Sunday, February 26, 2006

Wacky Weather

The weather this winter has been wacky. No one with credentials is blaming global warming, but I have a hunch we may be in for wacky weather and early hurricane seasons for the foreseeable future.

The fruit trees in the Yakima Valley began budding a couple of weeks ago which is extremely early. It means that orchard heaters will have to run from now until spring in order to ensure that the frost doesn’t ruin this season’s crop.

I can see where a combination of Global Warming and Peak Oil may cause the cost of Washington fruit to soar.

Of course the organic apples which are readily available in “the Burg” actually come from New Zealand. I have no idea how the weather in New Zealand is behaving.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

City Planning

It is my second quarter as adjunct professor here at Central. The logistics alone can be a lot of work. This quarter I have the students putting together a tabloid newspaper section exploring the ramifications of the Comprehensive Growth and Development plan on which the city is currently working. It is of interest to me as it will determine the direction of growth for the City of Ellensburg.

There are four scenarios proposed by the consultants. Scenario #1 allows for large retail only in the downtown area. Scenario #2 does not allow for large retail. Scenario #3 allows for large retail development at the west interchange. Scenario #4 allows for large retail development at the south interchange.

I have attended a couple of meetings in regards to the city planning. The first of which was put on by a group called Citizens Against Sprawl. Citizens against sprawl is pushing for Scenario #1 and as far as I know is the only citizens group with an agenda in this debate. The reasoning of CAS is that growth is inevitable, but should be restricted to downtown.

The second meeting I attended was a city council study session. The study sessions allow for citizen questions and comments. As far as I can tell CAS members are attending the study sessions in order to influence the city council via questions and comments.

I tend to lean more towards Scenario #2 which is basically the same plan which was laid down in 1995 and limits the size of downtown retail outlets. I don’t think that big box stores anywhere in town are a great idea.

It begs the question of where and how do people shop. Is it better to have large retail downtown and save people from having to drive to Yakima or Seattle to do their shopping? What about peak oil? In the long term are big box stores going to survive peak oil? Will the goods become too expensive for consumers?

Chevron ran an ad in the latest issue of the New Yorker in which they alluded to the fact that we are past peak oil already. I don’t know that the current city council has taken this into consideration. I do know that all the scenarios are based on driving as the primary method of transportation.

(Scenarios #1, #2, and possibly #4 will work for me in regards to biking access from my current residence.)

There have also been allegations that the placement of the retail properties especially at the south interchange has been heavily influenced by private land owners. It seems that those with a financial interest are making sure they provide input.

We’ll let things play out and see what happens. I am curious to see what the students are able to put together. I am also curious to see which Scenario the city will choose and what the ramifications of that decision will be.