It seems like lots of people want to move into Whatcom County to get away from urban life in other areas. I have bad news for these people. This area is already more urbanized than many would think. The western third of Whatcom County, where people live, is already quite developed. Maybe we should stop talking about our rural way of life.
If people realized how much of a city we have become, they would be less apt to move here, or at least they would be more prepared for urban lifestyles. Maybe they would ride the bus, rather than driving on our crowded roads, for instance.
It's better to make our urban areas work, rather than run from them. This includes urban Whatcom County.
Who's writing this?
The eastern two thirds of this county is a different story. If someone likes a bit of socialism, eastern Whatcom County is a success story in "growth control." People don't move there because the land is, basically, all owned by government. Managed by National Forest and Park services. Also steep mountainsides for building.
As for the western third of this county, sprawl is becoming a major issue. Spread out subdivisions, traffic, parking lots and strip malls. It's already in this area.
Most people say they don't like sprawl, but when north Americans live in an area, they usually bring it.
How can we prevent sprawl?
In my opinion, we have to change our thinking in order to accomplish this.
Ironically, people's love affair with the so called "country way of life" is a big part of this problem. Too much nostalgia for grandma's farm hurts us. It brings a flood of "gentleman farmers" into agricultural lands.
We should get out the word that Whatcom County is already quite urbanized. This will help to curb the flood of gentleman farmers.
It would reduce the flood of people and therefore protect more of the real farmlands. Yes we still do have some agricultural land in the county, but much of it is in danger.
Then again, reducing the flood could lead to local recession. That is if we go on living the way we are living now.
If a wall was built around this area, to keep newcomers out, it would be breached. People inside the wall would breach it for the sake of jobs. Construction is a big source of livelihood; especially now that Georgia Pacific has closed its pulp mill and Alcoa Intalco Aluminum works has laid off so many.
Construction, and engine of local employment.
People are employed building new houses for folks moving up here from California, and other places. This area's economy runs, in part, on inflated home equity. Quite a few folks, I know, have sold houses in California, moved up here, and retired at, say, age 50. Their home equity is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. They create jobs for contractors doing remolding of kitchens, baths, yards and so forth.
I think we have to realize that city life isn't all bad. Just to the north of us is a beautiful city; Vancouver, BC. That city has many examples of good planning. Planning can keep people in the city thus protecting rural areas.
Creating an environment where
the economy can function with less automobiles is crucial.
Share the road sign along
Birch Bay Drive.
We need to be growing up, instead of growing out; like an old advertisement for Grape Nuts Cereal said.
Say "good by" to grandma's farm. Leaving it will actually help us save it.
This area is already taking some steps toward smart growth. There is very interesting public discussion; at least. Bike lanes and green ways are sprouting as well.
Density needs to be encouraged; especially if it is done right. Find better ways to use space.
We need planning for living closer to work. Less car dependency.
How about a monorail system? Vancouver has one. It's called the Skytrain.
Urban parks and green ways play an important role in making cities livable.
Vancouver's "west end" is a densely populated neighborhood, yet most of the streets are quiet; very little traffic. People are out walking. It makes a big difference.
We don't even have to get as dense as Vancouver's west end. Just denser than much of our neighborhoods are now.
Does zoning, the way it's currently done, actually harm things?
Laws demanding "one to five acre lots" seem to bring nothing but "show boat homes." Ranch style living turning to sprawl. This isn't really farming.
Would the market, and builders, bring us better living, if only we were allowed to innovate? Reduced parking requirements? Community gardens versus required setbacks around all sides of each house?
How about clustering garages so more than one house can share a driveway? Less space devoted to driveways.
Mixed use zoning? Let the workplace be with-in walking distance of the home. Pedestrian advocacy organizations have a lot of good things to say about mixed use neighborhoods.
Where would you rather take a stroll? Past a boring mile of tract homes and big garages that all look alike?
How about stopping, for an ice-cream cone at a corner cafe, on your way to the park or museum?
Who wants to walk along a rural highway with no sidewalk and traffic screaming by at 60 mph?
Urbanization isn't all bad. As an area grows, it can become easier to live the lifestyles that are less harmful to our environment.
Public transit works better when things are a bit denser.
More cultural opportunities as well.
A better attitude toward Gay and Lesbian people. If the world was friendlier to various "non family with kids" lifestyles, population would not be such a problem.
The enemy is not necessarily builders, governments or Californians (who people like to scapegoat for moving here). It is our numbers and over consumptive lifestyles. It's what people feel they must do to earn a living.
We need growth to pay the bills;
at least the way people currently live. Maybe we can learn to live differently.
Growing up instead of out is a start.
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