Chuckanut Ridge in a nutshellPermalink +
Sun, Jan 25, 2009, 9:59 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?
Slum landlords are alive and thriving. Over this summer more than 40% of rental units failed the city's initial health and safety inspection.
Fri, Sep 16, 2016, 8:02 am
16 comments; last on Sep 26, 2016
The vital role in city politics of the Mayor’s Neighborhood Advisory Commission (MNAC) has gradually diminished over the past five years and is now at an all time…
Mon, Sep 12, 2016, 1:57 am
10 comments; last on Sep 24, 2016
Sat, Sep 10, 2016, 1:02 am
1 comments; last on Sep 10, 2016
The York Neighborhood is sponsoring a forum on housing concerns on Wednesday, Sept 14th at the Garden Methodist Church at 7pm.
Wed, Sep 07, 2016, 8:09 am
4 comments; last on Sep 10, 2016
Anne Mackie gives us an overview of the planning kerfuffle during August between citizens and the Bham city council. And the bad attitudes of some council members.
Wed, Aug 31, 2016, 4:59 am
5 comments; last on Aug 31, 2016
Updated on Monday. An elaborate tripod was erected over the railroad tracks on the bridge over Chuckanut Bay and protesters sat in a sling. 11 hour train stoppage.
Sun, Aug 28, 2016, 4:56 pm
3 comments; last on Aug 29, 2016
Tue, Aug 23, 2016, 9:02 pm
6 comments; last on Aug 25, 2016
Council President Pinky Vargas loses it over minor violations of the three-minute comment rule. Is this any way to run a council?
Mon, Aug 15, 2016, 3:13 am
11 comments; last on Aug 29, 2016
Ellen Murphy writes about the sailboat that sailed toward nuclear test site in Pacific in 1958 and will visit Bellingham August 20 - 22. Now protesting modernization of…
Sat, Aug 13, 2016, 11:19 am
1 comments; last on Aug 15, 2016
Jim Dickinson writes: Why the surplus Washington State ferry Hiyu should replace the Whatcom Chief for our Whatcom County ferry service to Lummi Island.
Tue, Jul 12, 2016, 10:55 pm
6 comments; last on Aug 06, 2016
The Lummi Island ferry is a very old and decrepit vessel. The state ferry system wants to give us a newer one in great condition. Whatcom County says…
Sat, Jun 25, 2016, 10:08 pm
6 comments; last on Jun 30, 2016
Mon, Jun 06, 2016, 5:03 pm
5 comments; last on Jun 26, 2016
Over 2,000 volunteers have just built a new playground in six days. We do a photo story.
Sun, Jun 05, 2016, 8:29 pm
1 comments; last on Jun 06, 2016
The Greenways Advisory Committee meets this evening and may reverse their May decision to purchase the heron colony buffer woods.
Fri, Jun 03, 2016, 12:29 am
10 comments; last on Jun 07, 2016
Bellingham's only heron colony needs forested buffer - and the land owner is willing to sell. Greenways has voted to buy it, but our city council must act.
Tue, May 31, 2016, 9:51 pm
5 comments; last on Jun 01, 2016
This veteran, Chris Brown, deserves our deep thanks for his achievement with Growing Veterans as Executive Director, a post that he has left. He will continue as President…
Thu, May 26, 2016, 5:23 am
3 comments; last on Jun 08, 2016
As the city council takes up consideration of the comprehensive plan, citizen input is critical. Otherwise in a few years and in response to housing and land use…
Mon, May 23, 2016, 5:21 am
The planned concrete walkway from Boulevard Park to the Cornwall landfill, using millions in Greenway funds, has been abandoned by Bellingham. We again thank the Lummi.
Sat, May 21, 2016, 4:32 pm
11 comments; last on May 26, 2016
Jay Taber, a strong environmentalist for decades, guest writes a harsh critique of the 350 org anti-fossil fuel demonstrations at the Anacortes oil refineries last weekend.
Wed, May 18, 2016, 4:46 pm
2 comments; last on May 24, 2016
Bellingham School officials expect a slam dunk by Hearing Examiner and city council on street vacation and conditional use permit. By Patrick McKee.
Tue, May 17, 2016, 7:45 pm
2 comments; last on May 18, 2016
Uber, the cheap ride taxi company, is targeting the troops to become drivers in ads disguised as articles in publications such as the Army Times.
Mon, May 16, 2016, 5:20 am
The March Point protestors this weekend will hopefully show serious concern and not disturb the heron colony near the refineries.
Sat, May 14, 2016, 9:34 am
2 comments; last on May 15, 2016
The Seattle office of the Army Corps of Engineers has formally denied a permit for building a coal terminal at Cherry Point in Whatcom County. Updated at 4pm.
Mon, May 09, 2016, 12:10 pm
4 comments; last on May 09, 2016
Supporters say he will beat Hillary Clinton.
Sat, May 07, 2016, 10:47 pm
3 comments; last on May 24, 2016
Group cites failure to investigate assaults on anti-police-racism marchers
Tue, Apr 26, 2016, 7:04 pm
5 comments; last on Aug 25, 2016
Also to all U.S. Representative candidates in the 1st and 2nd U.S. Congressional districts for the election in 2016
Tue, Apr 26, 2016, 3:46 pm
1 comments; last on Apr 27, 2016
Republicans rolled over and approved the Democrats' map to set the stage for a legal challenge
Thu, Apr 21, 2016, 8:40 pm
3 comments; last on Apr 24, 2016
GOP vote for Democratic plan to prevent locked committee and then county council becoming decision makers of districting boundaries
Wed, Apr 20, 2016, 8:01 pm
1 comments; last on Apr 21, 2016
The Bellingham City Council conducted a retreat on 16 April to discuss a number of issues, including a set of proposed strategies to ensure "sustainable services."
Tue, Apr 19, 2016, 5:14 am
Liquid natural gas terminal is rumored to be in planning stages for Cherry Point as the Oregon proposed LNG plan is abandoned.
Mon, Apr 18, 2016, 11:55 am
6 comments; last on Apr 19, 2016
Fate of new county five-district map remains uncertain.
Wed, Apr 13, 2016, 10:43 pm
5 comments; last on Apr 14, 2016
If you do, you better make sure you have something to say that's going to change someone's mind.
Wed, Apr 13, 2016, 9:09 am
3 comments; last on Apr 14, 2016
The Sunnyland residents have just learned they have only today to comment on a huge impacting building project in their neighborhood.
Mon, Apr 11, 2016, 1:06 am
11 comments; last on Apr 23, 2016
After a public hearing next week, the committee will be asked to vote on a five-district map for Whatcom County in two weeks.
Wed, Apr 06, 2016, 9:18 pm
5 comments; last on Apr 09, 2016
The Districting Master (the official title) has submitted his map for review by the Districting Committee this evening. Here it is for your review.
Wed, Apr 06, 2016, 1:14 pm
5 comments; last on Apr 07, 2016
At Clayton Beach, we have tracked increasing erosion under railroad tracks and written to the railroads and federal inspectors. To no avail.
Mon, Apr 04, 2016, 8:17 pm
2 comments; last on Apr 05, 2016
Accelerating efforts across the U.S. to install a $15 minimum wage are playing into the hands of big business and codifying enormously insufficient wages for years to come.
Mon, Apr 04, 2016, 5:25 am
2 comments; last on May 24, 2016
Fri, Apr 01, 2016, 3:49 pm
3 comments; last on Apr 02, 2016
Activist contests $10,000 fine for climbing on a Shell oil vessel. Rob Lewis guest writes this report.
Wed, Mar 23, 2016, 2:37 pm
Updated Wed, Mar 16. Tuesday, March 15, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., any registered voter of Whatcom County can vote in person at the conservation district office.
Wed, Mar 16, 2016, 8:26 pm
Updated 4:30pm. Helena, Montana newspaper says GPT may be denied this week by Army Corps of Engineers. US Rep Zinke panics and accuses Army of politics.
Wed, Mar 16, 2016, 12:19 am
4 comments; last on Mar 24, 2016
Not even a letter from a coal terminal spokesman can save them now.
Tue, Mar 15, 2016, 12:04 am
2 comments; last on Mar 17, 2016
We post the next two maps to be discussed at the Districting Committee today, March 14. For the few who might study them and later contribute perspectives.
Mon, Mar 14, 2016, 1:53 am
Legally threatening letter sent by Seattle law firm retained by prominent leading Democratic Party leaders.
Sun, Mar 13, 2016, 1:06 pm
1 comments; last on Mar 14, 2016
The third annual deArmond dinner celebrated the work of Sandy Robson and Neah Monteiro.
Fri, Mar 11, 2016, 11:28 pm
2 comments; last on Mar 13, 2016
What almost happened on the coast of Maine could happen here at Cherry Point. Portland, Maine, stopped oil exports - and Whatcom County can also. If we act.
Wed, Mar 09, 2016, 11:20 pm
Durham is an example of the efficacy of rental inspections, putting to bed the unsupported objections of landlords by presenting facts about conditions.
Wed, Mar 09, 2016, 2:20 pm
1 comments; last on Mar 12, 2016
Wherein, we correct some misassumptions but still ask the questions
Tue, Mar 08, 2016, 2:47 pm
The Republicans made concessions on their district map but took a final stand at Nooksack, Everson and Sumas.
Tue, Mar 08, 2016, 1:15 am
6 comments; last on Mar 12, 2016
Could this address the real problem with Puget Sound?
Mon, Mar 07, 2016, 10:40 am
6 comments; last on Mar 08, 2016
Republicans and Democrats remain far apart. Democrats have the legal high ground, but Republicans would go to court to challenge that if necessary.
Sun, Mar 06, 2016, 11:39 pm
1 comments; last on Mar 07, 2016
Wherein someone's gotta do the right thing
Tue, Mar 01, 2016, 3:40 pm
Chiara D'Angelo comes across as emotionally intelligent and uncompromising in her high-stakes Coast Guard hearing.
Mon, Feb 29, 2016, 11:55 pm
1 comments; last on Mar 01, 2016
Wherein inquiring minds want to know!
Sat, Feb 27, 2016, 1:24 pm
Republicans focused their efforts on torpedoing the Democrats' five-district proposal at the second committee meeting.
Tue, Feb 23, 2016, 5:01 am
4 comments; last on Mar 01, 2016
The Coast Guard has levied $30,000 in fines on two Bellingham climate activists. They will fight to have the fines dropped.
Thu, Feb 18, 2016, 5:01 am
16 comments; last on Feb 22, 2016
Wherein sanity may finally be approaching a nagging jail issue
Sun, Feb 14, 2016, 8:54 pm
2 comments; last on Feb 19, 2016
Republicans and Democrats traded barbs on the first day of the Districting Committee, but Dems may have won the first battle.
Tue, Feb 09, 2016, 5:02 am
5 comments; last on Feb 10, 2016
Inspections of rentals cannot begin too soon. Seven fires in rental units since 2011 and almost half with ONE landlord. No but the clock may be running out.
Mon, Feb 08, 2016, 6:26 am
From all the monumentally boring hoopla to the shameful rousting of the homeless Super Bowl 50 exceeds all expectations for greed and excess.
Fri, Feb 05, 2016, 12:45 pm
4 comments; last on Feb 12, 2016
We Thank Our SponsorsClick to See All Sponsors
About NWCitizenDonations maintain site
Thru the years
League of Women VotersCalendar of Events
Local Online NewsBellingham Herald
Bham Business Journal
Bham Politics & Econ
KPLU fm radio
Western Front - WWU
Local CausesChuckanut C. Forest
City Club of Bellingham
Community Wise Bham
Futurewise - Whatcom
N. Cascades Audubon
NW Holocaust Center
Powder River Basin R. C.
Salish Sea Org.
Save the Granary
WA Conservation Voters
Whatcom Peace & Justice
Our Governments- Whatcom County
Port of Bellingham
US Supreme Court
US The White House
NWCitizen 1995-2007Early Northwest Citizen
Weather & ClimateCliff Mass Weather Blog
EPIC World Photos
Nat Hurricane Center
Two day forecast
Watts Up With That?
Local LeisureAdventures NW
Good Web SitesAl-Jazeera online
Change The Mascot
Edge of Sports
Foreign Policy in Focus
Julia Ioffe/New Republic
Middle East Times
New American Century
Personal bio info
Portland Indy Media
Project Vote Smart
Stand for the Troops
Talking Points Memo
The Crisis Papers
War and Piece
Quiet, Offline or DeadBellingham Register
Bhm Herald Politics Blog
Citizens of Bellingham
Cordata & Meridian
Facebook Port Reform
Friends of Whatcom
Get Whatcom Planning
Intrnational Herald Tribune
N. Sound Conservancy
No Leaky Buckets
Protect Bellingham Parks
The American Telegraph