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  Bellingham Herald   March 10, 2009

Lake Whatcom watershed building ban extended

By Jared Paben

BELLINGHAM - City leaders extended a temporary ban on construction in the Lake Whatcom watershed Monday, March 9, buying time to review and approve draft new growth rules.

The City Council voted 6-0, with council member Jack Weiss out of the room, to extend for four months the moratorium on construction in the city's portion of the watershed. The ban has been in place since May 2008, when the council first passed a surprise ban. It was renewed in September.

During the ban, planners drafted new rules for development that included everything from further limiting the yearly summer window for construction to ensuring lots retain natural vegetation. The rules aim to ensure stormwater runoff from new development doesn't further harm the water quality of Lake Whatcom, drinking-water source for 91,000 Bellingham-area residents.

Mayor Dan Pike recently said the four-month extension - which is two months shorter than is allowed by law - is needed for review of the new rules by the Planning Commission and City Council and approval by the council. It's the last extension he expects to request, he said.

A Planning Commission hearing is scheduled for Thursday, March 12, but the Silver Beach Neighborhood Association requested a delay of the hearing to give more time for review of the draft rules. Planner Kurt Nabbefeld wrote in an e-mail to the commission that planners consider time of the essence and want to keep the hearing scheduled.

"If the Planning Commission chooses to extend the public process, further extensions of the moratorium may result and could possibly substantially limit or negate the 2009 building season for watershed property owners," he wrote.