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Whatcom County Council to consider rural building ban, veto of property tax hike

The south fork of the Nooksack River, April 17, 2015. The Washington state Supreme Court recently ruled that Whatcom County must make sure there is enough available water before issuing permits for new developments in rural areas, in part to protect salmon-bearing streams like the Nooksack.
The south fork of the Nooksack River, April 17, 2015. The Washington state Supreme Court recently ruled that Whatcom County must make sure there is enough available water before issuing permits for new developments in rural areas, in part to protect salmon-bearing streams like the Nooksack. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

The Whatcom County Council will consider Tuesday a six-month ban on new developments that depend on water from what are known as exempt wells.

County officials have said they needed more time as they grapple with a ruling from the state Supreme Court that said the county failed to protect water resources as required by the Growth Management Act.

The council will conduct a public hearing before its decision. If approved, the ban would replace the county’s existing 60-day moratorium.

The state’s high court ruled Oct. 6 that Whatcom County must make sure there was enough water available before issuing permits for developments in rural areas that rely on private exempt wells.

The decision overturned a February 2015 state Court of Appeals ruling that had favored the county.

Rural property owners are upset by the proposed ban, saying their land would be rendered worthless.

The council also will take up County Executive Jack Louws’ veto of a property tax increase of 1 percent a year over the next two years that the County Council passed in November.

Because he vetoed the property tax increase, Louws also vetoed the biennial budget approved by the County Council. The increase was part of that budget.

It will take five council members to override Louws’ vetoes.

The Dec. 6 meeting begins at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers at 311 Grand Ave. in Bellingham.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea

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