Chuckanut Ridge in a nutshellPermalink +
Sun, Jan 25, 2009, 8:59 pm // Larry HorowitzIn recent weeks, the Chuckanut Ridge / Greenways 3 mêlée has been blown way out of proportion and has become nothing more than an irritating sideshow. Personally, I am much more interested in the real story than a freak sideshow. To this end, I present Chuckanut Ridge in a nutshell.
Chuckanut Ridge (CR) is an 82-acre urban forest consisting of uplands, wetlands and steep slopes. Prior to 1980, CR was zoned single-family residential with one unit allowed per 20,000 square feet (sf), approximately 2.2 units per acre. Based on this zoning, CR could potentially accommodate a maximum of 178 single family homes before reductions for critical areas, stormwater facilities and rights of way. It is estimated that at least 25% (20 acres) of the parcel represents critical areas and required buffers. Of the remaining 62 acres, the City of Bellingham Land Supply Analysis estimates that 36% of a typical single family development would be needed for stormwater facilities and rights of way, leaving only 40 developable acres. Therefore, based on the pre-1980 zoning, CR could accommodate approximately 87 single family homes.
In 1980, City Council changed the zoning of CR from single-family to multi-family and changed the density from 1 unit per 20,000 sf to 1 unit per 3,000 sf (from 2.2 to 14.5 units per acre), a generous gift that has effectively increased the potential number of units by more than 800%. In theory, the current zoning allows the owner to build up to 739 units, 661 more than the 87 that could have built under the original zoning.
When questioned about the 1980 upzone, former mayor Mark Asmundson stated in an April 3, 1996 letter to the students of Wellspring Community School, “I disagree with the zoning presently in place, and I do not understand why in 1980 the City Council approved the kind of density that was allowed in this location.”
In conjunction with the 1980 upzone, City Council added a requirement to either construct a collector road between Chuckanut Drive and Old Fairhaven Parkway or widen the Fairhaven Bridge. According to minutes of the 1978 Bellingham Planning Commission, Planning Director Gregory Waddell responded to a question from Planning Commission Chairman Mark Packer by stating that “nothing can go on” before the prerequisite consideration is met. In other words, until the collector road is built or the Fairhaven Bridge is widened, no development can occur.
Based on conversations with both city staff and citizens who were around to see the outcome of the 1980 comprehensive plan update, the upzone and transportation prerequisites were tied together. In other words, the transportation system expansion was needed to accommodate traffic from new development along Chuckanut Drive. In the minds of those who were around at the time, it was clear that the city awarded the upzone in exchange for the developer paying the cost of building the collector road or widening the bridge.
As a side note, during a recent South Neighborhood Association meeting on January 13, Mayor Pike commented that it will be difficult for the developer to meet either of the prerequisite considerations.
There are thirteen wetlands impacted by the proposed Fairhaven Highlands development on CR, six of which are mature forested, Category I wetlands, including a sizeable one located on adjacent property owned by the city. However, the developer’s wetland delineation fails to identify the six Category I wetlands as mature forested, and, therefore, fails to assign them Category I status. As a result, the wetland buffers in the developer’s application do not meet the city’s minimum standards. In the three years since the wetland application was submitted, the city has not required these errors be corrected.
Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO); Vesting; Public Safety, Health & Welfare
The Growth Management Act (GMA) mandated cities and counties to adopt critical areas ordinances by September 1991; however, as of November 2004 (13 years later), Bellingham had still not adopted its CAO. At that time, City Council adopted Resolution 2004-36 and committed itself to completing this requirement by July 1, 2005. To no one’s surprise, Council failed to meet this deadline and did not adopt its CAO until November 21, 2005, just three days after the Fairhaven Highlands wetland application was submitted.
The initial Fairhaven Highlands applications for planned development and subdivision (preliminary plat) were submitted on April 18, 2005 and indicated that certain wetlands and wetland buffers would be filled and/or developed, an action that requires a Wetland and Stream (W/S) Permit application. Even though the required wetland permit application was not submitted until seven months had passed (on November 18, 2005), this omission did not prevent former planning director Jorge Vega from “determining” that the obviously incomplete planned development and subdivision applications were complete within 7 days of being submitted.
On December 5, 2005, City of Bellingham planner Kathy Bell emailed fellow planner Marilyn Vogel and wrote, “After reading the Concurrent Review section of Title 21 [of the Bellingham Municipal Code], it seems that we should have made the planned application incomplete since the application proposed direct wetland impact and a W/S Permit was not submitted.” (Emphasis added)
Because the Fairhaven Highlands applications were deemed complete (albeit erroneously), they are considered vested under the development regulations in effect on the date they were submitted. HOWEVER, as indicated under the Exceptions section of the city’s vesting ordinance, “An application for a land use approval may be denied or approved with conditions under the authority of the City to protect and enhance the public safety, health and welfare.” [BMC 21.10.260(B)(2)].
The Purpose section of the city’s CAO states that one of its key goals is to:
“Protect members of the public and public resources and facilities from injury, loss of life, or property damage due to landslides and steep slope failures, erosion, seismic events, or flooding.” [BMC 16.55.010(D)(1)]
The CAO also states, “Critical areas ... may pose a threat to human safety or to public and private property.” [BMC 16.55.010(C)]
Further, in City of Seattle v. Hinckley, the Washington Supreme Court wrote, “There is no such thing as an inherent or vested right to imperil the health or impair the safety of the community. But, to be protected against such impairment or imperilment, is the universally recognized right of the community in all civilized governments; a protection which the government not only has a right to vouchsafe to the citizens, but which it is its duty to extend in the exercise of its police power.” (Emphasis added)
Because the developers believed they were vested, the Fairhaven Highlands application does not meet the safeguards that are unique to the Bellingham Critical Areas Ordinance. As a result, it is clear that this development imposes unreasonable risks to the public’s safety, health and welfare.
1) If in fact the transportation prerequisite to develop Chuckanut Ridge cannot be met, should the zoning revert back to the pre-1980 upzone?
2) Given that the Chuckanut Ridge parcel contains numerous critical areas, including six Category I mature forested wetlands, steep sleeps (some in excess of 40%), and landslide and erosion hazard areas, is the multi-family, high density zoning reasonable? Is it consistent with the Land Use Policies of the Bellingham Comprehensive Plan?
3) In accordance with the city’s own vesting regulations and the WA Supreme Court’s finding in City of Seattle v. Hinckley, should the city require the Fairhaven Highlands development to meet the standards that are unique to the city’s Critical Areas Ordinance in order to protect public safety, health and welfare?
4) Given all the problems facing the development of this property, what is this land really worth?
Sun, Mar 02, 2014, 2:22 pm // John ServaisThe editor of the Whatcom Watch, Richard Jehn, has resigned effective today. Chalk up a victory for Craig Cole and Pacific International Terminals.
8 comments; last on Mar 05, 2014
Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 8:29 pm // John ServaisThe full text of Craig Cole's threatening letter of libel against the Whatcom Watch. And the emptiness of the threat.
14 comments; last on Mar 04, 2014
Mon, Feb 24, 2014, 3:33 pm // Wendy HarrisWe were led to believe the city would review waterfront wildlife and habitat connectivity. It turns out that the city intends to focus only on nearshore fish.
Sat, Feb 22, 2014, 12:16 am // Wendy HarrisAccepting the Paul deArmond award of citizen journalism on Feb 7, Wendh Harris gave this speech. We think it deserves its own post.
Wed, Feb 19, 2014, 4:48 pm // John ServaisCraig Cole, the local contact for the proposed Cherry Point coal port has threatened the Whatcom Watch with a libel lawsuit.
4 comments; last on Feb 26, 2014
Mon, Feb 17, 2014, 7:26 am // Riley SweeneyRiley digs through court data and discovers the real impact of privatization and legalization
Sun, Feb 09, 2014, 9:35 pm // Wendy HarrisThe mayor wants to amend a city law to increase flexibility for a GMA provision that should be used rarely, if ever at all.
3 comments; last on Feb 11, 2014
Sun, Feb 09, 2014, 2:36 pm // Wendy HarrisCostco imposes indirect costs on our community that are as real and tangible as road construction expenses.
1 comments; last on Feb 13, 2014
Sun, Feb 09, 2014, 9:13 am // John ServaisThe old empty Reid Boiler Works industrial building in Fairhaven burned to the ground Saturday night.
Mon, Feb 03, 2014, 5:30 am // Dick ConoboyProfessional 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
Sat, Feb 01, 2014, 12:35 am // Wendy HarrisFiling a public record request could land a citizen in jail under a proposal reflected in a Herald opinion article.
2 comments; last on Feb 03, 2014
Wed, Jan 29, 2014, 6:18 am // Guest writerTim Johnson writes about the first recipient of the Paul deArmond Citizen Journalism award, Whatcom County writer Wendy Harris.
3 comments; last on Feb 08, 2014
Mon, Jan 20, 2014, 5:14 am // Dick ConoboyThe developers of University Ridge have been silent since shortly after the hearing examiner's decision on 23 October last year. Will they walk?
Sun, Jan 19, 2014, 8:39 pm // John ServaisSuper Bowl ... Weed Bowl ... This bud's for you ... Bong Bowl ... Marijuana Bowl ... whatever. It is on!
1 comments; last on Jan 20, 2014
Tue, Jan 14, 2014, 2:19 pm // Guest writerDo we actually need to say that we, as citizens, want accurate information from government officials?
1 comments; last on Jan 14, 2014
Fri, Dec 27, 2013, 4:00 am // Guest writerGuest writer Barbara Perry writes about Bellingham Parks refusal to allow motorized wheel chairs to recharge at public electrical outlets.
6 comments; last on Jan 03, 2014
Fri, Dec 20, 2013, 3:56 pm // Wendy HarrisA Port of Bellingham internal memo tries, but fails, to justify changes in cost estimates for alternative marina sites.
5 comments; last on Dec 22, 2013
Tue, Dec 17, 2013, 12:21 am // Wendy HarrisArmy Corps advised DOE that it will not issue a waterfront permit without Lummi approval
2 comments; last on Jan 13, 2014
Mon, Dec 16, 2013, 12:30 pm // John ServaisFerndale Mayor Gary Jensen has decided not to file for the 42nd state Senate seat currently held by Doug Ericksen.
5 comments; last on Dec 24, 2013
Mon, Dec 09, 2013, 12:24 pm // Guest writerBarbara Perry writes about the closed nature of the Bellingham School Board on the future of the Larrabee School.
1 comments; last on Dec 15, 2013
Sat, Dec 07, 2013, 8:23 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein the direct, indirect, hidden and lost opportunity costs make this a waterfront boondoggle of billions
3 comments; last on Dec 11, 2013
Sat, Dec 07, 2013, 12:33 pm // Wendy HarrisLocal activist calls on Bellingham City Council to table the unpopular waterfront plans and engage in meaningful public process
2 comments; last on Dec 08, 2013
Fri, Dec 06, 2013, 11:03 pm // Wendy HarrisThe county will be required to consider water quality and water quantity when planning rural growth.
3 comments; last on Dec 10, 2013
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.
2 comments; last on Dec 06, 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.
3 comments; last on Dec 15, 2013
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.
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