“Did you know about the old coal-mine shaft below Holly and Railroad?” mayoral candidate Dan McShane asks.
Explaining how one day, tomorrow or a hundred years from now, the shaft could collapse and drop the surface a foot and a half, McShane says it’s his job to tell property owners the lay of the land.
He says owning and operating the Stratum Group, a geo-technical consulting company, gives him firsthand experience with the issues facing the Bellingham business community.
McShane says every election cycle brings talk of rolling back Bellingham’s business and operating tax, but the city just can’t afford to lose $12 million from its general fund. However, he proposes the city can lessen the burden of the B and O tax on local businesses by giving a tax break to businesses in their first year.
“I know from my company that the B and O tax, because it is based on gross revenue, is a bit of a hit when you’re trying to build up your reserves for cash flow,” McShane says. “The reality is that we might be able to tweak the B and O tax to make it a little more friendly for businesses just starting out.”
What Bellingham policy makers need to do is make sure taxes are spent on services and infrastructure that make businesses work, McShane says. Although businesses may be tempted to move to cities with no B and O tax, Bellingham provides cost-lowering services those other cities can’t. He cited Aluminum Chambered Boats’ decision to stay in Bellingham after considering any money saved by moving to Ferndale’s zero rate would go toward higher insurance premiums.
Concerning geographic growth, McShane says he’s listened to council members from the county and the city propose expanding Bellingham’s Urban Growth Area (UGA) by zero to 25 percent, but he says the city should only need a 10 percent increase. Even though he’s not entirely thrilled with it, he says some expansion is necessary. McShane agrees with the county council’s recommendation to expand the UGA out to King Mountain. He describes it as a modest expansion that would not affect forest or farmland.
He wants to increase existing density caps to 24 units an acre while including mixed and light industrial uses in the UGA. He also says reevaluating how the city calculates park and greenway acreage is another option. Some parkland that has been set aside is technically outside the UGA and therefore doesn’t count toward the parks and greenway requirements even though the acreage still serves the Bellingham community.
“If we do all that, we don’t have to expand the UGA at all,” McShane says. “There is a lot of cost and inefficiency associated with just continuing to expand, and what we can do is a better job of identifying places for redevelopment in the city.”
McShane says he wants to create an Office of Neighborhoods to help neighborhoods develop infill strategies. He uses changes proposed by the York neighborhood where he lives to illustrate the challenges facing local districts. Developers there would need to demolish three houses to build four condos according to the neighborhood’s zoning requirements. Although he and others in the community thought lowering the zoning requirements was a good idea, they didn’t want the entire community subject to haphazard development. As a compromise, they identified two areas that would not affect the neighborhood’s single-housing characteristic.
“I’m talking about my own individual neighborhood. I can think about this kind of stuff because I know about my neighbors and what we have as values,” McShane says. “A really engaged neighborhood can really think through some creative ideas.”
Dan McShane Bio
Name: Dan McShane
Neighborhood: The York neighborhood for 17 years.
Family: Wife Lisa for 25 years; two children, daughter Raven and son Will.
Education: Bachelor of Science in geology in 1983 at WWU; teacher’s certificate in 1984; Master of Science in Geology in 1989 at WWU.
Work background: Founded the Stratum Group Inc. nine years ago; taught for seven years in public schools; served two terms for the Whatcom County Council starting in 2000.
Total contributions: $31,300