Larry Farr

Bellingham City Council Ward 3

 

1. Do you believe the business community should have an equal seat at the table with other interest groups (neighborhoods, environmental community, etc) in discussing the future growth of Bellingham? Why or why not?

Absolutely!!! The business community should provide the basis for our economy and our economy is key to the infrastructure for our on-going support and the future growth of our community. To not bring the business community to the table is an error that has gone on for long enough. Small business, large business, light industry all provide the affordable wage jobs, and a tax base we need in our community. The Bellingham City Council must include the business community in the development of our goals and work plan.

The Bellingham City Council also needs to actively recruit business that will provide opportunities for our community. We must seek our marine, ecological, technological, tourism, training, processing, manufacturing businesses that will support our progress and provide for continuum of jobs in our community. This crosses all aspects to include manufacturing, light industrial and not just specific to the service delivery. We need additional business opportunities to continue our successful growth, which is inevitable. Let’s address this now and not just wait to see what happens.

 

2. Are you supportive of the current Port/City partnership and their vision for redeveloping the New Whatcom Site? Please explain.

Yes and No.

Yes, I agree that the City/Port partnership must exist for the successful redevelopment of the New Whatcom Site. Both have huge responsibility as we reestablish the property on our shoreline. Someone once stated that the Bay use to be our backdoor and now it has become our front porch. This concept becomes critical for the city and the port and how we work together.

Across the nation there are few places that have the opportunity, on the waterfront of a city, to develop jobs, tourism, recreational access, maritime trade, education and research, and housing as we do now. This partnership must work together for success, and include the community members who make up what we call “the port” and “the city.”

Am I in favor of the vision that has been initially developed? Yes and No. There needs to be a broader recruitment of ideas to look at the potential regarding what we do with the property and how it is best utilized for the future. This discussion is too important to not look at all the potential and a broader scope of potential partners for the site. This has happened on limited basis with the community but the business side of the development has not been as present as I would like. We have rough idea of the layout of the property and good minds have contributed to this design, but we are not there yet and the vision at this point needs additional input from groups that represent the potential uses of New Whatcom.

 

3. When it comes to land use planning, should Bellingham work more closely with Whatcom County and other municipalities in the County? If so, how?

Yes, for a long time there has been this unspoken rift between the Mayor of Bellingham and County Executive, and this needs to stop. The planning and public works departments of the County and the Municipalities work very well together, but the leadership needs to step up and speak to the develop a land-use plan that includes all of Whatcom County. The Growth Management Act spells out our targets and how we “manage” the Growth Management Act will be critical to our success in land use planning. Leadership needs to get together with the community, and really listen to what is being said, with the goal of managing what is happening in our county, in our cities and in our neighborhoods.

 

4. Do you support efforts to limit the height of future development in the Fairhaven Business District to two stories? Why or why not?

No, I have never believed that a two story height restriction is good for the continued development to of the Fairhaven business district. This is contrary to the existing structures and to the potential for the residential and business community’s on-going development. We have a unique opportunity to establish a premier location in the northwest and to place a blanket limit on height restrictions in this area is under-serving those who live in and use Fairhaven. This is not about my view versus your view, this is about the potential for the future, both for residential and for business.

Do I want 50 story buildings in Fairhaven, no, but to limit the future development to two stories is not in the best interest. As the neighborhood review is underway, let’s look at the potential of what we would like to see Fairhaven become, then plan well for that goal.

 

5. Do you support the Shoreline Master Plan currently being proposed by City Staff? Please explain.

No, not in the Shoreline Master Plans current form. The current plan is written in such a way that the restrictions on the land owners are too excessive, limiting personal property use should be considered very closely in relationship to what is needed to protect the shoreline, of both our tributaries, the lakes and the waterfront. This plan, hastily written, creates regulations that will be detrimental to the property owners unnecessarily. It creates buffer zones in all areas that are unrealistic and the plan is full of contingencies that will restrict what our community, both environmentally and individually will struggle with. The plan should have been written earlier with solid input from all the community, environmental groups, residents, property owners, and business. In its current form it creates a state of chaos that will end up in litigation.

Is a master plan needed… absolutely…but let’s do it right.

 

6. What, in your opinion, is the primary cause of the decrease in the actual number of Whatcom County residents between the ages of 30 to 39 (primary working age) since 1996?

Lack of livable wage jobs, combined with affordable housing. We do not offer the salaries for this age group to remain in Whatcom County and purchase a home. Whatcom County offers three of the finest education institutions in the northwest and we bring students in from around the world to learn. As they finish they cannot find a position where they can begin to build for their future, and they must leave. We have jobs, but we do not offer positions of employment that they become successful in and stay when they want to establish a family and put down roots. This age group is our future, having families and continuing on. I have two children in their early 20’s and our community does not offer the entry level professional positions available that can sustain a household on one income and still provide for a family. In the 30 to 39 age range, these positions are few, and this is due to our lack of business recruitment and development in our community. We need to actively recruit and develop business for our future.

 

7. Are you supportive of efforts to promote infill development in the City of Bellingham? If so, what measures would you propose to accomplish this?

In-fill is a part of our urban growth plan and is worthy of support as long as it is done wisely. There are appropriate places and target populations that will respond to infill, while we must also protect the heritage of our community neighborhoods, where infill does not make sense. Bellingham must provide a continuum of housing opportunities for those just starting out, for those who are raising a family and desire property, and for those professionals, singles, early retirees, and elderly who desire a more urban setting. The “Honey I Shrunk the Lots” concepts of infill are worthy of consideration and development in areas targeted for infill, but we must also maintain the unique character of our larger lot size neighborhood areas. Infill development is a very positive step for the community, if done in the correct areas and in the correct way.

Yes, I am supportive of the efforts to promote infill…as long as it is done correctly. In a recent planning department document, the plan came to the parking commission with huge gaps in the parking requirements, this creates a difficulty for the entire community and must be revisited, not just rubber stamped and moved forward. Opening up the discussions to the neighborhood is a must. This is happening more and more, and needs to continue as a part of the planning process as we plan for urban growth and the potential for in-fill.

 

8. What do you believe is the primary pollution issue in Lake Whatcom, and how do you propose to address it?

The biggest pollutant to Lake Whatcom is the day to day lifestyles of the individuals residing around the lake and the answer is found in many responses.

As much as we would like to have one “quick fix” to provide the solution, the Lake will need to be protected by those who surround the lake and use the lake, through a series of responses. Unless we go to a desalination water plant (which would cost billions), we as a community need to respond to the need to protect the lake. Through the development and enforcement of regulations (such as the boat motor bans and the joint resolution written in 1992), through continued purchase of steep property that has no control of run-off, proper drainage control , development of multiple “mini” run-off gardens that can work to hold and clean the pollutants before they get to the lake. This combined with education and community investment in our source of water, which is critical to all our lives, must be enhanced. Keep in the lake clean is all our responsibility and there is no “one” fix.

As a member of the Bellingham City Council I will work to ensure the safety or our lake through community involvement and support of a multiple approaches for the protection of Lake Whatcom.

 

9. Should all businesses in Bellingham be treated equally by the City, regardless of whether or not they are locally owned? Why or why not?

Yes, business should be treated equally by the City.

Locally owned is a good thing to be supported and I am a member of Sustainable Connections and the Buy Local Campaign… but I also founded the Downtown Renaissance Network to encourage business development and local support of all kinds of businesses. Sure I prefer locally owned, but there are not enough local businesses to always provide for the spectrum and infrastructure we will need for our continued development (as stated above).

Should business be all treated equally, yes, within the logic that businesses are not always equal, and to say fit into a specific mold does not always make sense. Business is made up of a variety of single ownership, partnership, LLC, S corporations, Profit corporations, and not for profit corporations. Each has unique characteristics in their legal status as well as in their product or service delivery. Business is regulated by numerous entities and to say that they must all be and do the same things is ridiculous. As a city though, there should be an equal approach to business in recruitment, incentive and retention.

 

10. If elected, what do you propose to do to interact on a regular basis with the Bellingham business community?

I will continue to be a member of the Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Renaissance Network and Sustainable Connections. Each of these organizations, as well as many others are venues for the business community to come together and discuss their concerns. Active participation and an open door policy to discuss business opportunity, need, and development must be a part of what is done by our city council members. My record is one that stands on working with the community, and I will continue to do this and to work to bring in additional business to support our infrastructure. My focus is to continue to work hard to make Bellingham the most livable city in America. A place that my family, my children and my soon to be grandson can call home. Developing jobs and resources that can provide for our safe growth, while protecting the beauty that surrounds us (and makes us want to live here), is my goal on the Bellingham City Council.

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