long historical pieces are eventually intended to provide background for future blogs of a much more contemporary nature.

OK, that said, here goes:

Item 1: Now that the Primary Election has chosen the two finalists in the race for Mayor of Bellingham, I have decided to support Dan Pike in the General Election. I have several reasons for making this choice which will be saved for later discussion in a future posting.

Item 2: Myron Wlaznak's opinion piece in today's WIndy skewered all incumbents for claiming credit for all sorts of things which have either not been done, or attempted, or for which they deserve little credit. As one of those 'incumbents' myself, I agree with Myron! He has to be happy that I have become the 'lamest of ducks' by imposing a voluntary term limit on myself and not running for re-election.

But let me also say that being a Council Member -either City or County- only gives one a ticket to the dance. Once there, one has to pick their partners, learn the steps and keep time to the music. All that's got to be done before anything gets initiated by any member, with half a chance of passing. It's a team sport, not a solo ballet!

Legislative authority consists of two parts - setting policy & law, and approving the budget. But, in Weak Council/Strong Mayor or Executive forms of government, Councils must speak with one voice to get the attention of the Mayor/Executive! The Mayor/Executive manages the entire professional staff and names each of the Department Heads -who serve at the Executive's sole discretion. So, be careful with who gets to be the Executive!

One really frustrating recent example -from my perspective - is the 'non-direction' that the City Council gave the Mayor & Staff regarding raising additional funding for preservation of the Lake Whatcom Watershed. Despite the unanimous recommendations of the Watershed Advisory Board to secure additional funding as soon as possible, we were only able to get THREE votes to direct staff to even bring us a proposal! Mind you, that is not the same thing as approving a water rate change - it was to get staff to bring us a proposal!

FOUR members didn't want to do that, so it didn't happen. Members who favored having such a proposal brought forward were Barbara Ryan, Terry Bornemann and yours truly. That, despite Lake Whatcom being touted as one of our top priorities! Do your own math to see who didn't want to do anything. Then, get back to me - or better yet the voters - about what to do about it.
Hey, Myron, you know all this stuff is written right there in the Council minutes, plus you can even get in your LAZ-E-BOY and watch it happen on BTV10 in the comfort of your own home, with beer, popcorn, your trusty dog by your side and the bathroom nearby!

PS- I do hope Sasha is doing better after her operation
Item 3: For those up to a little more 'background', here's some stuff on how Lake Tahoe is trying to manage its growth to minimize long-term damage to its chief asset -its water!
Over 25 years ago, the Tahoe Regional Planning Authority [TRPA] was created by Presidential Decree [That would be the President of the US!].
It's purpose was to protect Lake Tahoe from continued rapid deterioration of its water quality from excessive development in its watershed. This level of authority was appropriate because about 27 different jurisdictions were involved, including 2 states, 5 counties and numerous cities and other entities. Does this REMIND you of anything local?

Needless to say, the creation of TRPA was controversial, as it remains to this day. But, it seems to have achieved a large part of its purpose - that of advising all concerned that Lake Tahoe is a special place that requires special behavior, stictly enforced by special regulations!

Readers interested in more detail may appreciate the information contained at the following URL:
Of particular interest are excerpts from ~ pages 6-8 - ORDINANCES AND CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISION INVOLVED

With regard to future residential development, in particular, the plan seeks to accomplish three major objectives:

(1) to place a ceiling on the total amount of residential development that may occur in the Basin;

(2) to control the pace of development by limiting the number of building permits that may be issued each year; and

(3) to limit the amount of impervious coverage resulting from permitted development. A major tool for achieving the water quality goal is prohibiting further development in SEZs ["stream environment zone"]

Eligibility of a particular parcel for future residential development turns on an assessment of the physical suitability of the parcel for such development. To build a single family home or other residential unit, a property owner must have three rights: a "residential development right," a "residential allocation," and "land coverage."

A "residential development right" represents the right to have a residential unit on an eligible parcel of land.

A "residential allocation" is necessary to construct a residence in a specific calendar year.

"Land coverage" is the maximum percentage of impervious coverage of the surface allowed.

These three property interests correspond to the 1987 Plan's objectives of limiting long term residential development, the annual pace of that development, and the amount of impervious coverage.

Although each private owner of a vacant residential parcel automatically receives one "residential development right" (TRPA Code ß 21.6.A), entitlement to a "residential allocation" and to "land coverage" turns primarily on an individual assessment of the parcel's suitability for development.
Each parcel receives a numeric score -- Individual Parcel Evaluation System (IPES) -- that reflects the predictable effect of the parcel's development on the water quality of the Lake. TRPA Code Chap. 37.
The IPES score determines the "land coverage" assigned to that parcel. TRPA Code ßß 20.3.A(4), 37.11.
The IPES score is also relevant to the parcel's eligibility for receiving a "residential allocation" in a specific calendar year. Id. ß 37.8.

There are a total of 300 residential allocations available each year in order to control the pace of development. TRPA Code ß 33.2.A(3).
Only parcels with a certain minimum score are eligible for development in a given year. Id. ß 37.8.E
The minimum score may decrease over time if certain conditions are met. Id. ß 37.8.C.
A "stream environment zone" (SEZ), however, receives a score of zero and is ineligible for residential development at any time. Id. ß 20.4.B.

The 1987 TRPA Plan combines development restrictions with significant property rights enhancements designed both to achieve a more equitable sharing of the burdens and benefits resulting from the restrictions and to steer residential development to the most physically suitable locations.
Every property owner is allowed to sell certain transferable development rights (TDRs) to owners of other eligible properties.

There are three potentially transferable development rights:

residential development rights;

residential allocations; and

land coverage.

A property owner may sell his "residential development right." A likely purchaser of such a right would be an individual who wants to have more than one residential unit on his property. Id. ßß 21.6.C, 34.2.
A property owner may also be eligible to sell or otherwise transfer his "residential allocation." Id. ß 34.3.[6]
Finally, the owner may sell whatever "land coverage" to which the owner is entitled to another eligible landowner. The purchaser of that land coverage would, based on that purchase, have the right to undertake a development project requiring more land coverage than he was initially assigned under the plan. TRPA Code ß 20.3.C. The seller of such development rights must record deed restrictions on his land notifying all that such rights no longer pertain to his parcel. Id. ßß 20.3.C(7), 34.2.B, 34.3.G, 34.5.

A property owner whose parcel of land is determined to be entirely SEZ property receives an IPES score of zero. TRPA Code ß 37.4.A(3). That land is not eligible for residential development.
With a few exceptions, SEZ property cannot be used for the construction of permanent structures because of the adverse impact of such development on the water quality of Lake Tahoe. Id. ß 20.4.B.

Just like other private owners of vacant residential lots in the Basin, however, the owner of SEZ property may sell the TDRs that arise out of his ownership of his parcel, including land coverage, residential development right, and residential allocation, to another. TRPA Code ßß 20.3.C, 34.2, 34.3.
In addition to the one residential development right to which each private owner of vacant residential property is entitled, the owner of an SEZ property may earn up to three additional residential bonus units. The owner earns and is assigned those units upon TRPA approval of the sale or transfer of his initial residential development right. Id. ßß 35.2.C, 35.2.D(4).[7] The bonus units provide mitigation for the stringent development restrictions applicable to the land itself. Many owners of SEZ property have successfully obtained and sold bonus units. See J.A. 148.

The owner of SEZ property also receives land coverage rights equal to one percent of his land. TRPA Code ß 37.11.B(1).
The relatively low land coverage percentage reflects the environmentally sensitive character of the land upon which the percentage is based. Id. ß 37.11.A.
Finally, the SEZ owner may apply for a residential allocation in any particular year and, if awarded an allocation, sell it for application to an eligible property in the Basin. Id. ß 33.2.B.[8]...."


~page 24: CHAPTER 21- DENSITY




~page 33: CHAPTER 37- Individual Parcel Evaluation System (of particular interest)

37.11 Allowable Base Land Coverage: The allowable base land coverage for residential parcels evaluated under IPES shall be a function of the parcel's combined score under the IPES criteria for relative erosion hazard and runoff potential as correlated with the coverage coefficients and land capability districts of the Bailey Report.
The allowable base land coverage under IPES shall be established in accordance with the following procedures and shall be considered for adoption by TRPA no later than January 1, 1989.

37.11.A Procedure For Establishing Allowable Base Land Coverage: Once eligible parcels have received a score under IPES, and TRPA has taken action on requests for reevaluation pursuant to Subsection 37.10.C, the percentage of allowable base land coverage shall be established by TRPA in accordance with the following procedures:

(a) Based on the soil series and average slope determined by the IPES evaluation teams, all parcels receiving a score under IPES shall be identified as to which of the seven capability classes established in the Bailey Report each parcel would have been classified. Parcels determined by the IPES evaluation teams to be located in a soil series not identified in the report entitled "Soil Survey, Tahoe Basin Area, California and Nevada," prepared by the Soil Conservation Service and Forest Service and dated March 1974, shall be excluded from this procedure.

(b) The combined scores for Relative Erosion Hazard and Runoff Potential representing the central tendency within each capability class shall be determined. The central tendency shall be described by determining the mode value, or by alternative statistical methods, including mean or median values, whichever is appropriate.

(c) The central tendency scores established in (b), above, shall be plotted, in graph form, against percentages of allowable base land coverage ranging from one percent to thirty percent. The central tendency score for Land Capability Districts 1a, 1c, and 2, shall be plotted at one percent; for Land Capability District 3 at five percent; for Land Capability District 4 at 20 percent; for Land Capability District 5 at 25 percent; and for Land Capability Districts 6 and 7 at 30 percent. If the central tendency scores of any of the capability classes set forth in (c), above, are determined to be statistically indistinguishable, such classes shall be combined for purposes of establishing a central tendency score. If capability classes are combined, the central tendency score shall be plotted at the percentage that is the average of the percentages established for those classes in Subsection 20.3.A of the TRPA Code.

(d) TRPA shall develop a formula for a line passing through the points of central tendency plotted in accordance with (c), above. No parcel shall be allowed more than 30 percent, or less than one percent base land coverage.

(e) Allowable base land coverage for parcels receiving a score under IPES shall be established in accordance with the formula developed in (d), above.

37.11.B Application Of Allowable Base Land Coverage Percentages: The percentages of allowable base land coverage established in accordance with Section 37.11 shall be applied as follows to determine the total allowable base land coverage:

(1) Parcels Of 1/3 Acre Or Less In Size: The percentage of allowable base land coverage shall be applied to the entire parcel area, except in cases where the parcel contains areas classified as SEZ or backshore. In such cases, the percentage of allowable base land coverage shall be applied to only that area outside the SEZ and backshore. The allowable base land coverage of one percent in the SEZ and backshore may be combined with the allowable base land coverage for the remainder of the parcel to establish a total allowable base land coverage for the parcel. A portion of the total allowable base land coverage for the parcel may be used to allow construction of access only through the SEZ, provided TRPA makes the findings required in Subparagraph 20.4.B(1), and through the backshore, provided TRPA makes the findings required in Section 55.4.

(2) Parcels Greater Than 1/3 Acre But Less Than 5 Acres In Size: The percentage of allowable base land coverage shall be applied to the 1/3 acre evaluated by the evaluation team. If the owner of the parcel is able to identify a larger and contiguous area that has the same characteristics as the 1/3 acre originally evaluated and TRPA concurs, the percentage of allowable base land coverage shall be applied to the larger area. Allowable base land coverage on parcels that contain a SEZ shall be calculated in accordance with Subparagraph (1) above.

(3) Parcels Of Five Acres Or Greater In Size: The percentage of allowable base land coverage shall be applied to all that portion of the parcel that the evaluation team identifies as having the same characteristics as and being contiguous to the area evaluated.