Devil In the Details

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Sat, Aug 16, 2014, 3:48 pm  //  Guest writer

On Saturday, Aug 16, Sunnyland residents gathered to make a photo appeal to Bellingham city hall.

What is the problem?  Why are the Sunnyland neighbors unhappy with the outcome of the recent City Council decision that calls for single- family zoning for the DOT property?  Here’s why.

Though single-family in name, it is in fact, left open to multi-family development because the language, “mixed-use” leaves a loophole open to interpretation, or in other words, “big enough to drive a truck through.” And the developer, with his lawyer and land use consultant, are allowed to petition the council on a yearly basis, with changes, such as requesting that multi-family forms such as apartment buildings, be allowed to be built.

Here is what happened. The neighborhood plan called for 28 single-family homes. The Planning Department co-opted our plan and submitted one of their own, calling for the Tool Kit to be used. Although a previous council decided the tool kit could only be used in areas zoned multi-family, they decided some forms, compatible with single-family development would be allowed on the DOT lot.  Because townhouses, which are essentially duplexes with two attached units, could be individually owned, they were included. This is why the term “mixed-usage” is in the descriptive language.

Several of us requested that the council adjust the language to reflect and refine the intent of the council calling it Single-Family, but instead they chose to change the definition of single- family and make changes to the code.  This will serve as a model and have ramifications for other neighborhoods in the city, particularly the older neighborhoods.

The neighborhood requests fell on deaf ears. The city planners met with the developer and his representatives, but never with anyone from the neighborhood. The reason we supported using the Tool Kit was because it includes design standards, that regular single-family housing does not. None of us will be surprised if the developers also ask that the design standards be changed or dropped. 

The council members are admonishing us to be nice to our new phantom neighbors, and seem to feel we should be grateful for their thoughtful decision to still call Sunnyland a single-family neighborhood. We have nothing against renters, and council members are obfuscating the point by trying to make that the issue. We hope that our fellow citizens are paying attention.  There will be one more meeting before this is finalized. Perhaps they would hear us if they received a lot of letters, phone calls, and people making requests at the public comment period that there be safeguards in the language which would keep single-family zoning in actuality and not just in name.

Devil In the Details

Sat, Aug 16, 2014, 3:48 pm  //  Guest writer

Judith Green of the Sunnyland Neighborhood guest writes this brief summary of what went wrong with the planning last week.

0 comments

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