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Moratorium on new heavy industry fails

Council, community split on future of Bellingham's Alderwood area

Whatcom County Council member Kaylee Galloway holds her head in her hands while listening to public comment about the proposed moritorium on heavy industry
Whatcom County Council member Kaylee Galloway holds her head in her hands while listening to public comment about the proposed moritorium on heavy industry (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)
By Ralph Schwartz Local Government Reporter

County leaders decided not to hit the brakes on industrial development northwest of Bellingham.

A proposed yearlong moratorium on new development applications in heavy-industry zones near Bellingham International Airport failed in a 3–3 vote of the Whatcom County Council Tuesday, Oct. 24, after more than two hours of public testimony.

A tie defeated the measure because council member Kaylee Galloway abstained for reasons that weren’t immediately clear. Tyler Byrd, Ben Elenbaas and Kathy Kershner voted against the moratorium. 

“I don’t think that we just start putting moratoriums on parcels of land and expect that’s a good way to do land use,” Kershner said.

Council members Barry Buchanan, Todd Donovan and Carol Frazey voted in favor. Before the vote, Frazey argued for the moratorium.

photo  From left, council members Kathy Kershner, Kaylee Galloway, Barry Buchanan and Ben Elenbaas listen to the public’s thoughts on the proposed moratorium. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)  

“Let’s slow down,” she said. “Let’s allow the conversation to happen, allow the stakeholders to come forward, and just give it some time because it’s going to affect a big part of our community.”

The call for a moratorium on heavy industry was prompted by concerns over potential impacts to nearby residences. The historically industrial Alderwood area — which at one time included a cement factory, a company that treated utility poles and a fiberglass fabricator — had become increasingly residential in recent decades.

Those who spoke in favor of the moratorium at the hearing worried about heavy metal and other contaminants polluting the air and water in the Alderwood and Birchwood neighborhoods. Moratorium opponents spoke of the importance of the living-wage jobs industrial zones provide.

Much of the testimony focused on a metal shredding facility proposed by ABC Recycling on 19.7 acres adjacent to the old cement plant off Marine Drive.


photo  ABC Recycling Community Relations Manager Riley Sweeney speaks about the proposed metal shredder at the meeting. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)  

Many of the speakers at the hearing apparently didn’t realize the moratorium likely wouldn’t affect ABC Recycling. The company filed initial paperwork for their facility one day before the hearing, and before the moratorium would have taken effect. 

ABC Recycling spokesperson Riley Sweeney reminded attendees at the hearing that its metal shredder would be vested under current zoning — as long as it follows through and completes itts application — while acknowledging residents’ concerns. He said the company would hold community forums about the project in November and December, without giving specific dates.

After the meeting, South Hill resident Scott Jones said neighbors would remain vigilant over ABC Recycling’s activities. Jones has led opposition to the company’s activity at the Port of Bellingham shipping terminal, citing noise, and the potential for air and water pollution.

“We’re just getting started,” Jones said. “If the (metal shredding) project moves forward, we will work closely with the county and government agencies to make sure that all water, air and noise pollution is mitigated to the fullest extent possible.” 

This story will be updated.

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