Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Population Forecasts: Numerology or Just Mind-Numbing?

'Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell'
- Edward Abbey


Of course, ALL growth isn't necessarily bad.
Just look at agricultural products, the economy, scientific knowledge, kids becoming adults and the like.
The two things that set cancer cells apart are that they grow very fast and have malignant results.

Regarding population growth, that seems to be a reality that we can only plan for the best way we can.
So, here we go again, and so soon after the last Comprehensive Plan brouhaha, too.

Anyway, earlier this year, the City obtained a consultant's report which was duly reviewed by the Planning Commission which issued its Findings of Fact and Recommendations for the City Council's input and the County's eventual approval.

This blog won't go into a lot more detail, but those interested can access these reports and related others by going to the City's website, then searching on 'OFM Growth Projections'.

I attempted links to the above report and Findings, but they don't work directly;
The report is at "".

And, the Findings are at "

Instead, here is one question from the report, plus a summary of the various population growth projections reviewed by the Planning Commission:

Question 5: What are the legal requirements with respect to adoption of population growth forecasts?

Response: The GMA and hearings board cases have made it clear that population growth forecasts used in the preparation of comprehensive plans must be within the range provided by the State Office of Financial Management.
The OFM 2031 forecast range for Whatcom County is approximately 220,000 to 330,000 with a “baseline” forecast of 264,400. (OFM lists the baseline forecast as the “most likely to occur” scenario).
OFM does not provide population growth forecasts for individual cities.
It is up to the County, working with the cities, to allocate the county-wide growth forecast to the individual jurisdictions.


Table 1 – 2031 County-wide Population Growth Forecasts
2031 County-wide Population Growth Forecast

OFM Low Forecast 220,000

SEPA No Action Alternative (current comp. plans) 234,917

GMCC Recommendation 251,490

Consultant/Staff TAG Recommendation 256,950

EIS Alts. X and Y Forecast 258,450

OFM Baseline Forecast 264,400

OFM High Growth Forecast 330,000

You decide whether the Planning Commission is on the right track.
I think they probably are, because this equates to the City eventually accommodating a little over 44% of the County's population growth, and it is BELOW the OFM Baseline Forecast. [see report]

Last time around the City adopted a projection that equated to over 51% of county-wide growth.
And that was after a significant correction in the County's overall growth projection to just OVER the OFM baseline number.

Readers can also see from the City's report that the actual growth rate experienced by the City was less than that estimated.

Right, wrong or indifferent, the County doesn't want the City annexing any more land.
And, the City doesn't seem to want to annex more either, especially with the current strain on revenues. constraint on services, and the mind-set of several electeds.

So, something will have to give, won't it?
What do you think that will be?
Given the prevailing attitudes, it means that the the smaller cities and the unincorporated areas of the County will continue to accept more of the growth than they claim they want or are planning for.
To me, that would simply prove the following:

There is truth in the statement that the only thing people dislike more than sprawl is in-fill!

And that includes even in-fill that is appropriate, like Old Town, King Mountain, the Waterfront Redevelopment, and, yes, Chuckanut Ridge -or whatever it is now being called.

Does it seem to you like this growth planning exercise has become just a monumental waste of time?
Maybe we should just let the County decide, so we can spend full time bitching, arguing among ourselves, and generally being in denial of the good things that could be accomplished with good growth planning?

But then, how often does good planning deliver the results anticipated?
Implementation is the main problem, and I don't believe we have the tools, the political will, or the collective discipline required to consistently make progress in the direction we claim to want.

So, what we can do is simply try to slow down all population growth and prevent what growth does occur from becoming 'malignant' by some definition.
But, hey, aren't those things what growth planning is supposed to be about?