City Council Approves Resident’s Sunnyland Plan

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Tue, Jul 22, 2014, 7:22 pm  //  John Servais

The Bellingham City Council on Monday night gave preliminary approval to the Sunnyland plan that residents crafted through their neighborhood association.  And rejected the plan the city planning department threw together over the past few months.  Yes, threw together illegally.   The residents put their plan together seven - 7 - years ago and have been working all these years to get it recognized. 

The plan now goes to the council planning committee - where it will probably need to endure a lot of pressure from the developer and the planning department.  One question to be determined at some point is - is this a zoning change or a development? The planning department has been little help to the council and the residents on that question.  If it's a development, then the property owner is in the driver's seat.  If it's a zoning change, then the residents are the prime drivers of the process.

This is a capsule summary of what happened last night.  A Sunnyland resident will give us a better look at this entire process soon with a guest article. But as we had posted the articles leading up to last night's council meeting, I wanted to get the news out.  

Mike Rostron  //  Wed, Jul 23, 2014, 5:12 pm

It was a step in the right direction, largely due to the efforts of councilman Terry Bornemann who pointed out that the Sunnyland neighborhood has worked hard for seven years to get permanent zoning assigned for this sub-area. The council did not send on the illegal “modification” by the city planning department (actually a separate improperly docketed zoning plan in its own right) in spite of the planning department’s effort to promote it, complete with a fancy diagrams and photos, etc. There is still no guarantee we will have single family medium density zoning consistent with neighborhood character in this sub-area. (The former D.O.T. property is a sub-area of 4 acres. This is not a site-specific zoning proposal, although the planning department has changed that language to improperly favor the developer over the residents.). The planning committee may well modify the SNA proposal, or throw it out completely.

One thing some on the council seemed confused about was the owners rights in this issue. Actually, the owner’s rights only properly begin once permanent zoning has been enacted, and the right to set permanent zoning, for very good and democratic reasons, belongs only to the city council. Otherwise, who would devise zoning for the city—developers?! Of course developers who own large parcels certainly have a right and good reason to advocate for zoning that they want on a parcel like the DOT sub-area which has not yet had permanent zoning assigned. The SNA agrees with the developers that the current default zoning, which would only allow two homes to be built, is unreasonable. (Although many in the neighborhood were in favor of a park as the proper use for that sub-area, and were dismayed that D.O.T. was able to cut a deal with the developer without public participation. Here again, at the state level, taxpayers subsidized a for-profit private developer.)

This is a crucial point. Some members of the council seem to think the property owner/developer has the right to demand any zoning they want. Actually, the developer only has the right to build within existing zoning restraints once they are in place, and in this case, that zoning has yet to be set. So the thirty minutes of council time the owner and his consultant and lawyer were allotted, which they spent threatening the council with obscure legalities and spurious claims, were completely specious, fallacious, and deceptive. A certain city council person stated she did not agree with neighborhood associations bringing such proposals to the council for consideration. If not the actual residents of a neighborhood then who else? Profit only motivated developers and corporations? Consultants from other cities? Construction lobbyists? Shouldn’t the folks who reside in and own property in the neighborhoods have a major voice in zoning within the areas they live? If not, how different is our system from a feudal system where large property owners control all, and the peasants and peons are subject to the will of the dukes and barons who control the major tracts of land?

Although the city has now conveniently changed the code language, the Sunnyland neighborhood was originally, seven years ago, asked to participate, and even encouraged to formulate their own proposal. Had we brought forth a multi-family zoning proposal utilizing the consultant’s housing types (consultants who were paid from city coffers out of our tax receipts to essentially advocate for developers against the neighborhood residents) you can bet the planning department and city council would have been singing our praises rather than stalling and opposing our efforts for the past seven years. Of course they want the neighborhoods to participate, but only if they agree with their developer-driven vision of the new Bellevue On The Bay.


Tip Johnson  //  Wed, Jul 23, 2014, 8:05 pm

Who will pay for the time and resources used to create the “fancy diagrams and photos” for the “illegal “modification”” the city planning department “improperly docketed” for zoning review?  It’s amazing they could muster the initiative considering their abject failure to review patent zoning errors at Chuckanut Ridge for decades (which cost neighbors tens of thousands and taxpayers millions).

If the docketing was “improper” and the modification “illegal”, then the city resources expended must be repaid by the responsible parties, be it the staff, the planning director or mayor.  Whoever is running that show should know that illegal promotion cannot be a legitimate expense.

You see, the only ‘justice’ in citizens paying tens of thousands plus millions to correct a corrupt zoning error is that the pain might stimulate institutional learning that prevents it reoccurring.  Now this.

Who was in charge, how many hours and how much in materials?  Send them them the bill.


City Council Approves Resident’s Sunnyland Plan

Tue, Jul 22, 2014, 7:22 pm  //  John Servais

Sunnlyland residents win one - after a seven year effort. Planning Department failed them and all of us.

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