Padden Trails is Chuckanut Ridge Lite

Permalink +

Wed, Feb 22, 2012, 2:04 am  //  Guest writer

A rendering of the Padden Trails proposed development.

Christopher Grannis writes this guest article.  He is President of the South Neighborhood Association.  

- - - - 

Bellingham's Planning Department is attempting to push through another environmentally destructive development on sensitive, undeveloped land between Lake Padden and the freeway.  Department staff are recommending doubling the allowed density to 492 units, which is two thirds of the 739 units they advocated for the similarly inappropriate Fairhaven Highlands proposal on Chuckanut Ridge. Padden Trails is even less appropriate for increased density because of its isolation and single point access. The planning staff erroneously claims the Padden Trails rezone proposal is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan. They don’t even address many concerns not named in the Comprehensive Plan. Although the Planning Department claims to use best available science to regulate development, they apparently don't question whether increased density is compatible with best available science.

A couple of years ago, neighborhood leaders asked Planning Department representatives why they didn't consider best available science when they were trying to push through the 739-unit Fairhaven Highlands development and another project near 30th and Wilkin. Staff said they would not talk about those projects, but they did say the Planning Department did what was legally necessary and they do apply best available science. We were led to believe that because developers had the right to build 739 units, they could sue the city for "taking value" if the Planning Department tried to limit the number of units in order to protect the environment. Best available science was trumped by the developer's right to the number of units. There is no legal requirement to grant the Padden Trails developer increased density, but that is what planning staff is recommending. If the Padden Trails developer is granted the increase, they will have the right to build 492 units, and then it will be a legal necessity for the Planning Department staff to facilitate full build out.
Planning Department staff ignore Comprehensive Plan policies such as: “The quality of the natural environment should be protected by taking into account the land’s suitability for development and directing development away from important natural resources and environmentally sensitive areas.” And “Shorelines, wetlands and steep hillsides should be protected or impacts mitigated…” And “The buildable area and actual built density is determined only after all zoning considerations, environmental regulations/critical areas, and infrastructure needs are taken into consideration.” The staff recommends giving a legal right to building 492 units before the above items are determined.
Planning Department staff erroneously claim the proposed rezone amendment addresses changing circumstances, changing community values, and is consistent with and will help achieve the comprehensive plan goals. Here are a couple of the circumstances they claim have changed: 1.) “The area lacks urban facilities and services that are necessary to support higher densities. These include arterial streets, water, sewer and storm water facilities, schools, pedestrian, bicycle and transit facilities.” 2.) “The areas were often difficult and costly to develop due to the presence of environmentally sensitive areas, and there were very few if any regulatory tools in place to protect such areas.” There are still no urban facilities, and Padden Trails is still difficult and costly to develop due to environmentally sensite areas. There are more regulatory tools in place now, but we know from the Fairhaven Highlands experience that those tools are not used to limit the number of units in order to protect the environment.
The reasons staff give for recommending doubling the density are: 1.) infill, and 2.) making a financially viable development possible, which will increase the value of the property. But Padden Trails development is a proposal for sprawl. Infill is the building of more housing where housing and infrastructure already exists. Sprawl is the extension of utilities and housing into undeveloped areas. Increasing the number of units is a valuable gift to the Padden Trails developer.
To be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan, the rezone should be in the community’s best interest. Staff asserts the installation of a traffic light by the developer will improve the level of service at the intersection of Connelly and the northbound I-5 on and off ramps. While the signal will prevent backups on the freeway, it will only be more of an impediment to east/west travel. To exacerbate already severe traffic at that intersection is not in the community’s best interest. The near neighbors correctly believe the project would have massive negative impact based on increased danger and inconvenience at the intersection of 34th and Connelly, the constant traffic, and a decrease of their property values. All Neighborhood Associations in south Bellingham, as well as the Mayor’s Advisory Council, are on record opposing increased density for Padden Trails. Staff disingenuously uses policy statements added to the Samish Neighborhood Plan that were meant to apply to the areas near San Juan Boulevard and Governor Road to justify Padden Trails. The Samish Neighborhood Association emphatically denies those statements were intended to apply to the isolated, one access area between Lake Padden and the freeway.
Finally, it is in the City’s best interest to promote development conducive to effective transit. Padden Trails would be a car-dependent development that would make efficient transit even more difficult. Staff incorrectly claims the rezone is in the community’s best interest.
I recommend everyone take the time to read the comments submitted to the record and staff report regarding Padden Trails. Those comments can be found in the Planning Commission meetings sections of the web site, link here - see Dec 1. Please make a point to find the comments submitted by Susan Kaun, which outline a very long history of broken promises, studies commissioned and ignored, and skullduggery and mismanagement by the Planning Department and Public Works Department relating to Padden Creek and development in Fairhaven. The studies conclude, among other things, that required storm water management does not prevent development run off from degrading downstream creeks and the Puget Sound. That we want to preserve the salmon runs in Padden and Chuckanut creeks is ignored by the Planning Department.
The Comprehensive Plan requires rezones not adversely affect the public health, safety, or general welfare.  Please see the comments of Dr. Gibb, link here, which point out the danger of living in a huge, single-access cul de sac; and the comments of Steven Abell, link here, about the dangerous intersection at 34th and Connelly. Residents of a nearly 500 unit cul de sac would not be able to get out, and first responders would not be able to get in, if a forest fire or the predicted high impact earthquake were to block the one access road. The already dangerous intersection at 34th and Connelly would become even more dangerous with the inevitable line of cars waiting at that intersection to exit from Padden Trails.
The correct conclusion is that the Padden Trails upzone is not in the Bellingham community’s best interest and the proposal does adversely affect the public safety and general welfare. Increased density should be denied.

Related Links:

-> the Planning Commission Dec 1, 2011 minutes and pdfs of public comments

Dick Conoboy  //  Wed, Feb 22, 2012, 12:04 pm


Thanks for an excellent piece on the topic of Padden Trails, a perfect example of “edgefill”.  Readers of this article may also want to read my earlier piece on Padden Trails, entitled “Padden Trails Rezone - You Should be Worried” at:  + Link I also penned a companion piece entitled “Infill Tool Kit Abuse - What Took So Long?”  on my blog at: + Link You and those members of the South Neighborhood Association have good reason to fear this “mistake on the lake” given the draft development agreement that Padden Trails LLC has now provided to the City Council as advised by the Planning Commission.  This document, which is not yet available on the City Council webpage, calls for dumping all water runoff directly into Padden Creek.

Larry Horowitz  //  Wed, Feb 22, 2012, 1:03 pm

As long as there is no consensus on what actually represents infill and sprawl, there will continue to be disagreements and battles between the city, developers, and residents.  Perhaps Mayor Linville and City Council will finally take up this issue. 

For some background, I refer you to my Feb 12, 2009 article “Infill, Sinfill & Sprawl” and the Related Link at the end of the article “Successful Infill vs. Unsuccessful Infill (Sinfill) & Sprawl”:

+ Link

Mike Rostron  //  Wed, Feb 22, 2012, 1:11 pm

Another example of the “build it and they will come” mentality that seems all-pervasive.  Never mind that there is little if any demand for this housing.  The developers will advertise with glowing descriptions and sunny day photos to denizens of more blighted areas.  This is a perfect example of how the planning department AND planning commission behave in OUR community.  Developers get mostly what they want, and to hell with the neighborhood residents.  Same process of course going on in the Sunnyland Neighborhood with respect to the DOT site, where the planning department and planning commission with the helpful collaboration of most of the city council have resisted for years the wishes of the neighborhood with respect to that subarea, and continue to push forward their much touted “infill toolkit” - simply a euphemism for giving developers easier profits at the expense of the neighborhoods they decimate.  All we can say is mobilize in your neighborhoods and become activists or the developers will simply do as they wish with the city’s blessing.

Dick Conoboy  //  Thu, Feb 23, 2012, 4:51 pm


I went back and reread your 2009 piece on infill.  You hit the nail on the head.


Larry Horowitz  //  Thu, Feb 23, 2012, 8:28 pm


Thanks.  I’m glad you took the time to read about Successful vs. Unsuccessful Infill.  Perhaps our friends Kelli, Cathy, Gene, Terry, Seth, Michael, Jack and Stan might take a few minutes to do the same.

Have you considered running for local office?  Or are you still to busy traveling the world?

Dick Conoboy  //  Fri, Feb 24, 2012, 9:52 am


I aim to remain a travelin’ man, makin’ a lot of stops all over this world. (Thank you…Rick Nelson).  :-)

Padden Trails is Chuckanut Ridge Lite

Yet another neighborhood wants the Planning Department to protect public health, safety, and general welfare

Guest writer
Wed, Feb 22, 2012, 2:04 am
6 comments; last on Feb 24, 2012

Congressional Candidates and Overstreet’s Town Hall

Riley at The Political Junkie attends a forum of Congressional Candidates, and a town hall meeting in Lynden

Riley Sweeney
Sun, Feb 19, 2012, 6:37 pm

Squalicum Mountain development gets favors from county

No EIS - no real county planning concern about developing Squalicum Mountain and degrading Lake Whatcom water even further.

Guest writer
Sat, Feb 18, 2012, 4:03 pm

Reader paid for ads. Click to see all choices.

Chilling Effect on Comments Created by Council Chair

Attempts by the County Council Chairperson to move the open public comment period to the end of a Council meeting will reduce public input.

Wendy Harris
Fri, Feb 17, 2012, 8:54 pm
1 comments; last on Mar 14, 2012

A Vision for Fairhaven

The Fairhaven Neighborhood Plan gets its first open meeting tonight - where anyone can present their ideas for the future.

John Servais
Thu, Feb 16, 2012, 4:38 pm

This Is What Conflict Of Interest Looks Like

Lesa Starkenburg, former County contract attorney for GMA appeal, demands recusal of Council members who oppose development proposal by her private client, Nor'West Gravel

Wendy Harris
Wed, Feb 15, 2012, 1:38 pm
1 comments; last on Feb 16, 2012

The Big Business of Breast Cancer

There’s no profit in searching for causes, and we know there's no real cure. But there's big money in the detection and treatment of breast cancer.

Guest writer
Wed, Feb 08, 2012, 10:14 am
2 comments; last on Feb 11, 2012

An inexpensive way to save children’s lives

Bellingham is slowly installing flashing yellow lights for school zones. This is far better than trapping drivers with speed zone cameras. But, no city revenue.

John Servais
Tue, Feb 07, 2012, 3:41 pm
3 comments; last on Mar 20, 2012


We Thank Our Sponsors

Click to See All Sponsors

About NWCitizen

Donations maintain site

Our writers
Thru the years

League of Women Voters

Calendar of Events

Home page
Videos of Districting Committee

Local Online News

Bellingham Herald

Bham Business Journal
Bham Politics & Econ
Cascadia Weekly
Coal Stop
Ferndale Record
KPLU fm radio
Latte Republic
Lynden Tribune
Noisy Waters
Northern Light
Seattle Times
Twilight Zoning
Western Front - WWU
Whatcom Watch

Local Causes

Chuckanut C. Forest

City Club of Bellingham
Community Wise Bham
Conservation NW
Futurewise - Whatcom
Lake Whatcom
Lummi Island Quarry
N. Cascades Audubon
NW Holocaust Center
Powder River Basin R. C.
RE Sources
Salish Sea Org.
Save the Granary
Transition Whatcom
WA Conservation Voters
Whatcom Peace & Justice

Our Governments

- Whatcom County

Port of Bellingham
Skagit County
US House
US Senate
US Supreme Court
US The White House
WA State
Whatcom COG

NWCitizen 1995-2007

Early Northwest Citizen

Weather & Climate

Cliff Mass Weather Blog

Climate Audit
EPIC World Photos
Nat Hurricane Center
NW Radar
Two day forecast
Watts Up With That?

Local Leisure

Adventures NW

Bellingham Wins
Entertainment NNW
Recreation Northwest

Good Web Sites

Al-Jazeera online

Alaska Dispatch
Arab News
Asia Times
Atlantic, The
Change The Mascot
Common Dreams
Crosscut Seattle
Daily Kos
Daily Mirror
Drudge Report
Edge of Sports
Foreign Policy in Focus
Gulf News
Huffington Post
Innocence Project
Irish Times
James Fallows
Jerusalem Post
Joel Connelly
Juan Cole
Julia Ioffe/New Republic
Le Diplo
Media Matters
Michael Moore
Middle East Times
Nation, The
New American Century
News Trust
Online Journal
Palestine Daily
Palestine News
Paul Krugman
Personal bio info
Portland Indy Media
Progressive Review
Project Vote Smart
Sea Shepherd
Stand for the Troops
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Talking Points Memo
The Crisis Papers
The Intercept
the Oatmeal
War and Piece
Washington Votes

Quiet, Offline or Dead

Bellingham Register

Bhm Herald Politics Blog
Bob Sanders
Carl Weimer
Chuckanut Mountains
Citizen Ted
Citizens of Bellingham
Cordata & Meridian
David Hackworth
Facebook Port Reform
Friends of Whatcom
Get Whatcom Planning
Intrnational Herald Tribune
Jack Petree
N. Sound Conservancy
No Leaky Buckets
Northwest Review
Protect Bellingham Parks
Sweeney Politics
The American Telegraph
Wally Wonders