hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Character Plan

Oh, well, I restricted myself to an hour's reading, but nevertheless, read it and weep.  Given that I was born rooting for the Democrats, and that I am usually a tax and spend liberal and generally in favor of government regulation in order to fight back against the inherently abusive tendencies of capitalism as well as the problems resulting from original sin, I couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry (appropriate to be reading it on January 20, 2017) as I worked my way through this document.  It should come with an application form for membership in the Small Government Society.

On page 5 you will find the theme: A few of our good fellow citizens have put this document together in order that we might live in something like Williamsburg, Virginia, or perhaps Carmel, California: a cute little town with matching designs that will remind us of fishing and our other history.  Not of course that the bulk of us have much fishing or cannery history, but we can pretend we do if only all the businesses will tart themselves up with fishies and nets and light fixtures that look kind of old-fashioned and the like.

Back to the theme:  "The overall theme of this plan is harmony between: ● the built and the natural environments; ● social and economic activities; and ● the present and the past."  Well, we should probably all be getting ourselves harmonized in just that way, not only the businesses, but our houses, and indeed our personal lives.  Each day, we might try again to harmonize our present and our past.  Surely, from that will come mental health.

It only applies to new businesses (or old businesses that are doing enough remodeling to require a permit).  The businesses all need to be right up in front of the passersby and right next to each other: a 10-foot setback in the front, and no parking in front, and no trash bins in front or visible, although small trash receptacles will be acceptable in front.  (I'd add that the small receptacles should all include signs saying that you may not leave bags of house trash in these receptacles.)  Now these rules don't apply to already existing businesses and precious few of them conform to these rules currently.  So the effect will continue to be a little this, a little that, and by the 22nd century if this character plan is maintained unchanged, maybe all the business will have come into conformity.

Should your business have bare ground around it?  No, there is a list of plants that you can/must put around your new business, and they'd better not be palm trees.  The Plan sneers at palm trees twice! Now, in fact, I'm no fan of palm trees because they look ratty in the winter, but if people like them, they're at least to my view amusing.  Only native plants need apply.  Cover your ground with Oregon Grape: it's cheap and when massed not particularly attractive, although the leaves are shiny and it's quite prickly.

What color do you want to paint your building?  I'm sorry, that's the wrong color: it has to be a Williamsburg paint color, even if Williamsburg is in Virginia and has nothing in common with Point Roberts.

There are more prohibitions on signs that you can shake a stick at, even if you're a fierce stick shaker.  And the rules apply to signs everywhere, although not temporary or sale signs, so much.  But one has to admire (while shaking one's head) at the specificity and details of signs that we're not going to approve of.  It's possible that the knit scarves that are on the trunk of a fir tree in front of my house are describable as "pennants" and thus are not allowed because they are visible from the street in front of my house and thus constitute a sign under this Plan.

And, finally, there is this: "Multiple-use malls, shopping, business, office and professional centers are allowed to have not more than two (2) free-standing directory signs for individual businesses if they meet the following requirements".  Well, forward thinking, I guess.  Who knows when Point Roberts is going to be having those "office and professional centers," not to mention "multi-use malls."  At least we already know what their signs have to look like.

It all looks like enormous over-reach to me, not least because I believe that this revision extends the coverage from just commercial properties to recreational commercial properties.  Next revision, they can extend it all to our houses and outhouses, and some day, we'll be a place that is as cute as a bug, but without regular and universal trash pickup.  This surely is what people are whining about when they talk about "the nanny state."

There are lots more details in the 42 pages (about half of which is devoted to signs).  Well, I didn't sign up to work on this project because I didn't think they were looking for people who thought the actual project was probably bad at the core.  So, I didn't make it any better.  But, I'm hard pressed to understand why, if this is such an important matter to the County, that no elected official has to stand up and recommend it.  At the County, they'll just say, "well, that's what the Point Roberts folks said they wanted."  But if this is what we want, I don't know why we don't get to vote on it.  Somebody ought to be accountable.  By just leaving it to an advisory committee of appointees representing whatever, nobody has to be accountable.

Point Roberts Character Plan, Revised

Here's the link for the Revised Character Plan that will be under discussion at the Advisory Committee's meeting on Feb. 14, at 6 pm, Community Center:


If you want to compare it to the original character plan, here's the link for that:   http://prrva.org/images/Current_Point_Roberts_Character_Plan.pdf

I'm going to spend a couple of hours reading the revised plan today and will post my thoughts after that.  But, it's 42-pages long and you may want to get a head start on me.

The Chairman of the Advisory Committee has said they welcome comments and criticisms from the public either in writing or at the meeting.  If you can't get to the meeting, you can send written questions/comments to him at joel.lantz@sayaloha.com

Monday, January 16, 2017

Too Much Cold Weather

Thus Did the Cold Spell Begin

Perhaps the title above is all that needs to be written.  It seems that folks have pretty much gone to ground for the past 3 weeks or so.  Or perhaps just me.  About 4 weeks ago, I engaged in my customary December ritual of going out into the yard and cutting a few branches from a forsythia bush in order to force some flowers for winter.  I've been doing this for 25 years and always been delighted to have those flowers within a week of bringing the branches indoors.  This year, not so much.  I surely cut them and brought them inside, but they surely did not do much of anything.  Finally, after about 3 weeks, voila!  But not very many flowers, by comparison with years past, and some of the branches just apologized and expired.  But I appreciate the flowers that arrived.

Two other things of perhaps more importance for local residents.  The Point Roberts Advisory Committee was at work in the cold this month addressing the revised Character Plan and the County's solid waste treatment survey.  If you care about either issue, this is the time to read the respective documents and get your views to the respective authorities, or perhaps just to the P.R. Advisory Committee.  Personally, I have a lot of trouble with the Character Plan, both the original and the revised version.  And the problems of trash collection on the Point have regularly raised lots of hackles, including mine.  But, you might want to think these things through on your own.  You can see the results of the survey that the County conducted here: whatcomcounty.us/DocumentCenter/View/25142 .

This link is incorrect. And the May 2016 revised version of the Character Plan here:  http://whatcomcounty.us/documentcenter/view/18406

This is a link to the 2015 Version (http://prrva.org/images/Draft_Point_Roberts_Character_Plan_Aug_9_15_1_.pdf)  and I will be trying to get a link that includes the 2016 revisions. Will post if I can get it.

The Advisory Committee will be addressing both these issues at its February meeting at 7 pm, at the Community Center.   And the chair, Joel Lantz, implied that if the Committee doesn't hear from the public, then it assumes the public is just fine with them both.  So be forewarned.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Next Act

(Cross Posted from Friends of the Point Roberts Library blog)

Almost a month since election day and the truly unhappy news that the new library levy put forth by the Park and Recreation District had failed to reach the 60% of votes required by Washington law. Alas, I believe it was the only levy that failed in Whatcom County.  On the other hand, it did NOT fail to achieve a majority+ of votes: over 55% of voters did vote to approve the levy which would have required an average property owner payment of $100 for one year in order to build a new library for Point Roberts.  A library that would have served our community well for decades.

But, what's done is done.  There are two ways forward: first, those of us at FOPRL could just say, "well, the voters have spoken and that's that."  But I don't think that's going to happen because although the voters have voted, the majority of the voters also spoke; and the majority of people in Point Roberts spoke even earlier when FOPRL received many hundreds of individually-identified donations.  FOPRL feels a deep commitment both to those who already donated over a half-million dollars to build a new library at the site of the Julius Firehall, to those who supported the levy, and to our own view of the community's real need for a new, centrally-located, larger, and appropriately outfitted library that will serve us and those who come after us well into the 21st Century.

At the moment, we are working on next steps forward.  We have met with the Park and Recreation Commission and with Whatcom County Library System, our two partners in this project, to review the options for a plan to move this project forward as originally intended.  It has a bunch of moving parts, but we hope to be able to get it finalized by January (given the demands of the holiday season).  We will have to do some further fundraising, of course, but we have already received some encouraging offers of significant help.  And we would be happy to receive more offers, of course!  Just call me.

So, that's it for the moment, but stay tuned!  The Board of the Friends of the Point Roberts Library, and especially Ed and I personally, extend our great thanks for all you have done for this project over the last 5 years.  We look forward to completing this new library which will mean so much to us all when it is finished, and mean even more perhaps because it has been a challenge that we will have overcome together.  A library is a community treasure and we believe we will have that renewed treasure, soon.

--Judy Ross
President, Friends of the Point Roberts Library

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


The meeting that you can go to to ask questions of the Fire District Commissioners is Wednesday, December 14th, at 4 pm, not today.

Oh, Sigh, the Fire District

Apparently, there is some unhappiness at the Fire District over their decision to insist on having all the money they can get from the County's property taxes.  In a post to Point Interface,  they note, about their budget requests:

"No one from the public has come to either meeting where we discussed the 2017 budget and the banked capacity to talk about those topics. If you have questions, please come to our meeting, review the meetings online, or contact Chief Carleton at 360-945-3473 or email him at chief@wcfd5.com. "

Apparently, the Commissioners have forgotten that they instituted a policy some years ago (after the Great Unhappiness, about 6 years ago) in which members of the public could make a 'comment' at the beginning of the meeting, before they had much if any information about the topics of the meeting, but could not ask questions.  I was personally and publicly instructed that my 'question' was not appropriate since I was entitled only to make a comment.  If you can't effectively question them, why go to their meetings?  You can just wait until you read the results in the All Point Bulletin's reporting.

But, perhaps they'll entertain questions today (as they suggest in their public relations/press release on Point Interface), Wednesday, at 4 pm.  Correction: Wednesday, December 14th, at 4 pm.  So go if you want to ask questions about their add-on budget request.  If not, thank the All Point Bulletin (Pat Grubb and/or Meg Olson) for telling you what is happening.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

On the Projected New Point Roberts LIbrary


The November All Point Bulletin is out now and I see that there are a bunch of “Letters to the Editor” about the new library.  I hope that we have not lost track of the actual existence of facts, but I do note that the two letters in opposition are sort of fact-challenged.  So, here’s an attempt to address that.

Stan Riffle writes with great concern about the Park and Rec District taking on too much debt.  This suggests he doesn’t grasp the difference between a bond and a levy, which you would think he would given that he is a Commissioner at the Fire District.  A bond is debt; a levy is income.  So, the one-time levy is not debt, not something that has to be repaid, not now, not next year, not ever.   The levy will increase property owners’ taxes by, on average, about $100 for one year.  If the levy passes, property owners will pay half of their share of the levy with their first tax installment in 2017 and the other half will be paid with the second installment in 2017.  And that’s it.  No more levy payments, no debt to be paid back, no change in the Park & Rec debt level.  And there will be a new library, significantly increasing the District’s asset values.

Linda Hughes takes the position that a library is not important enough for taxpayers to pay a million dollars.  The most recent cost estimate is not a million dollars, nor even $900,00 as Mr. Riffle asserts, but $840,000.  This includes a substantial contingency fund for the unknown unknowns. The known unknowns have apparently already been resolved during the permitting process: we will not need an entirely new septic system, nor additional parking, etc.  

Perhaps Ms. Hughes also thinks that $840,000 is too much for the taxpayers to pay for a new library.  But, of course, nobody is asking the taxpayers to pay $840,000.  They are being asked as a group to pay up to $300,000, 35% of the cost.  The remainder of the cost is covered by donors who have already contributed $540,000+ to the Friends of the Point Roberts Library for this new library: some of them property owners, but also residents, their relatives, summer visitors, local businesses, Washington philanthropic foundations, and businesses from outside the Point.

The Friends asked for and accepted these donations to reconstruct the Julius Fire Hall into a new and appropriate for decades to come library, and that is what the money is to be used for.  It is not a gift to the Park and Rec District to spend as they want.  The Friends of the Library are saying to property owners in Point Roberts, “We will pay 65% of the costs of the new library.  Will you pay the other ⅓?  Will you look that big gift horse in the mouth?”

Those are the facts of this levy request.

--Judy Ross, for The Friends of the Point Roberts Library