If you want to open a can of worms, then read on, as many from the 2003 ‘Comp Plan’ Committee will attest – “there are as many opinions as there are worms”. The point of this post is not to preach an outcome, or even to question our personal preferences, but merely to continue a dialog started over 10 years ago by our neighbors who volunteered two years of their time in intensive discussion on this very subject. The Citizens Committee consisted of 24 islanders from all walks of life who gathered the communities voice all along the way, debated the issues of the day and influenced the current planning documents that guide us.
Without digging too deeply into our current Sub Area Plan, adopted in 2003 and updated in 2009, it’s important to understand how ‘Preserving our Rural Character’ is based on current land use, zoning, population trends, and key components of the plan which identifies three main factors that restrict future growth on the island – build-able lots, water resources, and ferry capacity.
The plan discusses the context for growth and its related impacts on the island, identifies
potential strategies and techniques to preserve the rural character and mitigate the impacts
of growth. It concludes by laying out clear policies to guide the implementation steps
necessary to achieve the vision outlined by the community. [Comp Plan 2009]
I encourage you to read, or at least browse the current plan before reading further.
Ben Frerichs and I presented a demographic and land use study to a group of 62 islanders on Sep 24th at the LICA (Lummi Is. Comunity Assn) potluck going back to 1990 and looking forward to 2025. Several main points emerged about how we have grown in the last 24 years.
- We have become much older as a population (from 35 to 55 years old on average).
- We have 1/3 fewer families with children (born out by census and declining school enrollments)
- We are a wealthier population (growing as much as 40% faster than Whatcom County)
- We continue to double our population during the ‘Summer Peak’ season as in the past.
- 50% of all lots now have a dwelling unit on them.
All of these indicators point to us becoming a retirement/tourist community with fewer working families and a likelihood of continuing that until the constraints on growth dominate that trend. Those constraining variables were well described in the Comp Plan and continue to play the dominant force in how we will evolve.
- Maximum build-out on existing lots has reached the midpoint of development under current zoning laws.
- With a current population of about 1,000, and double that in the summer, we are approaching the maximum ability of our current water supply [aquifer and surface water] during peak periods of demand.
- Our current 20 car ferry (Whatcom Chief) and crew continue to provide excellent service to islanders during off-peak times of the year and continues to struggle to meet demand during summer peaks, when population doubles.
The long and the short of all this discussion is setting the stage for both LIFAC Subcommittees to produce recommendations for how Whatcom County deals with replacing the Whatcom Chief sometime in the future. I’ll stop here for today, but would like to provoke some additional discussion on how you view the ferry as one of those ‘limiting’ factors in the list given above. I’m sure some would be happy to have Lummi stay just the way it is, or even was in past years, and probably an equal number would be just as happy returning to a younger more diverse population of just 20 years ago.
Some additional food for thought here could focus on how you think additional unknowns will play out. These will likely include, but not be limited to the following:
- Climate Change ‘Refugees’ coming from a dryer Southwest, and flood prone Eastern Seaboard.
- Immigration from abroad and more Canadian ownership of island properties (currently less than 10%)
- Effects of Baby Boomers retiring to Lummi Island over the next 20 years
Where do you think Lummi Island will be in 20-40 years and is that a good or bad thing?