Save the Woods?Permalink +
Wed, Jan 16, 2008, 2:33 pm // Tip JohnsonOr how to mitigate the illegitimacies of Fairhaven Highlands, AKA Chuckanut Ridge and the Hundred Acre Woods.
Sorry, I didn't have time to write something short!
Tonight (1/16/2008) at 6:30 in Municipal Court, citizens will have the opportunity to comment on the scope of an environmental study for the proposed Fairhaven Highlands project, also known as Chuckanut Ridge. This controversial project was first proposed in 1996 but was met with intense public opposition. The property later became the poster child for the Greenways levy, offering the opportunity to enhance and extend Fairhaven Park. Somehow, acquisition was never accomplished. Now the project is back, under the aegis of Horizon Bank and Greenbrier Construction. At issue is the fate of a mature forested wetland that has been identified as a keystone of the food chain in the Interurban corridor connecting the Sehome Hill Arboretum to the Chuckanut Mountains. The property is replete with important wetlands that provide an important source of food and water to various critters and supply important flows of fresh, clean water to both Padden and Chuckanut Creeks during dry periods.
Many tonight will speak to the myriad environmental points subsumed under the State Environmental Protection Act - Water, Air, Land, Habitat, Traffic, etc. And well they should, since the impacts of such intense development will be devastating. My interest has narrowed to focus on two issues.
The owners and other proponents lean on property rights, suggesting that if citizens don't want to see development, then they ought to buy it. Otherwise, the owners have a right to develop. I agree. However, I disagree that the value they imagine is appropriate. More on that later. First, let's make sure we can protect what is ours and effect adequate redress if we fail.
Just downstream from the project, a large, ancient beaver pond forms the headwaters of an unnamed tributary to Chuckanut Creek. This publicly owned wetland pond is teeming with tiny freshwater shrimp and who knows what else. Steelhead trout have been observed, having made their way up the hill from Arroyo Park. It is a haven for birds and area wildlife, a source of pure, fresh water, untainted with petroleum waste or septage.
We need to make sure there is a comprehensive biological inventory of this ecosystem. We know that end-of-pipe stormwater treatment facilities fail during peak storm events, flushing their contents and discharging a toxic jolt of accumulated waste. The City has no program for maintaining such facilities, instead relying on the property owners whose record for such diligence is dismal. If we are going to build a bunch of homes, with roofs, lawns and landscaping, parking lots and dumpster depots, will we rely on grassy swales, grease traps and detention basins to protect the pristine public wetland that is destined to receive the results? It won't work.
Therefore, the public needs a thorough assessment of the receiving area as a baseline for evaluating future damages. Wiping out the shrimp could initiate a cascading failure of the food chain, resulting in significant natural resource damages. The City and Developer would be liable for these damages for having permitted the development with inadequate mitigation. I believe that adequate mitigation is impossible and that irreparable damage is inevitable. I, for one, intend to file a natural resources damage claim when they occur. The success of such an effort depends upon a complete and current assessment. It is the City's duty to protect the public's interest. Please do so.
However, the best possible mitigation for the project would be to review the zoning error that created this environmental catastrophe. Without going into excruciating detail on the numerous things the City did, but should not have, or didn't do, but should have, that have kept this project alive, it is worth outlining several points of illegitimacy that this project relies upon:
- The only rationale of record for the rezone appears in a 1979 presentation by then City Planner Rick Fackler, who stated that the bridge over Padden Creek would require replacement within “the next few years” if Chuckanut was not connected to Old Fairhaven Parkway (then Valley Parkway) through the project AND that zoning density sufficient to support the improvement through the subject property was necessary.
o This was an erroneous assertion. The connector was not built and the bridge did not require replacement.
o Density to make the property economically feasible for development is not a legitimate basis for zoning.
o The prerequisite conditions of a connector or bridge widening is not being met by the proposal, yet the density remains.
- There was never a public hearing specific to the zoning change before either the Planning Commission or the City Council.
- The zoning change was never advertised and affected property owners were never notified.
- The zoning change furthered none and contravened most of the adopted policies, goals and objectives in the South Neighborhood Plan. Many citywide policies, goals and objectives were and are similarly disregarded.
- The zoning change was adopted as part of the “whole cloth” of the original Bellingham Comprehensive Plan, in an unusual council action, and was hence generally unknown to citizens until the project was originally proposed in 1996.
- The resulting public furor prompted an exhaustive document review by then city planner Chris Spens, whose conclusion, “It’s a mystery at best”, was published in the Final Draft EIS for the original proposal.
o The City then had a duty to review this as a possible zoning error, but never did.
- The zoning change was supposedly legitimized by subsequent re-adoptions of the Comprehensive Plan, but has never been specifically reviewed for consistency with neighborhood or City goals.
- The zoning was administratively re-adjusted by mayoral memorandum involving a conveyance/reconveyance scheme that parceled out a major wetland and qualified the owner for a substantial tax benefit.
o The public was afforded no opportunity for input and no comprehensive review was conducted.
o The Growth Management Hearings Board has determined that this methodology constitutes an illegal development regulation and has overturned similar "deals".
- The City delayed adoption of new critical areas provisions beyond multiple deadlines and under threat of state sanctions until the project could be supposedly “vested”. Whether or not vesting has been actually achieved is subject to debate.
- The City downgraded expectations of traffic performance in the project vicinity to Level of Service "F", or gridlock, to circumvent the state Growth management requirement for traffic infrastructure "concurrency", saving the proponents millions.
- The project received a miraculous four-day Determination of Completeness, even though prerequisite conditions were not met, regulatory buffers were slighted and buildings were placed on known landslide scarps, designated steep slopes and sensitive areas.
o The most previous City Determination of Completeness was for a 350 square foot addition to an existing South Hill home and required nearly six months.
- Since the zoning was mysteriously “adopted”, changes in perspective on planning and environmental protection principles have made the designation appear less, not more, appropriate.
Altogether, sustaining this project has involved way too many miracles or mysteries. It is either a tragic comedy of errors, incompetent or inept planning, or much worse - a corrupt collusion of favoritism toward special interests. Informants, commenting confidentially, have asserted that elected officials of the time had a financial interest in the property, held under a blind Delaware Corporation located in Lynden. Only a subpoena can discover the veracity of the assertion. It definitely deserves an investigation.
However the City can and should overturn the Determination of Completeness and review the zoning error. Were the City to review the zoning error and designate land uses consistent with the long-adopted South Neighborhood and City policies, citizens would then have a chance to acquire the property at a realistic price. Festooned with the absurd prospect of 739 residential units, project proponents can't see the forest for the glitter of imaginary gold. That's not community spirit.
The real tragedy is that development of the property will forever foreclose the opportunity to extend Fairhaven Park to meet the City's own standard for the population they have targeted for the area. It will eliminate the chance to connect Fairhaven Park to our substantial Interurban corridor investments, leveraging their value and creating a "Gateway to the Chuckanuts". This is a once in a lifetime chance at an opportunity of regional importance. Don't miss it.
See you there!
Related Links:-> See the tiny freshwater shrimp video
Mon, Dec 09, 2013, 12:24 pm // Guest writerBarbara Perry writes about the closed nature of the Bellingham School Board on the future of the Larrabee School.
Sat, Dec 07, 2013, 8:23 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein the direct, indirect, hidden and lost opportunity costs make this a waterfront boondoggle of billions
2 comments; last on Dec 09, 2013
Paper Dreams in Fairhaven
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2 comments; last on Dec 08, 2013
Fri, Dec 06, 2013, 11:03 pm // Wendy HarrisThe county will be required to consider water quality and water quantity when planning rural growth.
3 comments; last on Dec 10, 2013
Thu, Dec 05, 2013, 11:58 am // John ServaisThe 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
Thu, Dec 05, 2013, 5:00 am // Dick ConoboyThe post "riot" conversation is terribly lacking in several areas. We must expand the discussion or risk learning little from the experience.
1 comments; last on Dec 07, 2013
Wed, Dec 04, 2013, 10:53 am // John ServaisBellingham 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
Sat, Nov 30, 2013, 8:11 pm // Wendy HarrisThe waterfront plan allows a development bonus for payments made to the Lake Whatcom land acquisition fund
1 comments; last on Dec 01, 2013
Fri, Nov 29, 2013, 9:43 pm // Wendy HarrisA 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
Fri, Nov 22, 2013, 9:01 pm // Wendy HarrisIf the port can not construct the airport safely, should it be entrusted with dangerous waterfront cleanup work?
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Tue, Nov 19, 2013, 5:35 am // Dick ConoboyAmbling'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
Mon, Nov 18, 2013, 2:18 pm // Guest writerIn which we find the hidden core of the waterfront plan is rotten through and through
7 comments; last on Nov 21, 2013
Mon, Nov 18, 2013, 10:59 am // Riley SweeneyThe county takes two big steps forward on the new jail, while still missing the point
Thu, Nov 14, 2013, 1:39 am // Tip JohnsonDear Mr. President, There's a sucker born every minute, and two to take him.
7 comments; last on Nov 21, 2013
Wed, Nov 13, 2013, 3:16 pm // Wendy HarrisThe city adminstration has been providing misleading/ incorrect information to the city council to avoid waterfront plan revisions.
1 comments; last on Nov 18, 2013
Tue, Nov 12, 2013, 10:21 am // Riley SweeneyRiley crunches the numbers on Renata and McAuley's races to find answers
2 comments; last on Nov 13, 2013
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3 comments; last on Nov 10, 2013
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11 comments; last on Nov 09, 2013
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8 comments; last on Nov 06, 2013
Thu, Oct 31, 2013, 10:19 am // Dick ConoboyFour 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
Mon, Oct 28, 2013, 10:19 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein we discover why we exert our rights - and grab some more petitions before it's too late
3 comments; last on Nov 06, 2013
Mon, Oct 28, 2013, 12:00 am // Dick ConoboyIndependent voters are for independent thinkers on the city council. Vote for Burr and Petree.
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6 comments; last on Nov 01, 2013
Sun, Oct 20, 2013, 7:07 pm // John ServaisKen 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
Tue, Oct 15, 2013, 3:16 pm // Dick ConoboyThe development of University Ridge will replicate the student ghetto that fueled the riot on 12 October.
6 comments; last on Oct 25, 2013
Tue, Oct 15, 2013, 2:46 pm // Wendy HarrisRequesting waterfront handouts for the Overwater Walkway while proclaiming autonomy from further public review is unjustifiable.
2 comments; last on Oct 16, 2013
Tue, Oct 08, 2013, 2:22 pm // Wendy HarrisThe city staff considers the overwater walkway a done deal before official approval or resolution of treaty right conflicts
4 comments; last on Oct 16, 2013
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Wed, Oct 02, 2013, 10:01 pm // Wendy HarrisBellingham is holding an open house to introduce the public to its habitat restoration master plan, despite being at a preliminary draft stage
3 comments; last on Oct 04, 2013
Wed, Oct 02, 2013, 5:40 am // Riley SweeneyRiley uncovers how the Coal Industry is funding conservative candidates in Whatcom County
11 comments; last on Oct 03, 2013
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8 comments; last on Oct 01, 2013
Fri, Sep 20, 2013, 7:09 am // Dick ConoboyHearing held on 11 September. Comment period extended 10 days. Effects on home owners already manifest.
8 comments; last on Sep 22, 2013
Thu, Sep 19, 2013, 6:08 am // Riley SweeneyRiley examines who is donating to which candidates
Mon, Sep 09, 2013, 12:07 am // Wendy HarrisThe staff will be explaining the public's concerns, but the public is not allowed to testify.
Fri, Sep 06, 2013, 2:52 pm // Wendy HarrisElected officials continue to rely on inaccurate and misleading reports by the city and port staff regarding waterfront development.
Wed, Sep 04, 2013, 8:37 am // John ServaisAn attempt at linking to one or more writers who can help us make sense of going to war with Syria. An alternative to Kerry-Obama.
Wed, Sep 04, 2013, 12:36 am // John ServaisContacting Rick Larsen and Susan Delbene is actually a viable citizen exercise just now. Tell them to vote NO on bombing Syria.
1 comments; last on Sep 04, 2013
Sat, Aug 31, 2013, 2:10 pm // John ServaisSaturday afternoon - and a rally is taking place in downtown Bellingham against bombing Syria. Riley Sweeny and his Political Junkie site cover it.
Fri, Aug 30, 2013, 11:08 am // John ServaisGee, can we make it any clearer? Publisher opinion. So sad that we have to write this to Obama - who got our vote in 2008 because he…
4 comments; last on Aug 31, 2013
Mon, Aug 26, 2013, 4:00 am // Dick ConoboyThe University Ridge process works only to the benefit of the developers. The public is offered tight deadlines and insufficient information.
1 comments; last on Sep 21, 2013
Mon, Aug 19, 2013, 7:08 am // Riley SweeneyRiley whole-heartedly urges Doug Ericksen to run for Congress in 2014
2 comments; last on Aug 19, 2013
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12 comments; last on Aug 19, 2013
Fri, Aug 16, 2013, 4:00 am // Dick ConoboyThe University Ridge dormitory development approval process is broken. The City Council should act.
1 comments; last on Aug 17, 2013
Wed, Aug 14, 2013, 11:24 am // John ServaisThe Feds gag an Email service owner - so he cannot even tell us why he is gagged.
2 comments; last on Aug 15, 2013
Tue, Aug 13, 2013, 11:31 pm // Wendy HarrisThe City of Bellingham memorandum of agreement with Lynden does not make sense. What is going on?
4 comments; last on Sep 11, 2013
Tue, Aug 13, 2013, 9:26 am // Riley SweeneyAfter attending the public hearing on the marijuana ban, Riley breaks down the good, the bad and the ugly
4 comments; last on Aug 20, 2013
Fri, Aug 09, 2013, 8:42 pm // Wendy HarrisA conceptual agreement between COB and Lynden exchanges water for a new, but unneeded, water withdrawal site on the Middle Nooksack.
3 comments; last on Aug 10, 2013
Thu, Aug 08, 2013, 12:05 am // John ServaisLiberal talking head Lawrence O'Donnell went into a bullying rant against a well qualified guest - and showed he's just like O'Reilly.
2 comments; last on Aug 08, 2013
Tue, Jul 30, 2013, 11:59 pm // John ServaisAd rates are in the norm of Internet rates and reach a well educated local audience.
Sun, Jul 28, 2013, 2:44 pm // Wendy HarrisRedevelopment of 14 acres along Lake Whatcom is contrary to the efforts to restore water quality.
1 comments; last on Jul 29, 2013
Tue, Jul 23, 2013, 10:22 am // Dick ConoboyCandidates for the Bellingham School Board need to let us know where they stand on charter schools.
3 comments; last on Aug 05, 2013
Sat, Jul 20, 2013, 3:53 pm // Wendy HarrisProposed rezone of farm land to allow meat packinghouses will undermine the long term viability of our farm economy.
1 comments; last on Jul 23, 2013
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2 comments; last on Jul 16, 2013
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1 comments; last on Jul 12, 2013
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