Chuckanut Ridge in a nutshellPermalink +
Sun, Jan 25, 2009, 8:59 pm // Larry HorowitzIn recent weeks, the Chuckanut Ridge / Greenways 3 mêlée has been blown way out of proportion and has become nothing more than an irritating sideshow. Personally, I am much more interested in the real story than a freak sideshow. To this end, I present Chuckanut Ridge in a nutshell.
Chuckanut Ridge (CR) is an 82-acre urban forest consisting of uplands, wetlands and steep slopes. Prior to 1980, CR was zoned single-family residential with one unit allowed per 20,000 square feet (sf), approximately 2.2 units per acre. Based on this zoning, CR could potentially accommodate a maximum of 178 single family homes before reductions for critical areas, stormwater facilities and rights of way. It is estimated that at least 25% (20 acres) of the parcel represents critical areas and required buffers. Of the remaining 62 acres, the City of Bellingham Land Supply Analysis estimates that 36% of a typical single family development would be needed for stormwater facilities and rights of way, leaving only 40 developable acres. Therefore, based on the pre-1980 zoning, CR could accommodate approximately 87 single family homes.
In 1980, City Council changed the zoning of CR from single-family to multi-family and changed the density from 1 unit per 20,000 sf to 1 unit per 3,000 sf (from 2.2 to 14.5 units per acre), a generous gift that has effectively increased the potential number of units by more than 800%. In theory, the current zoning allows the owner to build up to 739 units, 661 more than the 87 that could have built under the original zoning.
When questioned about the 1980 upzone, former mayor Mark Asmundson stated in an April 3, 1996 letter to the students of Wellspring Community School, “I disagree with the zoning presently in place, and I do not understand why in 1980 the City Council approved the kind of density that was allowed in this location.”
In conjunction with the 1980 upzone, City Council added a requirement to either construct a collector road between Chuckanut Drive and Old Fairhaven Parkway or widen the Fairhaven Bridge. According to minutes of the 1978 Bellingham Planning Commission, Planning Director Gregory Waddell responded to a question from Planning Commission Chairman Mark Packer by stating that “nothing can go on” before the prerequisite consideration is met. In other words, until the collector road is built or the Fairhaven Bridge is widened, no development can occur.
Based on conversations with both city staff and citizens who were around to see the outcome of the 1980 comprehensive plan update, the upzone and transportation prerequisites were tied together. In other words, the transportation system expansion was needed to accommodate traffic from new development along Chuckanut Drive. In the minds of those who were around at the time, it was clear that the city awarded the upzone in exchange for the developer paying the cost of building the collector road or widening the bridge.
As a side note, during a recent South Neighborhood Association meeting on January 13, Mayor Pike commented that it will be difficult for the developer to meet either of the prerequisite considerations.
There are thirteen wetlands impacted by the proposed Fairhaven Highlands development on CR, six of which are mature forested, Category I wetlands, including a sizeable one located on adjacent property owned by the city. However, the developer’s wetland delineation fails to identify the six Category I wetlands as mature forested, and, therefore, fails to assign them Category I status. As a result, the wetland buffers in the developer’s application do not meet the city’s minimum standards. In the three years since the wetland application was submitted, the city has not required these errors be corrected.
Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO); Vesting; Public Safety, Health & Welfare
The Growth Management Act (GMA) mandated cities and counties to adopt critical areas ordinances by September 1991; however, as of November 2004 (13 years later), Bellingham had still not adopted its CAO. At that time, City Council adopted Resolution 2004-36 and committed itself to completing this requirement by July 1, 2005. To no one’s surprise, Council failed to meet this deadline and did not adopt its CAO until November 21, 2005, just three days after the Fairhaven Highlands wetland application was submitted.
The initial Fairhaven Highlands applications for planned development and subdivision (preliminary plat) were submitted on April 18, 2005 and indicated that certain wetlands and wetland buffers would be filled and/or developed, an action that requires a Wetland and Stream (W/S) Permit application. Even though the required wetland permit application was not submitted until seven months had passed (on November 18, 2005), this omission did not prevent former planning director Jorge Vega from “determining” that the obviously incomplete planned development and subdivision applications were complete within 7 days of being submitted.
On December 5, 2005, City of Bellingham planner Kathy Bell emailed fellow planner Marilyn Vogel and wrote, “After reading the Concurrent Review section of Title 21 [of the Bellingham Municipal Code], it seems that we should have made the planned application incomplete since the application proposed direct wetland impact and a W/S Permit was not submitted.” (Emphasis added)
Because the Fairhaven Highlands applications were deemed complete (albeit erroneously), they are considered vested under the development regulations in effect on the date they were submitted. HOWEVER, as indicated under the Exceptions section of the city’s vesting ordinance, “An application for a land use approval may be denied or approved with conditions under the authority of the City to protect and enhance the public safety, health and welfare.” [BMC 21.10.260(B)(2)].
The Purpose section of the city’s CAO states that one of its key goals is to:
“Protect members of the public and public resources and facilities from injury, loss of life, or property damage due to landslides and steep slope failures, erosion, seismic events, or flooding.” [BMC 16.55.010(D)(1)]
The CAO also states, “Critical areas ... may pose a threat to human safety or to public and private property.” [BMC 16.55.010(C)]
Further, in City of Seattle v. Hinckley, the Washington Supreme Court wrote, “There is no such thing as an inherent or vested right to imperil the health or impair the safety of the community. But, to be protected against such impairment or imperilment, is the universally recognized right of the community in all civilized governments; a protection which the government not only has a right to vouchsafe to the citizens, but which it is its duty to extend in the exercise of its police power.” (Emphasis added)
Because the developers believed they were vested, the Fairhaven Highlands application does not meet the safeguards that are unique to the Bellingham Critical Areas Ordinance. As a result, it is clear that this development imposes unreasonable risks to the public’s safety, health and welfare.
1) If in fact the transportation prerequisite to develop Chuckanut Ridge cannot be met, should the zoning revert back to the pre-1980 upzone?
2) Given that the Chuckanut Ridge parcel contains numerous critical areas, including six Category I mature forested wetlands, steep sleeps (some in excess of 40%), and landslide and erosion hazard areas, is the multi-family, high density zoning reasonable? Is it consistent with the Land Use Policies of the Bellingham Comprehensive Plan?
3) In accordance with the city’s own vesting regulations and the WA Supreme Court’s finding in City of Seattle v. Hinckley, should the city require the Fairhaven Highlands development to meet the standards that are unique to the city’s Critical Areas Ordinance in order to protect public safety, health and welfare?
4) Given all the problems facing the development of this property, what is this land really worth?
Wed, May 22, 2013, 10:12 am // Site ManagementBy Guest Writer Nicole Brown (But Tip Johnson wrote the headline)
Mon, May 20, 2013, 11:48 am // Dick ConoboyYou can give your money, normally dished out to fireworks manufacturers and distributors, to organizations that help our disabled veterans. Change the way we celebrate Independence Day.
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.
7 comments; last on May 22, 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
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