Deconstructing Chuckanut Ridge

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Wed, Jan 14, 2009, 7:28 pm  //  John Servais

Over 80 southside residents spent over two hours questioning and listening to Mayor Dan Pike as he attempted to defend city process.
A back room attempt by city staff to sneak the Greenways Plan through city council failed Monday evening. Tuesday evening the mayor got grilled strongly by south side residents about how the process was secret and the issue of "trust" of city government at the South Neighborhood Association meeting. It was quite a two night show. And exposed the back room dealing being done between the Greenways Advisory Committee - GAC - and city staff.

On Monday afternoon, backers of buying and preserving Chuckanut Ridge - CR - got alerting phone calls that the council was going to vote on the Greenways Strategic Plan that very evening. This agenda item was not known - except by the few who wanted this plan passed. The Plan eliminated millions of dollars that were promised for CR acquisition - and I'm not going to go into those controversial promises here. Regardless, opponents to the cut in funding were kept in the dark regarding Monday's planned approval by the council. This was an effort by staff and the GAC to slam dunk passage of this plan. It failed. Now comes the reckoning.

Supporters of full funding for acquisition of Chuckanut Ridge showed up in numbers at the council meeting and spoke strongly against the weak funding for CR. Council listened. Council tabled the Plan by a 6 - 1 vote with Stan Snapp being the Plan loyalist who wanted to vote it through. And this issue is again ablaze in our community, dividing us yet again.

I have stayed out of this issue for years now but after Monday night's sneak attack on public process, I'm now fascinated. I checked the council agenda and found the plan document was a PDF document formatted to prevent word searching. This prevents a citizen from scanning the 20 page document for key words. This is city staff routine for hiding information from the public. Blame for this deception must be put in the Mayor's office. He can change this routine with one word to staff. He has not. I told him of this problem when he ran for mayor and he promised change.

City staff, not the council, put this on the agenda and did not inform the public. Staff worked with the Greenways Advisory Committee to sneak this through. Council members - with the probable exception of Stan Snapp - did not know this was coming. The council expected it in February as did the supporters of preserving Chuckanut Ridge. It has existed as a draft plan since November 13 but has never been made public. Yes, this was a back room deal.

Tuesday night the mayor was scheduled from some time back to attend the South Neighborhood Association meeting at Faihaven Middle School and answer questions. Well, the council meeting Monday night set the stage for over 80 residents to give him some very sharp questions for two hours. It was not pretty.

Dan Pike was a straight shooter during his campaign for mayor and got my support and that of many other activists who wanted more open public process in city hall. Last night Dan scattered his shots all over the room and it looked like a couple went right into his feet. I thought he was talking down to the crowd but others told me later that, no, he was simply a deer in headlights. He defended staff, he suggested the residents should pony up the money to help purchase the ridge, he said unless you give money then you are not sincere in your efforts, he said funds are needed by Parks for maintenance, he said there are many other priorities. He denied any back room dealing - but then he may not be able to recognize that behavior. Like a civics teacher, he told these people who have worked for 19 years to preserve the ridge that they just need to be persistent in their efforts. How nice of him.

By the end of the meeting at 9:10 pm, Dan told the crowd the words he was told to say - that he "favors saving Chuckanut Ridge". Quite a turn from 8:04 pm when he said the issue is between serving north side interests versus south side interests and implying that north side interests would be served.

We worked to get Dan elected hoping he would bring leadership to good issues in our city. Instead we now realize we elected a very nice bureaucrat and technocrat who has much more concern about the feelings and priorities of other bureaucrats than he does for citizens. He is steadily stopping communications with those who worked for his election as he turns to the old established powers for his base of support. Last night saw him in the wrong meeting after a failed attempt by him and his staff to execute a back room arranged power play.

Dan could have prevented all this by insisting that his staff adhere to open public process. As the tag line on this website says, the mission here is to push for open public process by our government agencies. The question now is - will Dan Pike dig his hole deeper or will he learn and get a clue that we want leadership and open public process. And that he needs to build public trust - not assume he has it.

John Blethen, a member of the Greenways Advisory Committee, spoke sharply against supporters of full funding for the Chuckanut Ridge acquisition.

g.h. kirsch  //  Wed, Jan 14, 2009, 9:23 pm

Point of clarification please. 

I’m down here in southern California, and I knew the Greenway issue was on the council agenda.  I had read it on the city web site.

And though I hadn’t tried earlier, I went back to the site and my version of acrobat successfully executes word searches on the agenda.

What’s going on here?  Is this the city failing to give the usual public notice, or the public not noticing?

John Servais  //  Wed, Jan 14, 2009, 11:02 pm

Yes, Greg, I also can do a word search on the agenda.  My post did not say I could not.  The post says you cannot do a word search on the Greenways Plan document. 

And this is further evidence that city staff knows how to save a Word document to either kind of pdf - and evidence they either have little regard for public transparency or that they tried to make it hard for us to find the information.  Take you choice.

Larry Horowitz  //  Wed, Jan 14, 2009, 11:25 pm


Thanks for your efforts to summarize what occurred over the past two days.  While openness and back-room dealing are certainly important issues, I believe there are others that are much more relevant in terms of Chuckanut Ridge. 

First, the city is certainly not displaying any savvy in terms of negotiating with the sellers of this property, Horizon Bank and David Edelstein.  The sellers have made an offer to sell this land for a ridiculous price ($26 million or so).  On the other hand, the county just appraised this land at under $15 million? and we all know where real estate prices ? especially land - are headed. 
Second, most people seem to ignore the fact that the majority of park acquisition funds come from real estate excise taxes (REET) and park impact fees (PIF), not Greenway revenues.  Admittedly, REET and PIF revenues are down substantially; however, there are also fewer homes being built, which translates into a lower demand for more parks. 

Third, the city has been less than proactive in fairly regulating this development application.  They have allowed a misclassification of six Category I wetlands to proceed uncorrected for more than three years.  More importantly, they appear content to abrogate their responsibility to protect the public health, safety and welfare by failing to require that this development to meet the safeguards that are exclusive to the city?s Critical Areas Ordinance ? a law that was adopted in November 2005, just three days after the Fairhaven Highlands wetland application was submitted.  While the city claims the application is vested in terms of development regulations (a decision that is highly objectionable), the city?s CAO is a public health and safety regulation and, as such, is not subject to vesting.

We have asked the city time and time again to do its job and properly regulate this development application.  Given the fact that Chuckanut Ridge is essentially an interconnected wetland with steep slopes, failure to properly regulate this development application will surely increase the risk of flooding, landslides, erosion and slope failures. 

Isn?t the protection of public safety a primary responsibility of government?

Tip Johnson  //  Thu, Jan 15, 2009, 1:58 am

I am not going to say Servais’ analysis is inaccurate, but I would like to add some perspective.

First, the idea of a conspiracy involving the entire staff may be a bit far fetched.  However, upon reading the latest “Gristle” in the Cascadia Weekly, I was struck by how consistently the author’s points matched the points made by Council member Jack Weiss at last night’s meeting.  Then I received a copy of an email originating with Council member Stan Snapp.  Exact same playbook.  It’s quite clear that strategy has been seriously discussed somewhere. Talking points have been formulated and message discipline is being exercised. However, Pike’s performance gave little indication that he has been included in the conversations.

Dan’s ordeal before last night’s crowd suggests he is deeply embedded in an administrative “bubble”.  He admitted to not having read materials submitted to him by the group soon after his election.  By asking citizens to pony up for the acquisition, he seemed to lack historical perspective on the three Greenways Levies that the folks who have been struggling with this issue for nearly two decades were instrumental in passing.  By steering the discussion into bizarre corners, like irrelevant county development standards, he appeared insensitive to the City’s responsibility for creating the price incongruity fundamental to the acquisition dilemma and the conflict within the Greenways community. The City’s zoning created the proponent’s $26mm asking price.  The last publicly sponsored commercial appraisal of the property I have seen was just over $3mm.  In Pike’s defense, almost all of it happened before his watch.  Nevertheless, the impression I was left with was that Pike’s information comes to him through a heavy filter. Many have observed that he is no longer in touch with them. He is in danger of becoming an appliance for his staff.

That’s what’s disturbing.  Throughout the years - from the mysterious rezone, through the project’s first promotion, the City’s failure to subsequently revisit the zoning error, the negligence of continued inconsistency with area goals, objectives and policies, from the Memorandum of Agreement that illegally (if favorably) reduced the density (while affording the property owner a generous tax benefit), through the public expenditure of roadway and sidewalk improvements to the project’s front door, to the adoption of traffic concurrency exemptions beneficial to the project and the unprecedented rapidity of the absurd application’s acceptance - one thing is true.  Everything that should have been done that might have limited the proposal was astutely avoided while many things that should not have been done, but benefited the proposal, happened with alarming alacrity. That’s what’s disturbing.  Now it seems to be happening again, this time right under Pike’s nose.

During the meeting, John Blethan took umbrage with remarks he perceived as disparaging toward the Greenways Advisory Committee.  He produced an unfortunate display of stuttering anger that disturbed many and prompted a number of comments after his abrupt departure.  He, Weiss and Pike all referred at various times to the supposedly well rounded make up of that committee, even as it includes a predominance of “Southsiders”.  None seemed to realize that citizens that have battled against all odds for many years might easily be underwhelmed with the so-called representation appointed committee members deliver.

In Blethan’s defense, I would much rather listen to the passionate ravings of someone who has walked their talk than over-intellectualized, under-informed mumblings of unintegrated policy perspectives.  I expect elected officials to do their homework and frame their priorities.

I have exhaustively researched and written extensively on the history of this issue, as many who will read this are already aware.  My conclusion is that this is either the most profligate display of government incompetence imaginable, or it is what it appears to be - an ingrained, institutionalized and corrupt abuse of the public treasury.  Citizens tax themselves millions of dollars repeatedly over many years on the promise of relief but instead face the prospect of shelling out $26mm to avoid total devastation of a unique resource and a $12mm public subsidy.  That’s extortion.

Larry Horowitz put it quite simply.  The City should do it’s job and assert its regulatory authority.  Then citizens would not have to do their job so unpleasantly.  Nobody is in favor of things happening too quickly in government.  But twenty years, Dan, is too long.  It’s time to do the right thing and it’s time for the City to do it.

Doug karlberg  //  Thu, Jan 15, 2009, 12:57 pm

From reading Horizon Banks financials, this property is costing them $2,000,000 in interest a year to simply hold onto the property in a declining real estate market. A market that is showing signs of declining further.

Buying this property now with tax dollar would be like catching a falling knife, and reeks of a political bailout of a real estate investment gone bad.

The average duration of falling real estate prices during a recession is five years, and we are only in year two. Remember this is only the average duration, some recessions like Japan’s, last a decade.

Ultimately the price that we could have paid for this property if we had simply waited, will be revealed. This decision has all the earmarks of a folly, named after an unemployed, but prominent politician.

How much should one pay for a swamp? Maybe we could purchase it, and rename it Pike’s Swamp. (sorry Dan)

Horizon, like many banks heavily invested in real estate, is under severe pressure, as they fear that there are more real estate loans to go bad. At some point they will be under extreme pressure to sell. $26,000,000 is joke for a bad investment on their part.

With tax dollars, we should wait and get a spectacular deal, or let it sit and lose value and $2,000,000 in interest for another year.

They are losing $3,000,000 a year on this property, let em wait.


Larry Horowitz  //  Thu, Jan 15, 2009, 1:37 pm


As always, I appreciate your well-considered comments; however, I question your interest calculation and would like to add a caveat about waiting too long to acquire this property.

First, Horizon Bank?s latest quarterly report indicates that its investment in the Chuckanut Ridge property is $17.7 million, with related borrowing of $23.4 million.  Clearly, the bank is taking a bath on this investment.  However, your claim that the bank is paying $2 million per year in interest on a $23.4 million loan assumes an interest rate of 8.5%.  I doubt seriously that Horizon Bank is paying anywhere near 8.5% on its loan.

Second, while I absolutely agree that land prices will continue to fall for the foreseeable future and time is on our side, the real value of this property will be set when the city issues a building permit.  My fear has been, and continues to be, the city?s failure to independently and fairly regulate the developer?s application.  For more than twenty years, this property has received overly favorable treatment from supposedly independent regulators.  In that lax regulatory environment, my fear is that the city will erroneously issue a permit to develop this swamp and arbitrarily enhance its intrinsic value.  As long as this does not happen, I absolutely agree that the value will continue to fall as we wait.  However, astute investors never wait too long, as they are capable of discounting the future value and buying for pennies on the dollar NOW.

$26 million is a joke, and so is the $17.7 million value currently on Horizon?s balance sheet.  Generally accepted accounting principles would require the bank to reflect a reduced market value in its financial statements.  Holding this land is not a good idea for the bank; however, bank management has displayed an irrational and emotional attachment to it ? to the detriment of bank stockholders.  Perhaps their new CEO will reconsider Horizon?s approach and convert an unproductive and depreciating asset into one that might better serve the bank and its investors. 

Don?t you think a privately-placed municipal bond earning tax-free interest might look better on the bank?s balance sheet than land that is losing value while racking up substantial interest costs?

Doug karlberg  //  Thu, Jan 15, 2009, 3:06 pm


It is always dangerous when I read someone else’s financial, or make predictions.

Horizon’s balance sheet has a liability for Joint/Ventures which list a change in value upwards of $2,000,000 last year. I assumed this to be interest, but without details it could be other expenses associated with the land. This is how I derived the number.

I am always more worried about buying large assets in an obviously falling market, versus paying too much in a rising market. One makes you look dumb, and the other smart, over time.

Horizon’s made a bad investment and their offer if accepted would have clearly had the taxpayer bailing out their bad investment. So much for civic duty.

Your point about the zoning is well taken. In today’s environment rebuilding trust in government is important.

The City should remove the taint once and for all. Fairly and transparently.

Special deals for special interests is not in the public’s interest, ever.

Horizon’s offer at a ridiculous price is a clear indication of stubborn refusal to deal with reality. Embarrassing offer really. Transfer it to the taxpayer. Nice.

I agree clear up the zoning, and hope for a more sober, civic minded Horizon.

I don’t see any other offers for this land,...

... on the horizon.


Tip Johnson  //  Thu, Jan 15, 2009, 5:15 pm


No one is building 739 units of anything anywhere in Whatcom County in the foreseeable future - years.  O.K., that’s our queue.

I don’t want to buy it at $26mm either.  I think $5mm might be about right - or maybe even the $4.1 already allocated.  I don’t mind competing aggressively with development for preservation lands, but as one former consultant to the project said of the site, “The site is FUBAR for development”.

Horizon’s ridiculous application strongly indicates that they have an agenda other than building.  Otherwise, they would have complied with applicable regulations.  Somehow, they knew that they could skip that detail and still get a determination of completeness, raising at least the specter of vesting.  That’s why I call it extortion.  They are literally holding a gun to the head of this treasure to see what they can squeeze out of the community.  Some community bank!

We saw this at Hoag’s Pond, when several department heads and program coordinators with exclusive access to the confidential Greenways list engineered a hackneyed deal for a retiring Public Works administrator that would have added a half million dollars of value to his land - scheduled for acquisition - without accomplishing any of the stated goals of the transaction.  It was nothing more than an attempt to plunder the Greenways levy.

The similarities with this project are glaring.  It appears as though somewhere in City Hall, someone has decided that Greenways can be a cash machine for their friends or families. I don’t think it’s Dan, but it is his job to put a stop to it.

The time is perfect to redouble our efforts on the DEIS, to fight and make sure every applicable regulation is enforced and every possible mitigation required.  We should be ready for court, because that’s exactly where Tim Stewart publicly asserted he’d be willing to talk to us about it.  Dan suggested this the other night, too.  Too bad, I’d rather plow my dollars into the land.

It’s also time to go after the Bank.  This spring will be a good time to start regular pickets.  It’s time to stop being nice and ridicule the ridiculous.

We need to organize.  Bringing Julia Butterfly Hill to town for a tree sitting workshop is a good place to start.  Middle Schoolers need good projects.

And we need to keep the pressure on our elected officials, hold their feet to the fire and make them do their job.  That job is more likely regulatory than financial.

It’s hard to keep going after twenty years, but now is no time to waiver.

John Watts  //  Thu, Jan 15, 2009, 11:45 pm

Former US Senator Moynihan once said that ‘everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.’

Since the author of this piece admits to several years absence -ergo ignorance- in following the Greenways intrigues, let me suggest that he avail himself of a few facts that others are able to verify, including myself, as Council member and chair of the Parks & Recreation Committee in 2006 & 2007.

The Greenways 3 levy language that was agreed to unanimously by the Council contained no money solely designated to purchase any so-called Chuckanut Ridge property. If someone feels otherwise, let them demonstrate credible evidence to the contrary.

I do know that Council members Barbara Ryan and Terry Bornemann wished otherwise either influenced or sought to influence members Joan Beardsley and Gene Knutson to ‘earmark’ very substantial GW3 funds -up to $10.5 million- for CR purchase,but none of this was ever approved by Council action.
Again,  if someone feels otherwise, let them demonstrate credible evidence to the contrary.

The Greenways 3 measure that went to the ballot designated $6 million for ALL southside GW3 purchases, with CR being the largest of several possible.
An additional $2 million was made available for potential purchase of property anywhere, with ‘priority’ given to a credible proposal for acquiring additional right of way that might be required to provide for a trail connection through the CR property. Again, there was no guarantee, or ‘earmark’ in current vernacular.

The above is the plain language that was presented to the voters, which ought to be readily verifiable through the City Attorney’s office.

While there are those who are determined to question and or try to contravene the clear true intent of the Greenways 3 measure, that is already well defined.
But, the penchant for controversy and wishful thinking remains strong among the former so-called Legacy proponents, which explains this latest demonstration of discontent and amateurish political pressure.

Another person who has paid careful attention to the Greenways 3 issue and timely reported on it, is the editor of the Cascadia Weekly, whose Gristle column of January 13 not only got it right on this latest dust-up, but also got it right on three previous Gristle columns which can be easily accessed at the following URL:
+ Link

It is regrettable that the same people who threatened to ‘hijack’ the Greenways vote in 2007 are still up to mischief making using our valued Greenways program as their instrument of choice to fight a planned infill development.

Democracies are never perfect, but continuing to try to put more lipstick on the ‘100 acre woods’ piglet seems a loser’s game that carries more promise for undermining, rather than improving, the credibility of the CR acquisition advocates.

Tom Pratum  //  Fri, Jan 16, 2009, 12:18 am

Thanks John W. for your comments - you were there, you know what went on. Thank god we don’t need to accept re-written history on this one.

I have not been involved in this, but I did grow up on the Southside of town, and have walked all over this property. I think it is a shame it might be developed (and “might” is the word here), but where were the 100 acre (actually 85 acres) woods folks 10 or 15 years ago when the purchase would have been reasonable? There has been a development proposal on the table for a long, long time.

I hope some of the comments are correct, and this property isn’t really worth as much as Horizon Bank thinks it is, but I am not sure it is a good idea for the city to cough up an exorbitant fee to undo past mistakes that are really the responsibility of all of us who did not enough to get this property in public ownership long ago.

As is well-known, the original developers of CR are moving forward with Governor’s Point. I am not sure we can stop that one, but it seems like there is a better chance to do something good there than at CR.

John Servais  //  Fri, Jan 16, 2009, 4:31 am

John Watts writes:
“Since the author of this piece admits to several years absence -ergo ignorance- in following the Greenways intrigues,?”

As the writer of this piece, let me parse this.  I did not admit to any absence in following the intrigues.  Indeed, I have followed these intrigues for more years than Mr. Watts has been in Bellingham.  And carefully.  What I wrote is “I have stayed out of this issue?”  and that is entirely different.  One can study and follow an issue very carefully and still not get involved in the fray.  I would hope a reader would know the difference.

Secondly, my piece did not even touch on the concerns Mr. Watts then proceeded to explain.  I wrote about the abysmal public process over two days.  And I notice Mr. Watts did not write about any of this.  So why the need to try and discredit me is a bit baffling.  Mr. Watts does not point out any error in anything I wrote.  Again why the snide and insulting lead sentence when it serves no purpose?

Rick Anderson  //  Fri, Jan 16, 2009, 1:20 pm

I am a bit puzzled by your assertion that the vote on this was a “back room attempt” as though it was done in secret.  It was an agenda item and was also written about in the Bellingham Herald.  I’m not an avid follower of this issue yet I was aware of it being on the agenda without any special digging on my part…..and had read the proposed plan prior to watching the proceedings on Channel 10 on Monday afternoon and Monday evening.  Maybe the lesson here is that if people are interested in an issue they need to be consistently monitoring for movement on that issue…..and not relying on a special invitation from the city or a call from a council person.

Larry Horowitz  //  Fri, Jan 16, 2009, 1:39 pm


Thanks for taking time to add your thoughts to this dialogue.  I appreciate your concern that CR ?might? be developed.  Because, as you plainly admit, you have not been involved in this issue, I believe there is much information you are not aware of. 

First, thanking John W. for his comments because he was there and knew what went on is a gigantic stretch.  Yes, John W. was a ? I repeat ?a? ? member of council at the time, but he did not attend every meeting between other council members and CR supporters.  His claim that Joan Beardsley and Gene Knutson were ?influenced? by Barbara Ryan and Terry Bornemann to support an $8 million allocation of GWIII funds for the acquisition of CR is patently false.  Gene and Joan, in addition to Barbara and Terry, gave their word that they would support such an allocation.  Their commitment was not forced in any way and was repeated multiple times.  Perhaps John W. doesn?t place much faith in his own word (I know I never would), but those of us who met with the other council members (never more than three at a time), felt that their word was their bond.  Of course the GWIII ballot measure did not plainly state this commitment.  No one ever suggested that it should.  However, for those of us who trusted Joan, Gene, Barbara and Terry, it was not necessary.  No one I know gave it a second thought because we knew we could trust Joan, Gene, Barbara and Terry to stay true to their word.

Second, the current application for Fairhaven Highlands was submitted in April 2005.  Since then, more than 1,000 residents have actively opposed this development.  There has been no delay in this opposition as you infer with your comment that ?There has been a development proposal on the table for a long, long time.?

Finally, no one is asking the city to ?cough up an exorbitant fee to undo past mistakes?; however, we are asking the city to correct past mistakes and independently regulate the current development application.  If they do their job, the development value of CR will be extremely low, and an acquisition will certainly be affordable.  Remember, park acquisitions must consider value in addition to cost.  Value factors in how many people the park will serve.  Since CR is centrally located to the five southside neighborhoods and is within walking distance to thousands of residents, it will serve many people and is a good value.  A ?cheap? park acquisition that serves relatively few people is a much more expensive proposition.

Again, thanks for your interest in this issue.  I hope you?ll continue to stay involved.


Tip Johnson  //  Fri, Jan 16, 2009, 3:04 pm

I am always a little surprised at how glibly Watts avoids the many points raised to condescendingly disparage the writers as ignorant.  It’s a little tiring.

Watts relies on the instruction manual to avoid acknowledging the machinery.  He hews to the map and disdains the territory.  He asserts that because an appropriation was not publicly made, that there was no representation of commitment to acquiring Chuckanut Ridge.  Well, that’s not the way it works.  For one, it’s a confidential program within which specific allocations are made in executive session.  On the policy side, where “lipstick” is applied to the levy prior to the ballot, representations of support were definitely made.  That’s how they got it passed.  It would have failed without the support of southsiders convinced that was true.

Watt’s, as Servais points out, may not understand that this goes back far before the last levy.  The Chuckanut Ridge Property was literally the poster child of the first two levies.  The third looked very weak until key players fluffed up the appearance of support for acquisition and dragged Greenways separatists back into the fold.  Pratum asks where folks were 10 to 15 years ago.  They were busy opposing this project and passing Greenways levies on hollow promises, again and again, providing tens of millions for acquisitions - just not theirs.

What Watt’s is saying is not pretty.  The essence is that elected representatives can promise anything and do nothing, that you can mislead citizens repeatedly to get their votes and then do whatever you want, carefully legitimizing it with a bit of paperwork.  Hopefully, that is a rare perception of the role of representatives within our system.

Nevertheless, I think we can all agree that Greenways should not shell out a ridiculous $26mm.  But get back to basics.  Is development of 739 units appropriate on this site? Can we afford to trash this ecological treasure? SHould we have to forgo the opportunity to extend Fairhaven Park to the Interurban and create a gateway to the Chuckanuts?  It’s absurd.

Who will take responsibility for creating the “density” that causes this dilemma?  Who will assure that zoning is consistent with longstanding policies, goals and objectives? Who will protect the public’s interests by preserving critical areas and unique opportunities?  That’s the City’s job and it’s why citizens elect representatives to integrate their concerns into our community’s emerging character.  Most citizens are busy with their jobs and families, creating the tax base that supports the kind of shenanigans Watts defends. Expecting them to read agendas and legal notices is just an excuse for representatives not doing their job.

It’s time for the City to do its job.  Put not one drop of roadway runoff or dumpster depot drippings into the already publicly owned wetland, teeming with tiny shrimp, supporting the foodchain of the most significant habitat corridor in Bellingham’s portfolio. First, just say “NO” to bad development.  That’s been an election promise of elected officials for many years. Then get busy and buy it. That’s been promised, too.

jeffrey schmidt  //  Fri, Jan 16, 2009, 3:50 pm

Being a long time sideline listener, I just have a few comments….......
Tip, your astute observations are appreciated and seem to make sense to me, although I’m just a simple goatherder (no, really I am). Not just on this thread, but almost every post ive read of yours.  However, my understanding of the 100 acre wood is that it has been projected to be built out for a long time.  I used to live on Old Samish Rd. and I could walk out my back door and hike to mud lake, pine, cedar lakes, lily and lizard lakes, etc. without ever passing private property.  I do believe the other side of Chuckanut drive opposite the 100 acre wood, Mud Bay,would have been better to protect.  I believe this was a trillium project.  All of these people protesting this makes my blood boil…....Anyways, with horizon bank trading for around a $1, seems like a good time to buy if you ask me

Tip Johnson  //  Fri, Jan 16, 2009, 5:13 pm


Yes.  The property has been slated for build out since 1981 - when the City first illegally rezoned the property without review, recommendation, hearing or notice.

Yes. We tried to save Mud Bay.  In fact, a lot of the “mud” was saved, but Trillium got the uplands.

For some reason, outfits like Trillium and Horizon Bank get the deals while citizens get the stick.  Go figure.

John Servais  //  Fri, Jan 16, 2009, 5:57 pm

Jeffrey - yes, I and others tried hard with months of effort to save access around Mud Bay back in the 1980s.  We wanted to have enough of an easement above the high tide line for a trail along the shore around the bay.  All to no avail - and some of it was very dirty dealings by city bureaucrats.  The developer’s point person had been hired away from city planning and, of course, there is always that smell of cronyism. 

As Tip wrote, we did save the mud - we bought the tidelands - and got a bit of open space in the undevelopable marsh at end of Fairhaven Avenue.  And now the “trail” is in the upper part of the tideland - the mud - instead on the lower 10 feet of shore where it would be a decent trail next to and above the tideland.

jeffrey schmidt  //  Fri, Jan 16, 2009, 6:09 pm

i reread my post and I believe it may have came across as me being upset about the people protesting the 100 acre wood…..I meant the blood boiling comment to be directed to the homeowners of the trillium project. (Now you know why I dont post on here very often).  Andrea (my wife) likes to point out if I have something important to say, I probably shouldn’t! She is a smart women.

Tip Johnson  //  Fri, Jan 16, 2009, 11:20 pm


There’s no reason to feel reticent to post.  We’re all just wagging our tongues.  Remember…

“Opinion is the lowest form of knowledge” - Plato

Vince Biciunas  //  Sat, Jan 17, 2009, 2:29 am

At the risk of sticking my neck out too far again, and with the additional suspicion that this idea must be too naive:

Why don’t I just suggest to Horizon Bank that they use Triple Bottom Line accounting and the attendant tax write off, and donate the 85 acres of Fairhaven Highlands to the City of Bellingham. We could re-name it Horizon Forest in their honor, with gratitude. Isn’t that the best disposition for the bank in this economic climate?

All of the bad karma of the previous decisions and machinations and arguments could be wiped clean. RD could donate its legal defense funds to the City as well, towards trail maintenance. No court battles.

Tell me why this isn’t a good idea.

Tip Johnson  //  Sat, Jan 17, 2009, 3:54 am

I’d back that.

John Servais  //  Sat, Jan 17, 2009, 1:46 pm

Some readers may not know that the organization “RD” that Vince refers to is “Responsible Development”.  They are a southside group that formed some time back - year? - to work towards the saving of Chuckanut Ridge natural area.  There is no explanation of RD in any post above.

Perhaps someone else could post a short but better description of them.

Larry Horowitz  //  Sat, Jan 17, 2009, 1:52 pm


Thanks for sticking your neck out and suggesting that the Fairhaven Highlands / Chuckanut Ridge property be donated for the benefit of the community ? the community that Horizon Bank derives its profit from.

I cannot tell you why this isn?t a good idea, although if David Edelstein were willing to post his thoughts in this venue, I?m sure he?d have a few (million) reasons.

Here?s the grim reality:  Your recommendation is one of the few options Horizon Bank has to generate a positive outcome from their poorly-conceived decision to develop an ecologically sensitive urban forest and wetland habitat.  Except for the city, there are no potential buyers waiting in the wings who might be willing to pay a premium for this land.  That market has dried up and gone south and may be in hibernation for years to come.  The bank?s dream of obtaining a favorable permit has become a nightmare, as hundreds (if not thousands) of citizens lie in wait to attack at every opportunity.  If the city does its job, a permit may never be issued, certainly not a favorable one.  To be sure, any permit will be challenged in the legal courts, not to mention the outrage it will cause in the court of public opinion.

Can you imagine the outcry just waiting for Horizon Bank should they ever get to the point where they begin clear cutting Chuckanut Ridge? 

Can the bank withstand the public hatred it will engender for the years it will take to complete the deforestation alone - not to mention the buildout of 739 units?

Your naivet? is a virtue.  Thanks for having the courage to stick your neck out.  I hope you always will.


Charter Review and District Only Voting

Thu, Apr 17, 2014, 9:40 am  //  Riley Sweeney

A simple explanation of the Charter Review and analysis of District only voting


Roosevelt Neighborhood Pleads for Left Turns

Wed, Apr 09, 2014, 8:07 am  //  Riley Sweeney

City pushes for Alabama Street improvements, residents speak out

3 comments; last on Apr 14, 2014

Paper Dreams in Fairhaven

Next door to Village Books


Sun, Apr 06, 2014, 3:29 pm  //  Guest writer

By Christopher Grannis: Wherein despite every effort and expense, citizens cannot make the City follow the law or work for neighborhoods

2 comments; last on Apr 07, 2014

Killer Industrial Jobs or Long-term Job Killers?

Sun, Apr 06, 2014, 11:52 am  //  Terry Wechsler

Why commenting on the EIS in Comp Plan revisions for Cherry Point means demanding an EIS in the first place.

4 comments; last on Apr 13, 2014

Anatomy of a Development Part XII - Citizens Win Against University Ridge

Wed, Apr 02, 2014, 5:00 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Ambling University Development Group pulls out. University Ridge will not be built.

12 comments; last on Apr 06, 2014

Tell County To Expand Scope of EIS Review for Plants and Animals

Tue, Apr 01, 2014, 12:27 pm  //  Wendy Harris

Please help us protect county wildlife by ensuring that the scope of the EIS review is adequate. A sample scoping letter is included.


Public May Comment On EIS Scoping For County Comp. Plan Until April 7th

Mon, Mar 31, 2014, 1:23 am  //  Wendy Harris

The public has a week to comment on the scope of issues reviewed under the EIS.


My State of the Lake Report for 2014

Fri, Mar 28, 2014, 12:32 am  //  Wendy Harris

On March 26, 2014 the city and county provided their update and assessment on the status of Lake Whatcom. This is mine.

2 comments; last on Apr 01, 2014

County Considers Purchasing Toxic Property

Wed, Mar 19, 2014, 9:32 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley digs into the county's plan to buy the county morgue

3 comments; last on Mar 24, 2014

Propaganda Replaces Public Information:  An Analysis of the Lake Whatcom TDML Process

Sun, Mar 16, 2014, 11:52 pm  //  Wendy Harris

The public is not provided with a proposed plan or adequate information prior to the annual "state of the lake" meeting

4 comments; last on Mar 18, 2014

Mobile Slaughter

Sat, Mar 15, 2014, 12:11 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein there's a crackdown on growing plants, and plans to let slaughter run free

2 comments; last on Mar 16, 2014

Fukushima Radiation Found In Canada

Fri, Mar 14, 2014, 9:47 am  //  John Servais

Fukushima radiation has been found 20 miles from Whatcom County farmland along the Fraser River in British Columbia.

1 comments; last on Mar 17, 2014

Is ALEC Jr. Coming to Whatcom County or Bellingham Soon?

Wed, Mar 12, 2014, 7:28 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The infamous American Legislative Exchange Council plans to send its spawn to cities and counties throughout the U.S.

1 comments; last on Mar 24, 2014

Rep. Vincent Buys Appears to Break State Fundraising Laws

Tue, Mar 11, 2014, 10:24 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley catches State Rep. Vincent Buys for soliciting funds during session


County Hires GPT Permit Lead as Senior Planner

Mon, Mar 10, 2014, 9:51 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley digs into an unusual hiring decision at the County Planning Dept

1 comments; last on Mar 10, 2014

Whatcom Watch Editor Resigns

Sun, Mar 02, 2014, 2:22 pm  //  John Servais

The editor of the Whatcom Watch, Richard Jehn, has resigned effective today. Chalk up a victory for Craig Cole and Pacific International Terminals.

8 comments; last on Mar 05, 2014

Relevant Documents to Libel Threat

Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 8:29 pm  //  John Servais

The full text of Craig Cole's threatening letter of libel against the Whatcom Watch. And the emptiness of the threat.

16 comments; last on Mar 20, 2014

Action Alert for Tonight: Waterfront Wildlife and Habitat Not Being Protected as Promised

Mon, Feb 24, 2014, 3:33 pm  //  Wendy Harris

We were led to believe the city would review waterfront wildlife and habitat connectivity. It turns out that the city intends to focus only on nearshore fish.


Wendy Harris on Citizen Journalism

Sat, Feb 22, 2014, 12:16 am  //  Wendy Harris

Accepting the Paul deArmond award of citizen journalism on Feb 7, Wendh Harris gave this speech. We think it deserves its own post.


Craig Cole Threatens Libel Suit

Wed, Feb 19, 2014, 4:48 pm  //  John Servais

Craig Cole, the local contact for the proposed Cherry Point coal port has threatened the Whatcom Watch with a libel lawsuit.

6 comments; last on Mar 20, 2014

Do Changing Liquor and Marijuana Laws Affect DUIs

Mon, Feb 17, 2014, 7:26 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley digs through court data and discovers the real impact of privatization and legalization


Bellingham Seeks “Flexibility” To Sell Wholesale Rural Sewer Services

Sun, Feb 09, 2014, 9:35 pm  //  Wendy Harris

The mayor wants to amend a city law to increase flexibility for a GMA provision that should be used rarely, if ever at all.

3 comments; last on Feb 11, 2014

The Hidden Costs of Costco

Sun, Feb 09, 2014, 2:36 pm  //  Wendy Harris

Costco imposes indirect costs on our community that are as real and tangible as road construction expenses.

1 comments; last on Feb 13, 2014

Reid Boiler Works Burns Down

Sun, Feb 09, 2014, 9:13 am  //  John Servais

The old empty Reid Boiler Works industrial building in Fairhaven burned to the ground Saturday night.


Panem et Circenses - Why I Did Not Watch “The Super Bowl”

Mon, Feb 03, 2014, 5:30 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Professional and even college sports have morphed into a circus of corporate greed and the fleecing of the public.

3 comments; last on Mar 01, 2014

Have You Exceeded Your Right To Information?

Sat, Feb 01, 2014, 12:35 am  //  Wendy Harris

Filing a public record request could land a citizen in jail under a proposal reflected in a Herald opinion article.

2 comments; last on Feb 03, 2014

Wendy Harris Receives deArmond Award for Citizen Journalism

Wed, Jan 29, 2014, 6:18 am  //  Guest writer

Tim Johnson writes about the first recipient of the Paul deArmond Citizen Journalism award, Whatcom County writer Wendy Harris.

3 comments; last on Feb 08, 2014

Anatomy of a Development Part XI - The Doldrums at University Ridge

Mon, Jan 20, 2014, 5:14 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The developers of University Ridge have been silent since shortly after the hearing examiner's decision on 23 October last year. Will they walk?


The Marijuana Bowl

Sun, Jan 19, 2014, 8:39 pm  //  John Servais

Super Bowl ... Weed Bowl ... This bud's for you ... Bong Bowl ... Marijuana Bowl ... whatever. It is on!

1 comments; last on Jan 20, 2014

Port’s Alternative Marina Analysis a Scam

Tue, Jan 14, 2014, 2:19 pm  //  Guest writer

Do we actually need to say that we, as citizens, want accurate information from government officials?

1 comments; last on Jan 14, 2014

City too Poor for Power Pennies or Discrimination?

Fri, Dec 27, 2013, 4:00 am  //  Guest writer

Guest writer Barbara Perry writes about Bellingham Parks refusal to allow motorized wheel chairs to recharge at public electrical outlets.

6 comments; last on Jan 03, 2014

Port Memo Addresses Marina Fraud Allegations

Fri, Dec 20, 2013, 3:56 pm  //  Wendy Harris

A Port of Bellingham internal memo tries, but fails, to justify changes in cost estimates for alternative marina sites.

5 comments; last on Dec 22, 2013

Lummi Influence Over the Waterfront Planning Process Continues to Grow

Tue, Dec 17, 2013, 12:21 am  //  Wendy Harris

Army Corps advised DOE that it will not issue a waterfront permit without Lummi approval

2 comments; last on Jan 13, 2014

Gary Jensen Not Running for State Senate

Mon, Dec 16, 2013, 12:30 pm  //  John Servais

Ferndale Mayor Gary Jensen has decided not to file for the 42nd state Senate seat currently held by Doug Ericksen.

5 comments; last on Dec 24, 2013

Larrabee School; Its Future

Mon, Dec 09, 2013, 12:24 pm  //  Guest writer

Barbara Perry writes about the closed nature of the Bellingham School Board on the future of the Larrabee School.

1 comments; last on Dec 15, 2013

Steal this Waterfront: Costs without Benefit

Sat, Dec 07, 2013, 8:23 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein the direct, indirect, hidden and lost opportunity costs make this a waterfront boondoggle of billions

3 comments; last on Dec 11, 2013

On Monday, City Council Votes “third and final” Approval of Waterfront Plan

Sat, Dec 07, 2013, 12:33 pm  //  Wendy Harris

Local activist calls on Bellingham City Council to table the unpopular waterfront plans and engage in meaningful public process

2 comments; last on Dec 08, 2013

Lecture on County Water Issues Draws Crowd

Fri, Dec 06, 2013, 11:03 pm  //  Wendy Harris

The county will be required to consider water quality and water quantity when planning rural growth.

3 comments; last on Dec 10, 2013

Video Exposes City Council Dysfunction on Waterfront Plan

Thu, Dec 05, 2013, 11:58 am  //  John Servais

The Political Junkie has posted a 3 minute video showing Bellingham City Council members explaining their idiocy for all of us to watch.

2 comments; last on Dec 06, 2013

The Bellingham “Riot” - Let’s Expand the Conversation

Thu, Dec 05, 2013, 5:00 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The post "riot" conversation is terribly lacking in several areas. We must expand the discussion or risk learning little from the experience.

3 comments; last on Dec 15, 2013

Cascadia Weekly Blasts Waterfront Plan

Wed, Dec 04, 2013, 10:53 am  //  John Servais

Bellingham City Council and Port of Bellingham finalize the waterfront plan. In his weekly Gristle, Tim Johnson blasts the corrupt public process.

4 comments; last on Dec 05, 2013

Waterfront Development Bonus Yet Another Bad Idea

Sat, Nov 30, 2013, 8:11 pm  //  Wendy Harris

The waterfront plan allows a development bonus for payments made to the Lake Whatcom land acquisition fund

1 comments; last on Dec 01, 2013

City and Port Ready To Act on Waterfront Plan

Fri, Nov 29, 2013, 9:43 pm  //  Wendy Harris

A number of important issues need to be resolved before waterfront planning is complete, but the city council and port commission are ready to act.

2 comments; last on Nov 30, 2013

Port Unable To Protect Public Safety

Fri, Nov 22, 2013, 9:01 pm  //  Wendy Harris

If the port can not construct the airport safely, should it be entrusted with dangerous waterfront cleanup work?


Walmart and McDonald’s - Partners in Institutionalized Cluelessness

Wed, Nov 20, 2013, 5:03 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The advice coming from Walmart and McDonald's to its low paid employees becomes more and more bizarre and inane.


Anatomy of a Development - Part X Appeals of the Hearing Examiner’s Decision

Tue, Nov 19, 2013, 5:35 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Ambling's motion to the hearing examiner for reconsideration was definitively rejected. The developer has not met the deadline for an appeal to the Superior Court


Smoking Gun: Fraud and Deception

Mon, Nov 18, 2013, 2:18 pm  //  Guest writer

In which we find the hidden core of the waterfront plan is rotten through and through

7 comments; last on Nov 21, 2013

County Releases EIS, Prepares to Purchase Jail Site

Mon, Nov 18, 2013, 10:59 am  //  Riley Sweeney

The county takes two big steps forward on the new jail, while still missing the point


Noballmacare and Setting the False Standard

Thu, Nov 14, 2013, 1:39 am  //  Tip Johnson

Dear Mr. President, There's a sucker born every minute, and two to take him.

7 comments; last on Nov 21, 2013

City Council Misled On Waterfront Planning

Wed, Nov 13, 2013, 3:16 pm  //  Wendy Harris

The city adminstration has been providing misleading/ incorrect information to the city council to avoid waterfront plan revisions.

1 comments; last on Nov 18, 2013

Election Analysis: What Happened with the Port Races?

Tue, Nov 12, 2013, 10:21 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley crunches the numbers on Renata and McAuley's races to find answers

2 comments; last on Nov 13, 2013

Puget Neighborhood Likely New Home for 1,300 Students

Tue, Nov 12, 2013, 5:16 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Puget Neighborhood will likely have in the immediate future 1,300 new rental units that will be marketed primarily to the student population.


Gloomy Fate For Waterfront Wildlife

Sat, Nov 09, 2013, 9:47 pm  //  Wendy Harris

The COB administration continues in its refusal to analyze waterfront wildlife issues, even though this is a prerequisite step in protecting wildlife from the impacts of development

3 comments; last on Nov 10, 2013

Election Results - November 2013

Tue, Nov 05, 2013, 8:21 pm  //  John Servais

With lots of outside county money flowing in to our local races, this election is weird. But real - and we county residents have spoken.

11 comments; last on Nov 09, 2013

Health Insurance Scams - Washington Not Spared

Mon, Nov 04, 2013, 9:55 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The call of the dollar speaks more loudly to health insurance companies than does the voice and well-being of the consumer, even here in Washington.

8 comments; last on Nov 06, 2013

Anatomy of a Development - Part IX BMC Rule of Three Thwarts Plans

Thu, Oct 31, 2013, 10:19 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Four bedroom dorm rooms have been nixed by the hearing examiner. University Ridge may be in trouble as a cash cow for Ambling Development of Georgia

3 comments; last on Nov 04, 2013

The Slaughterhouse Referendum - Citizens Opposing Widespread Slaughter (COWS)

Mon, Oct 28, 2013, 10:19 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein we discover why we exert our rights - and grab some more petitions before it's too late

3 comments; last on Nov 06, 2013

Dick’s Picks for City Council - Burr and Petree

Mon, Oct 28, 2013, 12:00 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Independent voters are for independent thinkers on the city council. Vote for Burr and Petree.


Boulevard Park Reopens

Sat, Oct 26, 2013, 7:36 pm  //  John Servais

Beach reconstruction is done at Boulevard Park on the Bellingham waterfront. Paths along shore are again open - and it looks good.

6 comments; last on Nov 01, 2013

Ken Bell and Renata for Port

Sun, Oct 20, 2013, 7:07 pm  //  John Servais

Ken Bell has my vote over Mike McAuley for port commissioner. And Renata Kowalczyk has it over Dan Robbins.

8 comments; last on Oct 30, 2013


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