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, 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.
6 comments; last on May 20, 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
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