Chuckanut Ridge: Good Deal, Bad Deal?Permalink +
Sun, Sep 25, 2011, 11:59 pm // Tip Johnson
For thirty years the City has created an expensive problem by adopting and defending inappropriate zoning for Chuckanut Ridge. It was adopted without any of the reviews and notifications that normally precede this exercise of police power. No one except a few realtors, the owners, and maybe a couple attorneys knew about it for years. And it wasn't the only such zoning secret. Such anomalies would gradually prove poisonous to the public trust in City planning that had been painstakingly built during the evolution of the first Comprehensive Plan and it's neighborhood approach.
When a project was proposed fifteen years later, the community first learned the awful fact of the zoning. A property the CIty had recently appraised at slightly over $3M suddenly boasted an asking price of over $20M. Developers taunted, "We bought density." The huge increase was based solely on zoning termed "a mystery at best" by one of the City's lead planners at the time.
CItizens and neighbors rose to the challenge. They passed levies in hopes of acquiring the property, to no avail. A battle of locally epic proportion was waged while the City, inexplicably, advantaged the project at every turn. At great expense to themselves, citizens defeated the project - almost twice - except it finally defeated itself. Environmental review showed it unfeasible and the economy turned. The City finally had an opportunity and took it. They paid a high price - a fitting end for having created the phantom value. Now, how can we learn from it?
Today the City considers selling parts of this property to pay off value that never should have existed. With all due respect, it's a foolhardy aim. Just review the DEIS. Should the City tread the development quagmire that took down one of Bellingham's most established developers and a bank?
I made the same mistake. I theoretically parceled out 15 acres along Chuckanut Drive to consider for development - development in close proximity to services, in keeping with neighborhood character, not overburdening the bridge, not compromising school safety or emergency access. I considered 20 or so prime southside lots that might fetch nearly $4M, if they could be marketed. Then I overlaid the topography and wetlands. Less than half these units could actually be placed. I looked at how to get the rest. The same tar pit that plagued the owners prevailed. You can't punch roads without compromising wetlands. Wooded hilltops, sensitive slopes, and critical habitat must be compromised - all contrary to existing policies.
Yet, abstractly, the model has merit. The City should be able to buy strategic properties for public purposes, plat some development parcels to pay the freight, and preserve most. It's far better than handing unrealistic entitlements out to developers like candy on credit and scrambling to prevent catastrophies. It's just not going to work here. It's too late. The value is all phony. The City made it's mark and tainted the opportunity. But the model could work if we had good neighborhood-based planning. And therein lies the rub.
Trust has eroded. A comprehensive plan designed, ahead of its time, for neighborhood based planning was stripped of power, neighborhood goals, policies and objectives routinely trammelled. After decades of anticipating the daylighting of Padden Creek to improve fish habitat, we see planners recommend density that will turn it into a storm sewer instead. Wetlands and other critical areas are routinely developed. Time and again development forces stable neighborhoods into transition - around the University, in Birchwood, Happy Valley - everywhere. Look at the base of Alabama Hill. That's bad planning, and costs taxpayers money. Citizens do not trust the City to make good planning decisions.
Let me underscore this point: Bad City planning created the problem at Chuckanut Ridge and today undermines the public's trust in creative solutions to better planning. Today's proposal makes a mockery of the Greenways Levies that featured this acquisition and of citizens' efforts to save the property. It continues the mockery of neighborhood planning, upon which our Comprehensive Plan is supposedly based. Moreover, it is doomed to failure. There's nothing to get. The reason this property has remained undeveloped to this day is because it is essentially not developable.
In any case, if we are looking to cover shortfalls or even leverage gains in Greenways, we would more profitably and more equitably look at all Greenways together. Let's reasonably assess which might best be developed and assist with funding. Which do not compromise ecosystems, or parkland integrity, require little infrastructure, fit with neighborhood plans? Where is our best bang for the buck? Don't fixate on one property with such well documented development problems and a record of failure. Take a look around. There may be many good options.
But before we even try, let's start by restoring the neighborhood-based planning we agreed to thirty years ago, as the very purpose of our Comprehensive Plan is still expressed, even if not practiced. Let's use our land-use authorities to first help people put down roots and build community. Then help us make it even better. Let's not just build, let's build community. The cut and run development we have encouraged is the cause of expensive municipal problems - like Chuckanut Ridge. Good neighborhood-based planning is the cure.
Give it a try. Heck, we live here!
Thu, Dec 05, 2013, 11:58 am // John Servaisthe Political Junkie has posted a 3 minute video showing Bellingham City Council members explaining their idiocy for all of us to watch.
1 comments; last on Dec 05, 2013
Thu, Dec 05, 2013, 5:00 am // Dick ConoboyThe post "riot" conversation is terribly lacking in several areas. We must expand the discussion or risk learning little from the experience.
Wed, Dec 04, 2013, 10:53 am // John ServaisBellingham City Council and Port of Bellingham finalize the waterfront plan. In his weekly Gristle, Tim Johnson blasts the corrupt public process.
4 comments; last on Dec 05, 2013
Sat, Nov 30, 2013, 8:11 pm // Wendy HarrisThe waterfront plan allows a development bonus for payments made to the Lake Whatcom land acquisition fund
1 comments; last on Dec 01, 2013
Fri, Nov 29, 2013, 9:43 pm // Wendy HarrisA number of important issues need to be resolved before waterfront planning is complete, but the city council and port commission are ready to act.
2 comments; last on Nov 30, 2013
Fri, Nov 22, 2013, 9:01 pm // Wendy HarrisIf the port can not construct the airport safely, should it be entrusted with dangerous waterfront cleanup work?
Wed, Nov 20, 2013, 5:03 am // Dick ConoboyThe advice coming from Walmart and McDonald's to its low paid employees becomes more and more bizarre and inane.
Tue, Nov 19, 2013, 5:35 am // Dick ConoboyAmbling'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
Mon, Nov 18, 2013, 2:18 pm // Guest writerIn which we find the hidden core of the waterfront plan is rotten through and through
7 comments; last on Nov 21, 2013
Mon, Nov 18, 2013, 10:59 am // Riley SweeneyThe county takes two big steps forward on the new jail, while still missing the point
Thu, Nov 14, 2013, 1:39 am // Tip JohnsonDear Mr. President, There's a sucker born every minute, and two to take him.
7 comments; last on Nov 21, 2013
Wed, Nov 13, 2013, 3:16 pm // Wendy HarrisThe city adminstration has been providing misleading/ incorrect information to the city council to avoid waterfront plan revisions.
1 comments; last on Nov 18, 2013
Tue, Nov 12, 2013, 10:21 am // Riley SweeneyRiley crunches the numbers on Renata and McAuley's races to find answers
2 comments; last on Nov 13, 2013
Tue, Nov 12, 2013, 5:16 am // Dick ConoboyPuget Neighborhood will likely have in the immediate future 1,300 new rental units that will be marketed primarily to the student population.
Sat, Nov 09, 2013, 9:47 pm // Wendy HarrisThe COB administration continues in its refusal to analyze waterfront wildlife issues, even though this is a prerequisite step in protecting wildlife from the impacts of development
3 comments; last on Nov 10, 2013
Tue, Nov 05, 2013, 8:21 pm // John ServaisWith lots of outside county money flowing in to our local races, this election is weird. But real - and we county residents have spoken.
11 comments; last on Nov 09, 2013
Mon, Nov 04, 2013, 9:55 am // Dick ConoboyThe call of the dollar speaks more loudly to health insurance companies than does the voice and well-being of the consumer, even here in Washington.
8 comments; last on Nov 06, 2013
Thu, Oct 31, 2013, 10:19 am // Dick ConoboyFour bedroom dorm rooms have been nixed by the hearing examiner. University Ridge may be in trouble as a cash cow for Ambling Development of Georgia
3 comments; last on Nov 04, 2013
Mon, Oct 28, 2013, 10:19 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein we discover why we exert our rights - and grab some more petitions before it's too late
3 comments; last on Nov 06, 2013
Mon, Oct 28, 2013, 12:00 am // Dick ConoboyIndependent voters are for independent thinkers on the city council. Vote for Burr and Petree.
Sat, Oct 26, 2013, 7:36 pm // John ServaisBeach reconstruction is done at Boulevard Park on the Bellingham waterfront. Paths along shore are again open - and it looks good.
6 comments; last on Nov 01, 2013
Sun, Oct 20, 2013, 7:07 pm // John ServaisKen Bell has my vote over Mike McAuley for port commissioner. And Renata Kowalczyk has it over Dan Robbins.
8 comments; last on Oct 30, 2013
Tue, Oct 15, 2013, 3:16 pm // Dick ConoboyThe development of University Ridge will replicate the student ghetto that fueled the riot on 12 October.
6 comments; last on Oct 25, 2013
Tue, Oct 15, 2013, 2:46 pm // Wendy HarrisRequesting waterfront handouts for the Overwater Walkway while proclaiming autonomy from further public review is unjustifiable.
2 comments; last on Oct 16, 2013
Tue, Oct 08, 2013, 2:22 pm // Wendy HarrisThe city staff considers the overwater walkway a done deal before official approval or resolution of treaty right conflicts
4 comments; last on Oct 16, 2013
Wed, Oct 02, 2013, 10:19 pm // Wendy HarrisThe city administration asserts that there is no gap in waterplant plant and animal analysis
Wed, Oct 02, 2013, 10:01 pm // Wendy HarrisBellingham is holding an open house to introduce the public to its habitat restoration master plan, despite being at a preliminary draft stage
3 comments; last on Oct 04, 2013
Wed, Oct 02, 2013, 5:40 am // Riley SweeneyRiley uncovers how the Coal Industry is funding conservative candidates in Whatcom County
11 comments; last on Oct 03, 2013
Sat, Sep 28, 2013, 5:05 pm // Wendy HarrisThe city and port have not addressed wildlife impacts from waterfront development and this should be done before a waterfront plan is enacted.
Sat, Sep 28, 2013, 2:20 pm // John ServaisAs the right wing radicals seek to shut down our national government this week, we need to push back with common sense.
8 comments; last on Oct 01, 2013
Fri, Sep 20, 2013, 7:09 am // Dick ConoboyHearing held on 11 September. Comment period extended 10 days. Effects on home owners already manifest.
8 comments; last on Sep 22, 2013
Thu, Sep 19, 2013, 6:08 am // Riley SweeneyRiley examines who is donating to which candidates
Mon, Sep 09, 2013, 12:07 am // Wendy HarrisThe staff will be explaining the public's concerns, but the public is not allowed to testify.
Fri, Sep 06, 2013, 2:52 pm // Wendy HarrisElected officials continue to rely on inaccurate and misleading reports by the city and port staff regarding waterfront development.
Wed, Sep 04, 2013, 8:37 am // John ServaisAn attempt at linking to one or more writers who can help us make sense of going to war with Syria. An alternative to Kerry-Obama.
Wed, Sep 04, 2013, 12:36 am // John ServaisContacting Rick Larsen and Susan Delbene is actually a viable citizen exercise just now. Tell them to vote NO on bombing Syria.
1 comments; last on Sep 04, 2013
Sat, Aug 31, 2013, 2:10 pm // John ServaisSaturday afternoon - and a rally is taking place in downtown Bellingham against bombing Syria. Riley Sweeny and his Political Junkie site cover it.
Fri, Aug 30, 2013, 11:08 am // John ServaisGee, can we make it any clearer? Publisher opinion. So sad that we have to write this to Obama - who got our vote in 2008 because he…
4 comments; last on Aug 31, 2013
Mon, Aug 26, 2013, 4:00 am // Dick ConoboyThe 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
Mon, Aug 19, 2013, 7:08 am // Riley SweeneyRiley whole-heartedly urges Doug Ericksen to run for Congress in 2014
2 comments; last on Aug 19, 2013
Fri, Aug 16, 2013, 11:11 am // Wendy HarrisWhen the Bay stinks so bad that the public is calling 911, it is time to revisit waterfront redevelopment priorities
12 comments; last on Aug 19, 2013
Fri, Aug 16, 2013, 4:00 am // Dick ConoboyThe University Ridge dormitory development approval process is broken. The City Council should act.
1 comments; last on Aug 17, 2013
Wed, Aug 14, 2013, 11:24 am // John ServaisThe Feds gag an Email service owner - so he cannot even tell us why he is gagged.
2 comments; last on Aug 15, 2013
Tue, Aug 13, 2013, 11:31 pm // Wendy HarrisThe City of Bellingham memorandum of agreement with Lynden does not make sense. What is going on?
4 comments; last on Sep 11, 2013
Tue, Aug 13, 2013, 9:26 am // Riley SweeneyAfter attending the public hearing on the marijuana ban, Riley breaks down the good, the bad and the ugly
4 comments; last on Aug 20, 2013
Fri, Aug 09, 2013, 8:42 pm // Wendy HarrisA conceptual agreement between COB and Lynden exchanges water for a new, but unneeded, water withdrawal site on the Middle Nooksack.
3 comments; last on Aug 10, 2013
Thu, Aug 08, 2013, 12:05 am // John ServaisLiberal talking head Lawrence O'Donnell went into a bullying rant against a well qualified guest - and showed he's just like O'Reilly.
2 comments; last on Aug 08, 2013
Tue, Jul 30, 2013, 11:59 pm // John ServaisAd rates are in the norm of Internet rates and reach a well educated local audience.
Sun, Jul 28, 2013, 2:44 pm // Wendy HarrisRedevelopment of 14 acres along Lake Whatcom is contrary to the efforts to restore water quality.
1 comments; last on Jul 29, 2013
Tue, Jul 23, 2013, 10:22 am // Dick ConoboyCandidates for the Bellingham School Board need to let us know where they stand on charter schools.
3 comments; last on Aug 05, 2013
Sat, Jul 20, 2013, 3:53 pm // Wendy HarrisProposed rezone of farm land to allow meat packinghouses will undermine the long term viability of our farm economy.
1 comments; last on Jul 23, 2013
Mon, Jul 15, 2013, 8:08 am // Guest writerThe proposed development ought not proceed without a more extensive geological assessment and a thorough evaluation of the impacts on the Lincoln Creek watershed.
Sun, Jul 14, 2013, 10:25 am // John ServaisThe explosion of hate and racist rhetoric is the saddest aspect of the verdict. The evidence was complicated and the verdict difficult to make.
2 comments; last on Jul 16, 2013
Fri, Jul 12, 2013, 8:29 am // John ServaisRiley Sweeney has a short but important expose over at the Political Junkie today.
1 comments; last on Jul 12, 2013
Mon, Jul 08, 2013, 4:11 pm // Wendy HarrisThe city would like to amend our city shoreline regulations to allow greater waterfront shoreline development.
1 comments; last on Jul 11, 2013
Mon, Jul 08, 2013, 12:30 pm // Guest writerAmbling University Development has substantially underestimated the role of the car in the lives of its eventual student renters and their visitors.
2 comments; last on Jul 09, 2013
Fri, Jul 05, 2013, 9:51 pm // Wendy HarrisDoes Waterfront District planning, or public process, mean anything when it occurs subsequent to project development?
1 comments; last on Jul 06, 2013
Wed, Jul 03, 2013, 11:06 am // John ServaisPublic process ignored. Citizen commenting castigated. Paranoid city legal department. Our city council merrily goes through another session.
6 comments; last on Aug 06, 2013
Wed, Jul 03, 2013, 11:02 am // Guest writerThe traffic analysis for the University Ridge dormitory development in the Puget Neighborhood lacks realistic data and leads to incorrect conclusions that the city must address.
2 comments; last on Jul 04, 2013
Sun, Jun 30, 2013, 10:28 am // John ServaisBellingham City Council ready to approve $500,000 of trails money for resurfacing plastic grass on Civic Field.
15 comments; last on Jul 02, 2013
New LinksJulia Ioffe/New Republic
Current InterestCommunity Wise Bellingham
Friends of Whatcom
Lummi Island Quarry
League of Women Voters
Paul Krugman - economics
Local Blogs & NewsBellingham Herald
Bham Herald Politics Blog
Bham Politics & Economics
Friends of Whatcom
Get Whatcom Planning
League of Women Voters
Western Front - WWU
Local CausesBellingham Police Activity
Chuckanut Community Forest
Citizens of Bellingham
City Club of Bellingham
Community Wise Bellingham
Cordata & Meridian
Facebook Port Reform
Futurewise - Whatcom
Lummi Island Quarry
N. Cascades Audubon
NW Holocaust Center
Reduce Jet Noise
Salish Sea Org.
Save the Granary Building
WA Conservation Voters
Port of Bellingham
US - The White House
WA State Access
WA State Elections
WA State Legislature
Weather & ClimateCliff Mass Weather Blog
Two day forecast
Watts Up With That? - climate
Edge of Sports
Famous Internet Skiers
Good LinksAl-Jazeera online
Foreign Policy in Focus
Innocence Project, The
Intrnational Herald Tribune
Julia Ioffe/New Republic
Middle East Times
New American Century
Paul Krugman - economics
Personal bio info
Portland Indy Media
Project Vote Smart
Talking Points Memo
War and Piece
NwCitizen 1995 - 2007Early Northwest Citizen
Internet At Its BestTED
Quiet, Offline or DeadBellingham Register
N. Sound Conservancy
No Leaky Buckets
Protect Bellingham Parks
The American Telegraph
The Crisis Papers