F I N A L.     Enacted by
The Voters of the City of Bellingham
Proposed by The Initiative Group

City of Bellingham, WA

BY: ------- INITIATIVE to the PEOPLE. (Proposition One)
DATE: ----- NOVEMBER 2nd, 1999

AN ORDINANCE PROVIDING AUTHORIZATION FOR THE CITY OF BELLINGHAM TO COLLECT A WATER USE SURCHARGE ON UNMETERED AND METERED CONSUMERS OF CITY WATER, TO PROVIDE AN AGGREGATE AMOUNT OF REVENUES AT LEAST $4,000,000 EACH YEAR, THE PROCEEDS OF SUCH LEVY AND ANY INTEREST OR OTHER EARNINGS ON THESE PROCEEDS TO BE USED TO ACQUIRE, IMPROVE AND MAINTAIN INTERESTS IN REAL PROPERTY WITHIN THE WATERSHEDS WHICH CONTRIBUTE FLOW TO LAKE WHATCOM, FOR PROTECTION OF THE WATER SUPPLY AND ENHANCEMENT OF THE WATER QUALITY, AND PROVIDING FOR THE ISSUANCE OF SHORT-TERM OBLIGATIONS OR BONDS PENDING THE RECEIPT OF THOSE ADDITIONAL PROCEEDS.

WHEREAS, it is in the public interest and is an obligation and duty of the City of Bellingham to preserve the safety, quality and quantity of our water supply for present and future generations, and

WHEREAS, Lake Whatcom is the current sole source for the potable water (drinking-water) supply of the City and the surrounding regions and the only known feasible long-term source, and

WHEREAS, The City of Bellingham, Whatcom County and Water District 10 resolved in a 1992 joint resolution that the Lake Whatcom Watershed shall be designated a "Reservoir", and

WHEREAS, the City of Bellingham has recognized the need to furnish "ozonized" drinking-water directly to those users who have been identified with suppressed immune systems as a health risk, and

WHEREAS, pollution of the Reservoir results from the actions, both intentional and unintentional, of people within the hydrologic runoff capture basins of the Reservoir, and more people there will increase the pollution, and such pollution is known to have increased as the population and density has increased unless action for abatement is taken, and

WHEREAS, cleanup of polluted lands and waters in large scale is generally far more expensive than prevention, and

WHEREAS, the preservation of the Reservoir may be best implemented through a long term plan for public acquisition of properties in the Reservoir Watersheds, and

WHEREAS, it is broadly recognized that in a period of price inflation, buying early is financially advantageous to the buyer, and

WHEREAS, protection of the watershed and water supply are likely to benefit ecosystems in general, fish, wildlife, recreation, scenic quality and other resources and opportunities valued by the citizens of Bellingham and by other users, and

WHEREAS, it is broadly recognized that for effectiveness and economy of watershed protection, early action for habitat conservation, habitat recuperation, pollution prevention and management is preferred to later cleanup, and

WHEREAS, Lake Whatcom has been designated a "Shoreline of Statewide Significance", and has been cited under 303(d) regulations, and

WHEREAS, an acquisition program which maximizes the purchase of suitable properties within five years is desired, and

WHEREAS, it should be a goal of the City to manage acquired lands as both an ecological and an economic resource for community well-being, it is the intent of the City that management should attain third party ecological certification of forest products by a local certification organization accredited by the international Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and maintain such certification in perpetuity, so as to achieve the highest market value of such products, assure independent verification that exemplary forest management practices are taking place, and achieve civic pride in the management of the Watersheds, and

WHEREAS, the revenues expected to be derived from the forest products on the City-owned watershed lands should be used to enhance fish and wildlife habitat in regions and ways demonstrably related to the preservation or reforestation of the watershed, and

WHEREAS, it shall be the goal of the City to protect the potable water supply through purchase of certain land parcels in the Reservoir Watersheds which are subject to development;


NOW, THEREFORE, THE CITY OF BELLINGHAM DOES ORDAIN AS FOLLOWS:

Section 1.  Forested Watershed Protection Program.

The City of Bellingham ("the City"), hereby institutes in the year 2000 the Lake Whatcom Reservoir Forested Watershed Protection Program, ("the FWP program"), which shall act for the purpose of protection of the Watersheds and the water supply derived from them through acquisition and management of properties in the two Reservoir watersheds by acquiring and managing title to, or development rights for, or conservation easements on, or other means of restricting use of, real property within the Reservoir Watersheds. All purchases within the FWP program shall be individually approved by a majority vote of the Bellingham City Council.

Section 2.  New Funding by Water Users.

Water users' bills collected by the City shall incorporate a new user-fee surcharge (levy) to fund this program and its administration. These funds shall be solely dedicated to the FWP program, as will any interest or other earnings on these proceeds.

The surcharge for unmetered users shall be established as a flat-rate per billing period.

The surcharge for metered users shall be established as the greater of the same minimum flat-rate set for unmetered users per billing period, or rates based on actual use measured in ccft (hundred cubic feet volume) and varying according to consumption below or above the established break-point (a usage volume considered by the City to represent ordinary maximum consumption).

The surcharge rates shall be established by the City so as to provide at least four million dollars per year ($4,000,000.00/year) aggregate gross revenues. This surcharge shall remain in effect for 20 years; renewable thereafter by ordinance.

(a) Water users' bills collected by the City, except as specified below, shall incorporate surcharges to fund this program. The surcharge rates shall be established by the City every two years following a Public Hearing held for this exclusive purpose:
  (a)(1)  each unmetered water user shall pay a flat-rate surcharge of no greater than $12.00 per month.
  (a)(2)  each metered water user shall pay a minimum surcharge no less than $6.00 and no greater than $12.00 per month.
  (a)(3)  each metered water user with low flows (not exceeding the current breakpoint ccft/month) shall pay the minimum or a usage surcharge no less than $0.04 and no greater than $0.10 per hundred cubic feet for consumption below the breakpoint.
  (a)(4)  each metered water user with high flows (exceeding the current breakpoint ccft/month) shall pay the minimum or the low-flow surcharge as established in the preceding subsections for consumption below the breakpoint, plus a usage surcharge no less than $0.02 and no greater than $0.07 per hundred cubic feet for consumption above the breakpoint.

(b)Upon approval by the Watershed Commission (see Section 6.) of application, exemptions may be granted to:
  (b)(1)  those households owned and occupied as principal residence by senior citizens who qualify under applicable Washington State property tax exemption, valid while the property is so occupied,
  (b)(2)  those households found to merit relief from financial burden according to standards to be established for this purpose by the Commission and ratified by resolution of the City Council, and
  (b)(3)  those residences whose utilities are themselves funded by the City through social services agencies.

Section 3.  Funding by Direct Revenue.

Funds derived from sale of properties and from other beneficial uses of the resources on acquired properties shall be utilized only by the FWP program.

Section 4.  Funding by Other Sources.

The City shall seek and utilize, to the greatest extent possible, State and Federal grants, other City funds, and other funding sources to complement, accelerate and expand the acquisition of properties within the FWP program area and management of the program. Issuance of municipal bonds to accelerate early acquisition of available high priority properties is permitted and should be given significant consideration. FWP Program funds may be used to secure, for interest payments on, and to retire bonds.

Section 5.  New Administrative Duties.

The City, to establish the Lake Whatcom Drinking-Water Reservoir Forested Watershed Protection Program, shall assign to a single suitable department the responsibility and authority to direct the FWP program and its funds, consistent with the usual authority of a City department.

Section 6.  New Commission Created.

The City shall establish a Lake Whatcom Drinking-Water Reservoir Watershed Citizens' Commission (the "Watershed Commission"), composed of eleven volunteer members who shall serve without compensation, hold monthly meetings open to the public and serve a three-year term with one re-appointment permitted; terms will be staggered.

Members shall be nominated by the Mayor and appointed by the City Council.

Membership shall be open to registered voters resident in households which are subject to the water user surcharge and otherwise qualified by rules on citizen commissions. Members shall be selected to maximize the inclusion of individuals representing a broad scope of community concerns, and with suitable background and experience, one member representing each of the following interest areas: residents within the watershed, habitat conservation tax-exempt organizations such as the Audubon Society, civic organizations such as The League of Women Voters, public health, public safety, parks and recreation, sustainable forestry management, wood products, appraiser or realtor or broker, Chamber of Commerce, and the Visitors' Bureau.

The Watershed Commission shall report to the Mayor, and deliver activity reports quarterly to the Mayor and the Council on a schedule to be proposed by the Mayor and ratified by the Council.

The principal responsibility of The Watershed Commission shall be to provide oversight to the Watershed Program, to represent the public interest in propriety, efficacy and efficiency in achievement of the goals of the program specified in this ordinance, including as a check on selection and disposition of parcels and ratification of acquisitions by the Council. For the purposes of price negotiations for purchase, lease or sale, the Watershed Commission may meet in Executive Session as customarily defined for legislative bodies in this state, provided, however, that the reports of all agreements finalized in Executive Session shall be made public immediately thereafter.

Additional duties shall be to consider, and when in the public interest recommend to the City the optional use of, and disposition of, properties as allowed by the other sections of this ordinance;

Additional duties and activities of the Watershed Commission and the Forested Watershed Protection Program (FWP Program) shall include but not be limited to:
  (a) pre-acquisition policy activities emphasizing use of public hearings to set the general criteria to be used to judge and prioritize the acquisitions; and
  (b) acquisition activities including promotion, appraisal and price, purchase and acquisition, coordination with nature conservancies, land trusts and similar organizations, and County, State and Federal agencies; and
  (c) Management activities to include maintenance, upkeep, security, insurance, salvage removal, lease and rental management, revenue from property and land management, sales and abatement of structures, recreation and tourism, compliance with endangered species listings, fisheries issues and water diversion issues.

Section 7.  Usage of Acquired Properties, after purchase.

  (a)  The City shall be constrained in utilization of properties acquired by whatever means within the FWP program area, regardless of municipal jurisdiction, and shall implement this constraint via imposition of covenants on land titles of properties as acquired. Prohibited uses of, and actions on, acquired FWP Program properties shall be:
  (a)(1)  commercial, industrial or institutional development on FWP Program properties, except for small-scale research or educational facilities shall be prohibited,
  (a)(2)  new residential development on FWP Program properties shall be prohibited,
  (a)(3)  subdivision and new roadways, except as incidental to allowed uses specified as follows in this section on FWP Program properties shall be prohibited,
  (a)(4)  clearcut logging, and logging on FWP Program properties in a manner to cause pollution of Lake Whatcom shall be prohibited.
  (a)(5)  the City and it's agents shall be prohibited from mineral extraction on FWP Program properties.

  (b)  Only the following acceptable uses shall be allowed, and each property shall be brought into compliance in the priority indicated:
  (b)(1)  Properties acquired by or managed by the FWP program shall be restored to and managed as a native forest ecosystem suited to the site conditions, except as specified in the remainder of this section; permitted logging will be restricted to specialty harvests or removal. As a goal, any timber harvest pursued in the watershed shall seek forestry practices certification equal to or ecologically better than those described by the Forest Stewardship Council program.
  (b)(2)  The Watershed Commission may, with justification, direct that a property may be alternatively utilized in compliance with characteristics equivalent to Whatcom County zoning class "ROS" (Reserved Open Space) lands without development, after demonstration that such use is consistent with the intent and purposes of the FWP Program;
  (b)(3)  The Watershed Commission may, with justification, direct that a property may be alternatively used for recreation, research or education with minimal facilities , after demonstration that such use is consistent with the intent and purposes of the FWP Program;
  (b)(4)  The Watershed Commission may, with justification, direct that a property may be used for city utilities or other public utilities and services (as power, communications and pipeline routes, public health and safety), after demonstration of gross civic need which may include significant financial advantage to the City, and where the construction and maintenance of such facilities will have negligible impact on public health and safety, or surface or subsurface water quality. The FWP Program may expend Program funds in association with such circumstances, such as for condominium fees for properties acquired.

Section 8.  Sale of Acquired Properties.

  (a)  The City shall be constrained in disposition of title or rights to properties acquired by any means within the FWP program area; prohibited dispositions shall be:
  (a)(1)  sale for development, for building, for speculative resale, or for commercial use, shall be prohibited;
  (a)(2)  sale without binding covenants prohibiting future development for building, for speculative resale, or for commercial use, shall be prohibited;
  (a)(3)  sale or assignment of rights for uses of the property which are not consistent with the intent and purposes of the FWP Program, shall be prohibited;
  (a)(4)  sale of resources derived from the properties except certified forest products, individual tree harvests, and value recovery from structures being removed, and as otherwise permitted by this ordinance, shall be prohibited.

  (b)  The City shall be permitted dispositions only for:
  (b)(1)  lot consolidation with adjacent developed single-family residence parcels is permitted only with a covenant prohibiting an additional structure or other development which would increase population density, and
  (b)(2)  eminent domain proceedings against the City by the County, State or Federal governments, or other jurisdictions.

  (c)  Revenue from the sale of acquired properties shall be solely rededicated to the FWP program.

Section 9.  Changes in Use of Acquired Properties Mandated.

The City shall be required, within 5 years of its acquisition, to convert each previously developed property acquired by the FWP program into compliance with permitted uses as established elsewhere in this ordinance, first priority being to forest. Such conversion shall include removal of non-compliant impervious surfaces and structures, disposition of which may be by demolition or by sale at auction for removal, and may include relocation and renovation of utilities. Proceeds of such sales shall be rededicated solely to the FWP program, and costs of such removals may be borne by the program.

Section 10.  Priority of Properties to Acquire.

The City, in implementation of the FWP program, shall be directed by the Watershed Commission to show diligence in first purchasing properties following consideration of these factors, such being interpreted as non-binding intent conditioned on opportunity and available funds:
  (a)  The sub-watershed Basin into which the runoff discharges, favoring properties in basins 1 and 2;
  (b)  The distance from the center of identified streams, favoring properties closer to streams;
  (c)  The distance from the lakeshore, favoring properties closer to the lakeshore;
  (d)  Designated Bellingham Urban Growth Areas, favoring properties outside before property within such areas;
  (e)  Current land use status, favoring undeveloped property before developed property;
  (f)  Current ownership, favoring property held by speculators, developers or individuals before those held in trust by civic organizations; and
  (g)  Other priorities as established by the Watershed Commission, implementing the intent of the FWP program to expend the majority of the funds collected within one year after collection.

Section 11.  Notification to Property Owners.

The City shall at least twice yearly deliver a written notification of the FWP program to property owners within the watershed, restating the offer to purchase such properties. Such notice may be included with the water bill, publications such as the "Water-Whys" of the City of Bellingham Public Works Department, general-circulation print news media or by direct mailing. The notice shall include a summary report of total land purchased to date under the FWP Program, and totals of money collected, used for acquisition and for administration.

Section 12.  Severability and Construction.

The provisions of this Ordinance are severable. If any provision of this Ordinance or its application to any person or circumstance should be held invalid, declared to be unconstitutional or inapplicable, it shall not affect the constitutionality or applicability of any other provision of this Ordinance and the application of the provision to other persons or circumstances is not affected.

-- finis --




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