Plan Commission & Samish Neighbors Bypassed on Rezone Docketing

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Thu, Jul 24, 2014, 7:52 am  //  Dick Conoboy

On 21 July the City Council bypassed the Planning Commission and the Samish Neighborhood by considering for docketing a comprehensive plan rezone "application" that arrived at the Planning Department just days earlier.  The rezone request is to convert zoning on property now occupied by the Church of Christ at 801 Samish Way.  The " application", in the form of a letter (scroll to page 2), was hand delivered on 16 July by ZenderThurston, the attorneys for Pacific Harbor Holdings, LLC. which is the corporate entity of Pacific Harbor Psychology. The psychology group wishes to relocate from its present offices on Bellwether Way at the port.  Its representative sought to assure council that it only intends to operate a psychology practice on the site, but for that it needs a rezone to Commercial Planned. Council discussion revealed that the present church on the site is operating under a conditional use permit.

As outlined at the City Council meeting, the site specific rezone would change the property zoning from Residential Single to Commercial Planned. Therefore, if the potential buyers ever decide to move to another location and sell the property, any building type allowed under Commercial Planned would be permitted. A rezone would permanently modify the current Residential Single designation and allow for activities such as a restaurant/pub, a service station, an apartment building, a heavy farm equipment sale site or even a motel; all these and more are permitted under Commercial Planned (BMC 20.38.050 C).  

However, the council ignored the fact that docketing comprehensive plan ammendments (BMC20.20.020) is a Type VI process.  This process involves notification of and meeting with the public and a hearing before the Planning Commission.  Neither of these took place prior to the council meeting on the 21st.  See Bellingham Municipal Code (BMC) sections 21.10.150, 21.10.170 and 21.10.180.

Furthermore, however laudable the claims of intent by Pacific Harbor Holdings, they are not guarantees. The Samish Neighborhood has heard these declarations of intent many times from those who proffered University Ridge and Padden Trails. These unenforceable assurances are irksome. The list of possible problems following a rezone is long: business partners die, management changes, business entities collapse, bankruptcies occur, partnerships disintegrate, etc, etc… No organization is immune. The Samish Neighborhood then becomes the “stuckee.”  Pacific Harbor Holdings and ZenderThurston will be long gone. Future councils will exclaim, "How did that happen?"

This action by the church (Church of Christ), the buyers (Pacific Harbor) and the City Council demonstrates a manifest lack of concern about the thoughts and opinions of the neighborhood.  Especially egregious is that the applicants are self-described churchmen and mental health professionals who ostensibly ought to be operating with integrity, not sneaking last minute rezone requests in the door without even approaching the neighborhood association.  On the other hand, Mr. Taysi, the representative of the two other scheduled Samish and Ashley rezones met with the neighborhood to take our comments into consideration. 

An acceptance by the council of this church property rezone proposal is, consequently, a slap in the face to Mr. Taysi and his clients who, foolishly it seems, played by the rules. Consequently, residents who cared at least had an opportunity to speak knowledgeably about those two rezones at the hearing or to provide written comments. No such requirements were made of the third (church property) rezone applicants. The Samish Neighborhood was not provided the opportunity under the BMC to comment on the Docketing Criteria of the church property rezone. With no apparent overriding rationale, the council moved to act unilaterally. 

The manner in which city planning staff handled this issue is also most problematic. The letter from the applicant indicates that planning staff members “recommended that this request be submitted to the city council.” This indicates the planning staff and the rezone applicant were having discussions prior to 16 July. Furthermore, the letter was essentially buried by the staff in a pdf within the agenda packet item entitled Public Comment and Mailing Labels.  So much for transparency. Without comment, staff essentially dumped it in the lap of the council with a non-committal shrug and an approving nod from the city attorney’s office that the council can do pretty much anything it wants with this last minute, stealth rezone. This reinforces a growing resentment among citizens, feeding a perception of laissez-faire activities within the planning process.

If the council can move unilaterally to accept any rezone application skulking through the door, it makes hearings on the docketing of some comprehensive plan rezones and not on others an absurdity, a useless exercise that only serves to enrage a public that is already deeply concerned about lack of integrity within its governing bodies.  

Council actions on this rezone were an especially telling de facto dismissal of concerns of a neighborhood and the requirements of the BMC on Type VI processes. The council ought to withdraw further consideration for the rezone of the property at 801 Samish, now occupied by the Church of Christ, and inform the parties that they can resubmit their application in 2015 with concomitant discussions with the Samish Neighborhood as the BMC specifies.   Manufactured urgency on the applicant's part does not translate into a need for precipitous action on the part of the council that ignores established procedures.

Plan Commission & Samish Neighbors Bypassed on Rezone Docketing

Thu, Jul 24, 2014, 7:52 am  //  Dick Conoboy

In contravention of the Bellingham Municipal Code, the City Council will consider on 4 August a last minute docketing request that ignores the Planning Commission and Samish Neighborhood.

0 comments

Intrado Not to Intrude in Bellingham

Tue, Jul 08, 2014, 8:20 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The city council "persuades" the city administration to withdraw a request for an intrusive police threat warning system

2 comments; last on Jul 08, 2014

Johns Repair

Specializing in German vehicles...

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Tue, Jun 24, 2014, 10:24 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The Bellingham Police Department wants to purchase "threat assessment" software with federal monies. Citizen comments were vehement and negative. City Council confused.

5 comments; last on Jul 03, 2014

Fireworks Ban in Bellingham in Effect as of 18 June

Tue, Jun 17, 2014, 7:53 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The possession and use of consumer fireworks are no longer permitted within the city limits.

1 comments; last on Jun 19, 2014

Planning or Development Commission?

Mon, Apr 28, 2014, 6:28 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Every Bellingham Planning Commission member has ties to development or development-related businesses.

4 comments; last on Apr 30, 2014

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

Wed, Apr 02, 2014, 6:00 am  //  Dick Conoboy

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

12 comments; last on Apr 06, 2014

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

Wed, Mar 12, 2014, 8:28 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

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

Mon, Feb 03, 2014, 6:30 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

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Mon, Jan 20, 2014, 6:14 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?

0 comments

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Thu, Dec 05, 2013, 6:00 am  //  Dick Conoboy

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3 comments; last on Dec 15, 2013

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0 comments

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

Tue, Nov 19, 2013, 6:35 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

0 comments

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Tue, Nov 12, 2013, 6:16 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.

0 comments

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Mon, Nov 04, 2013, 10:55 am  //  Dick Conoboy

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8 comments; last on Nov 06, 2013

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

Thu, Oct 31, 2013, 11:19 am  //  Dick Conoboy

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3 comments; last on Nov 04, 2013

Dick’s Picks for City Council - Burr and Petree

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

0 comments

Anatomy of a Development Proposal - Part VIII The 12 October Riot and University Ridge

Tue, Oct 15, 2013, 4:16 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

The development of University Ridge will replicate the student ghetto that fueled the riot on 12 October.

6 comments; last on Oct 25, 2013

Anatomy of a Development Proposal - Part VII The Hearing on University Ridge

Fri, Sep 20, 2013, 8:09 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Hearing held on 11 September. Comment period extended 10 days. Effects on home owners already manifest.

8 comments; last on Sep 22, 2013

Anatomy of a Development Proposal - Part VI Hearing Examiner Date Set - A Broken Process

Mon, Aug 26, 2013, 5:00 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The 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

Anatomy of a Development Proposal - Part V The SEPA Determination

Fri, Aug 16, 2013, 5:00 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The University Ridge dormitory development approval process is broken. The City Council should act.

1 comments; last on Aug 17, 2013

Charter Schools Redux - Primary Election for School Board upon Us

Tue, Jul 23, 2013, 11:22 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Candidates for the Bellingham School Board need to let us know where they stand on charter schools.

3 comments; last on Aug 05, 2013

Anatomy of a Development Proposal - Part I The Variance

Wed, Jun 26, 2013, 8:04 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

A variance request without merit is the centerpiece of a development proposal to construct a complex of four dormitory-style buildings among single family homes in the Puget Neighborhood

0 comments

D-Day 6 June 2013

Thu, Jun 06, 2013, 6:30 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

D-Day forgotten.

0 comments

Skip the Fireworks - Send Money to Support Our Troops

Mon, May 20, 2013, 12:48 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

You 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.

0 comments

University Ridge Dormitory, The Infill Tool Kit and Our Neighborhoods

Mon, May 13, 2013, 3:50 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Some very important issues with respect to the University Ridge private dormitory project in the Puget Neighborhood will not be considered in the approval process.

10 comments; last on Jun 30, 2013

Update on University Ridge Student Dormitory Development

Wed, May 08, 2013, 9:53 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Ambling University Development has proposed building private, off-campus dormitory buildings in the Puget Neighborhood. Their revised proposal was submitted on 29 April.

0 comments

Status of the Move to Ban Fireworks in Bellingham

Sat, Apr 06, 2013, 3:59 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

Dangerous fireworks likely to continue being sold in Bellingham for this 4th of July

1 comments; last on Apr 06, 2013

Is That Apple Hard Drive Really Yours?

Thu, Apr 04, 2013, 12:48 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

It 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

University Ridge Height Variance Hearing Postponed

Tue, Mar 12, 2013, 11:50 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Several 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

Obamacare and the Coming (Not Again?) Wealth Transfer

Wed, Mar 06, 2013, 11:05 am  //  Dick Conoboy

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4 comments; last on Apr 05, 2013

Support our Troops - Ban Fireworks

Sun, Mar 03, 2013, 5:17 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

Do we need to recreate the sounds and sights of the battlefield when doing so brings pain and suffering to our combat veterans?

0 comments

University Ridge Student Housing - What is it?

Mon, Feb 25, 2013, 7:54 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

There 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

Behind the Charter Schools Initiative

Fri, Oct 19, 2012, 2:24 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

Washington voters have wisely turned down three attempts to create charter schools in this state. They should replicate these defeats in 2012.

1 comments; last on Oct 23, 2012

Petition Drive to Ban Consumer Fireworks Underway

Thu, May 24, 2012, 9:22 am  //  Dick Conoboy

A case for eliminating consumer fireworks in Bellingham city limits

3 comments; last on May 26, 2012

Padden Trails.  It Is Not About Infill; It Is About Profits

Sat, Apr 07, 2012, 2:05 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

The issue is not sprawl or infill, but the money to be made by the type of infill and its placement

7 comments; last on Apr 09, 2012

2012-2013 Priorities from City Council

Sun, Mar 11, 2012, 11:20 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The City Council outlines their agenda for the coming year

2 comments; last on Mar 12, 2012

Padden Trails Rezone – You Should Be Worried

Tue, Nov 15, 2011, 11:43 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The Padden Trails rezone effort is a misuse of the Infill Tool Kit on the outskirts of Bellingham.

8 comments; last on Nov 16, 2011

Bellingham Bank of America hires security guard

Wed, Nov 02, 2011, 4:00 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

Occupy Bellingham is already creating jobs for the 99% - but this raises some interesting questions.

8 comments; last on Nov 04, 2011

Status of Rental Licensing and Inspections in Bellingham

Thu, Jun 02, 2011, 9:32 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

Updates on Rental Licensing in Bellingham

15 comments; last on Jun 25, 2011

Fireworks in Bellingham

Mon, Jan 17, 2011, 5:22 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

Why a ban on fireworks in Bellingham is needed, and a look at the politics of the issue.

31 comments; last on Jan 25, 2011

 

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