Whatcom County is engaged in a comprehensive plan update to help determine how our communities evolve into the future. Critical to this process is population growth projections. Huxley Professor Dr. John McLaughlin, a specialist in population statistics, provided a detailed statistical critique of our population growth forecasts. I believe he demonstrated that these forecasts are uniformly exaggerated. Are we planning to finance roads, schools, water and sewer for growth that will not occur? Bear in mind that because the county lacks impact fees, these costs are 100 percent borne by county taxpayers and about 43 percent of all property taxes are paid by urban residents.
Beyond statistics and money looms a larger question; does growth manage us or do we manage it? One side of this debate holds that we should plan for growth that is consistent with our environmental carrying capacity. Water is the true population limiting factor in an agriculturally based community. How many more people can rural Whatcom County hold without destroying itself?
Many say that unless the cities invite more growth it will all go to the rural areas. However, I believe the true impetus to sprawl is thousands of vested 5-acre lots to be supplied with exempt well water and subsidized by lack of impact fees. Tell County Council members to discourage rural sprawl: adopt low growth targets, initiate development impact fees and prohibit new exempt wells.
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