About 300 people took part in the “Wake Up Whatcom County” rally on Tuesday over County Council decisions they said threatened high-paying jobs, property values and farming.
Demonstrators held the rally at 5:15 p.m. at the Bellingham Public Library lawn before the County Council meeting. Organizers said they wanted council members to listen to their voices, to recognize their contributions to the economy and to balance environmental and economic issues.
Among the speakers was Larry Stap, owner of Twin Brook Creamery in Lynden, who said he thought 2/3 of local dairy farms were on their last generation because of county regulations.
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“It’s not that the farmers aren’t doing a good job that are doing it,” he said. “Their kids look at it and say, ‘Why should I work seven days a week ... and just get beat up by the regulatory environment?’”
Particular concerns included the council’s decision to restrict new rural developments that rely on domestic wells because of a state Supreme Court decision.
If the state Legislature doesn’t provide a fix for the Hirst decision, property values on more than 3,400 parcels in Whatcom County could drop by up to $186 million, according to an estimate from Assessor Keith Willnauer.
Allison Trimble, a Realtor with Coastal Realty, said the Hirst decision left her and her husband with property that is currently useless.
“We have literally 60 acres sitting that we are unable to build on, we’re unable to sell and we’re unable to finance in any way to regain our asset,” she said. “We’re literally stuck with 60 acres of valueless property.”
Policy affecting Cherry Point and industry there was another concern for those at the rally, including the County Council's decision in March to approve a second six-month moratorium on new shipments of unrefined fossil fuels through Cherry Point.
John Huntley, owner of Mills Electric, said industry companies like the Cherry Point, Phillips 66 and BP refineries have given back through tax dollars and donations.
“Without them, Whatcom County would become a Detroit,” he said.
The rally ended around 6 p.m. Many attendees walked across the street and into the courthouse for the County Council’s meeting.