Chuckanut Ridge: Good Deal, Bad Deal?Permalink +
Sun, Sep 25, 2011, 11:59 pm // Tip Johnson
For thirty years the City has created an expensive problem by adopting and defending inappropriate zoning for Chuckanut Ridge. It was adopted without any of the reviews and notifications that normally precede this exercise of police power. No one except a few realtors, the owners, and maybe a couple attorneys knew about it for years. And it wasn't the only such zoning secret. Such anomalies would gradually prove poisonous to the public trust in City planning that had been painstakingly built during the evolution of the first Comprehensive Plan and it's neighborhood approach.
When a project was proposed fifteen years later, the community first learned the awful fact of the zoning. A property the CIty had recently appraised at slightly over $3M suddenly boasted an asking price of over $20M. Developers taunted, "We bought density." The huge increase was based solely on zoning termed "a mystery at best" by one of the City's lead planners at the time.
CItizens and neighbors rose to the challenge. They passed levies in hopes of acquiring the property, to no avail. A battle of locally epic proportion was waged while the City, inexplicably, advantaged the project at every turn. At great expense to themselves, citizens defeated the project - almost twice - except it finally defeated itself. Environmental review showed it unfeasible and the economy turned. The City finally had an opportunity and took it. They paid a high price - a fitting end for having created the phantom value. Now, how can we learn from it?
Today the City considers selling parts of this property to pay off value that never should have existed. With all due respect, it's a foolhardy aim. Just review the DEIS. Should the City tread the development quagmire that took down one of Bellingham's most established developers and a bank?
I made the same mistake. I theoretically parceled out 15 acres along Chuckanut Drive to consider for development - development in close proximity to services, in keeping with neighborhood character, not overburdening the bridge, not compromising school safety or emergency access. I considered 20 or so prime southside lots that might fetch nearly $4M, if they could be marketed. Then I overlaid the topography and wetlands. Less than half these units could actually be placed. I looked at how to get the rest. The same tar pit that plagued the owners prevailed. You can't punch roads without compromising wetlands. Wooded hilltops, sensitive slopes, and critical habitat must be compromised - all contrary to existing policies.
Yet, abstractly, the model has merit. The City should be able to buy strategic properties for public purposes, plat some development parcels to pay the freight, and preserve most. It's far better than handing unrealistic entitlements out to developers like candy on credit and scrambling to prevent catastrophies. It's just not going to work here. It's too late. The value is all phony. The City made it's mark and tainted the opportunity. But the model could work if we had good neighborhood-based planning. And therein lies the rub.
Trust has eroded. A comprehensive plan designed, ahead of its time, for neighborhood based planning was stripped of power, neighborhood goals, policies and objectives routinely trammelled. After decades of anticipating the daylighting of Padden Creek to improve fish habitat, we see planners recommend density that will turn it into a storm sewer instead. Wetlands and other critical areas are routinely developed. Time and again development forces stable neighborhoods into transition - around the University, in Birchwood, Happy Valley - everywhere. Look at the base of Alabama Hill. That's bad planning, and costs taxpayers money. Citizens do not trust the City to make good planning decisions.
Let me underscore this point: Bad City planning created the problem at Chuckanut Ridge and today undermines the public's trust in creative solutions to better planning. Today's proposal makes a mockery of the Greenways Levies that featured this acquisition and of citizens' efforts to save the property. It continues the mockery of neighborhood planning, upon which our Comprehensive Plan is supposedly based. Moreover, it is doomed to failure. There's nothing to get. The reason this property has remained undeveloped to this day is because it is essentially not developable.
In any case, if we are looking to cover shortfalls or even leverage gains in Greenways, we would more profitably and more equitably look at all Greenways together. Let's reasonably assess which might best be developed and assist with funding. Which do not compromise ecosystems, or parkland integrity, require little infrastructure, fit with neighborhood plans? Where is our best bang for the buck? Don't fixate on one property with such well documented development problems and a record of failure. Take a look around. There may be many good options.
But before we even try, let's start by restoring the neighborhood-based planning we agreed to thirty years ago, as the very purpose of our Comprehensive Plan is still expressed, even if not practiced. Let's use our land-use authorities to first help people put down roots and build community. Then help us make it even better. Let's not just build, let's build community. The cut and run development we have encouraged is the cause of expensive municipal problems - like Chuckanut Ridge. Good neighborhood-based planning is the cure.
Give it a try. Heck, we live here!
Fri, May 17, 2013, 4:44 pm // John ServaisTuesday morning and nothing in today's Bellingham Herald. Nor online. We provide the basics to fill in this latest omission by our "daily" newspaper.
4 comments; last on May 17, 2013
Thu, May 16, 2013, 11:55 am // Wendy HarrisThe public process on the revised waterfront plans is an empty charade
1 comments; last on May 17, 2013
Wed, May 15, 2013, 10:23 pm // Wendy HarrisThe political censor police are listening to you
5 comments; last on May 16, 2013
Mon, May 13, 2013, 2:50 am // Dick ConoboySome very important issues with respect to the University Ridge private dormitory project in the Puget Neighborhood will not be considered in the approval process.
6 comments; last on May 17, 2013
Fri, May 10, 2013, 9:22 am // Wendy HarrisThe City Planning Commission Advocates "Free Market Capitalism" Approach to Waterfront Planning.
1 comments; last on May 12, 2013
Thu, May 09, 2013, 11:07 pm // Wendy HarrisA recent letter by the Parks Department fails to contain reassurance that the geese will be safe from extermination this year.
Wed, May 08, 2013, 8:53 am // Dick ConoboyAmbling University Development has proposed building private, off-campus dormitory buildings in the Puget Neighborhood. Their revised proposal was submitted on 29 April.
Mon, May 06, 2013, 1:40 am // Guest writerPaul deArmond is remembered by his sister Claire. He was a Republican-at-Large.
2 comments; last on May 08, 2013
Sun, May 05, 2013, 2:45 pm // John ServaisHelp fund a scientific study looking for links between diesel locomotives, coal trains and unhealthy air.
Sat, May 04, 2013, 12:09 pm // Guest writerWendy Scherrer reminds all who support modest sized grade schools to try and attend the meeting Wed, May 8, in the evening.
3 comments; last on May 10, 2013
Fri, May 03, 2013, 10:16 pm // Wendy HarrisThe Humane Society is bringing herding dogs to control Silver Lake geese, but it is not an optimal situation for success.
Wed, May 01, 2013, 10:31 pm // Wendy HarrisThe County Parks Department has allocated funding for playground equipment, but has not allocated funding for wildlife management planning.
1 comments; last on May 03, 2013
Sun, Apr 28, 2013, 9:30 pm // John ServaisNew York Times columnist, Paul Krugman, has a masterful short article that explains why austerity is not working.
2 comments; last on May 02, 2013
Wed, Apr 24, 2013, 6:05 pm // Wendy HarrisThe only urgency underscored by the Silver Lake geese is the urgency of enacting a comprehensive wildlife strategy.
4 comments; last on Apr 29, 2013
Wed, Apr 24, 2013, 10:58 am // John ServaisThe Gristle in today's Cascadia Weekly is devoted to a tribute to Paul de Armond. Tim Johnson gets it right.
Mon, Apr 22, 2013, 5:52 am // Riley SweeneyRiley attends Tea Party training and runs afoul of Rep. Overstreet
1 comments; last on Apr 22, 2013
Sun, Apr 21, 2013, 12:59 pm // John ServaisWell known political writer has died.
5 comments; last on Apr 23, 2013
Sat, Apr 20, 2013, 10:52 am // Wendy HarrisThere will be no due process for the Canada geese, or the public, before the County Parks Department lethally removes the geese from Silver Lake
4 comments; last on Apr 24, 2013
Sat, Apr 13, 2013, 8:19 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein we see how the Ds do the work the Rs can't get away with
7 comments; last on Apr 17, 2013
Sat, Apr 13, 2013, 2:47 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein the people who call capping a clean-up say toxics safe enough for day care.
1 comments; last on Apr 25, 2013
Wed, Apr 10, 2013, 10:24 pm // Wendy HarrisThe Waterfront District Sub-Area Plan needs policies that favor adaptive reuse and preservation of historic waterfront structures
Mon, Apr 08, 2013, 11:56 am // Tip JohnsonWherein we complain about the City and Port stealing from the public
6 comments; last on Apr 13, 2013
Sat, Apr 06, 2013, 2:59 pm // Dick ConoboyDangerous fireworks likely to continue being sold in Bellingham for this 4th of July
1 comments; last on Apr 06, 2013
Sat, Apr 06, 2013, 1:06 pm // Wendy HarrisThe city's proposed new Economic Development Chapter is based on an outdated economic theory
1 comments; last on Apr 06, 2013
Fri, Apr 05, 2013, 3:59 pm // Wendy HarrisNew slaughterhouse proposal "wishes away" current agricultural zoning restrictions.
10 comments; last on Apr 21, 2013
Thu, Apr 04, 2013, 11:48 am // Dick ConoboyIt seems that for Apple products, you do not really own that hard drive... as a journalist recently discovered.
2 comments; last on Apr 13, 2013
Mon, Apr 01, 2013, 3:00 pm // Wendy HarrisGovernment agencies responsible for the GPT project have completed review of the scoping comments.
Tue, Mar 26, 2013, 9:36 pm // Wendy HarrisA beneficial reuse provision in the Waterfront District Sub-Area Plan would allow construction materials that are contaminated with bioaccumulative toxins.
Tue, Mar 26, 2013, 8:59 pm // Wendy HarrisThe City Planning Department has included a technical document in the waterfront proposal without disclosing important impacts.
1 comments; last on Mar 30, 2013
Sun, Mar 24, 2013, 3:01 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein the Cattlemen define 'small scale' as an unlimited number of facilities of up to 50 million live pounds per year.
3 comments; last on Mar 26, 2013
Sat, Mar 23, 2013, 10:53 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein the rate base gets a soaking while officials keep big-bubble toking
7 comments; last on Apr 08, 2013
Tue, Mar 19, 2013, 9:05 am // John ServaisThe Bellingham Herald article today is wrong. There is no hearing tomorrow, March 20
Sun, Mar 17, 2013, 8:42 pm // John ServaisWendy Harris writes about the proposed $8 million concrete bridge along the Bellingham waterfront - using Greenways funds to build.
3 comments; last on Mar 20, 2013
Tue, Mar 12, 2013, 10:50 am // Dick ConoboySeveral complaints to the city seem to have occasioned a postponement of a height variance hearing until a complete development proposal is submitted.
1 comments; last on Mar 12, 2013
Mon, Mar 11, 2013, 6:37 am // Guest writerGuest writer Shane Roth writes in favor of the reconveyance of Lake Whatcom land back to the county.
1 comments; last on Mar 11, 2013
Fri, Mar 08, 2013, 12:54 am // Guest writerDelaine Clizbe guest writes. Whatcom County has 7,100 acres of park land, with 1,900 acres actually developed. Yet we keep adding land, and not developing our parks.
16 comments; last on Mar 12, 2013
Wed, Mar 06, 2013, 10:05 am // Dick ConoboyYou are not likely to escape the coming transfer of $billions from your pocket to the health insurance industry. You will get little, if anything, in return.
4 comments; last on Apr 05, 2013
Tue, Mar 05, 2013, 3:20 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein it's even worse when the legislation is about sausage
Sun, Mar 03, 2013, 4:17 pm // Dick ConoboyDo we need to recreate the sounds and sights of the battlefield when doing so brings pain and suffering to our combat veterans?
Sat, Mar 02, 2013, 8:03 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein the ironies of life are explored and the necessities of life are contemplated
2 comments; last on Mar 12, 2013
Fri, Mar 01, 2013, 4:19 pm // Wendy HarrisA variance request pending before the City could create a loophole for developers seeking to avoid compliance with development standards.
5 comments; last on Mar 07, 2013
Tue, Feb 26, 2013, 6:39 am // Riley SweeneyRiley details upcoming merger between PeaceHealth and a much more conservative entity
1 comments; last on Feb 26, 2013
Mon, Feb 25, 2013, 6:54 pm // Dick ConoboyThere is a private sector development proposal to house approximately 600 students in the Puget Neighborhood on 11 acres to the east of Nevada St.
5 comments; last on Feb 27, 2013
Mon, Feb 25, 2013, 5:51 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein artists have to eat, too!
Fri, Feb 22, 2013, 3:01 pm // John ServaisRiley Sweeney has posted a great video clip of Sen. Doug Ericksen flouting rules and legal procedures at a Senate hearing in Olympia.
Fri, Feb 22, 2013, 2:47 pm // John ServaisThe election created a new park district with taxing power - but with NO control over Chuckanut Ridge - the 100 acre woods.
1 comments; last on Feb 23, 2013
Tue, Feb 19, 2013, 9:40 pm // Wendy HarrisAn "Updated Preferred Alternative" reduces the number of waterfront jobs and expands the boundary of the waterfront district.
Fri, Feb 15, 2013, 12:20 am // Tip JohnsonWherein the Slaughterhouse Ken and Barbie show present Slaughterville, their new vision for Whatcom County
9 comments; last on Feb 19, 2013
Wed, Feb 13, 2013, 3:42 pm // John ServaisThe Park District vote is close and we will not know final results until late ballots are counted.
6 comments; last on Feb 19, 2013
Wed, Feb 13, 2013, 2:59 pm // Wendy HarrisParticipate in the public process by commenting on the new Economic Development chapter to the city comprehensive plan
1 comments; last on Feb 15, 2013
Sat, Feb 09, 2013, 12:14 am // John ServaisThe proponents have avoided the issues on the Park District as the close of voting nears this weekend.
2 comments; last on Feb 12, 2013
Wed, Feb 06, 2013, 10:42 pm // John ServaisWhen is a vote No the most positive and common sense action? Check the park district opponents website to learn why.
15 comments; last on Feb 10, 2013
Tue, Feb 05, 2013, 12:59 pm // John ServaisThis Park District proposal has several ironic twists and facets - some involving the advocates.
10 comments; last on Feb 07, 2013
Sun, Feb 03, 2013, 3:05 pm // Guest writerNicholas Zaferatos explains why he is concerned about the park district and looks at the long and short term views if the issue.
11 comments; last on Feb 06, 2013
Sat, Feb 02, 2013, 11:18 am // John ServaisThe Chuckanut Park District ballot issue has another 10 days to run. A few notes about NWCitizen and this issue.
11 comments; last on Feb 05, 2013
Fri, Feb 01, 2013, 3:16 pm // Guest writerDr. Gibb explains some history to the issue in a brief article.
8 comments; last on Feb 03, 2013
Thu, Jan 31, 2013, 12:36 pm // Guest writerPaul Leuthold and Byron Elmendorf explain why to vote NO on the Chuckanut Park District ballot measure.
19 comments; last on Feb 12, 2013
Thu, Jan 31, 2013, 12:26 am // Guest writerGuest post by long time south side resident Marci (Hanson) Haskell on why to vote no on the Park District
5 comments; last on Feb 01, 2013
Wed, Jan 30, 2013, 9:40 am // John ServaisThe Park District is a panic action that over taxes a small group. A city wide solution is by far the better way to proceed.
13 comments; last on Jan 31, 2013
Wed, Jan 30, 2013, 12:09 am // Wendy HarrisThe planning commission no longer serves its purpose due to Council's poor appointment choices
2 comments; last on Feb 10, 2013
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