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?
Tue, Oct 14, 2014, 6:36 am // Riley SweeneyRiley does a local political comedy show
1 comments; last on Oct 15, 2014
Fri, Oct 10, 2014, 1:13 pm // John LesowA 50,000 watt AM radio antenna does not belong in a residential area. The FCC seems not to understand that.
Wed, Oct 08, 2014, 6:24 pm // John ServaisThree final candidates for Bellingham Planning Director spoke today at a cozy 'meet and greet' of government employees and developers.
6 comments; last on Oct 11, 2014
Sat, Oct 04, 2014, 12:23 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein we see that sometimes government can do what business can't.
9 comments; last on Oct 07, 2014
Fri, Oct 03, 2014, 10:26 am // Dick ConoboyAn experienced real estate inspector provides a window to the dangeroous conditions found in rentals in Bellingham
3 comments; last on Oct 05, 2014
Thu, Oct 02, 2014, 2:33 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley files a full report of the Tea Party debate for State Leg candidates
1 comments; last on Oct 04, 2014
Tue, Sep 30, 2014, 8:00 am // Guest writerWherein a Fulbright scholar, professional engineer and successful business owner files for public office
4 comments; last on Oct 02, 2014
Mon, Sep 22, 2014, 5:07 am // Dick ConoboyLast Thursday, the Planning Commission voted to recommend the docketing of the spot rezone of 801 Samish from Residential Single to Commerical Planned (non-retail)
6 comments; last on Oct 03, 2014
Wed, Sep 17, 2014, 10:26 am // John ServaisWe post a disturbing report of a personal encounter along Samish Way, with the permission of John Stark, who experienced it.
2 comments; last on Sep 17, 2014
Tue, Sep 09, 2014, 8:21 am // Riley SweeneyRiley and John share the short list of who might replace Cathy Lehman on the Bellingham city council on January 5.
8 comments; last on Sep 10, 2014
Mon, Aug 25, 2014, 11:48 am // Terry WechslerWhile the state spends hundreds of thousands of dollars defining risks of crude by rail, Skagit County finds no significant adverse impacts of a crude-by-rail proposal.
1 comments; last on Aug 28, 2014
Fri, Aug 22, 2014, 2:06 pm // Guest writerPatrick McKee of the Sunnyland Neighborhood guest-writes about the August 11 City Council slap-dash zoning changes.
2 comments; last on Aug 23, 2014
Wed, Aug 20, 2014, 4:54 pm // Terry WechslerNot content with causing massive inconvenience, BNSF is now literally dumping on county residents.
10 comments; last on Aug 26, 2014
Sat, Aug 16, 2014, 3:48 pm // Guest writerJudith Green of the Sunnyland Neighborhood guest writes this brief summary of what went wrong with the planning last week.
1 comments; last on Aug 22, 2014
Fri, Aug 15, 2014, 7:12 am // Terry WechslerA massive upgrade of the Cascade [rail] Corridor has left residents stranded and the sheriff asking Washington, DC, to intervene.
7 comments; last on Sep 02, 2014
Thu, Aug 14, 2014, 3:13 pm // Guest writerSandy Robson guest writes of the need for real prosperity at Cherry Point, not a destructive short term coal port that destroys the fishing grounds.
5 comments; last on Oct 02, 2014
Tue, Aug 12, 2014, 10:52 am // Riley SweeneySome Context for the Primary Results
Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 11:31 pm // John ServaisBellingham City Council abruptly changes zoning codes to force Planning Department plan on Sunnyland residents.
7 comments; last on Aug 14, 2014
Fri, Aug 08, 2014, 10:10 am // John ServaisUpdated Wed evening. The Tuesday evening 8:20 pm Auditor report on the election is in.
5 comments; last on Aug 08, 2014
Fri, Aug 01, 2014, 8:00 am // Dick ConoboyCouncilmember Murphy's proposal is based on a complaint-based rental ordinance from Tacoma, demonstrated to do little for the health and safety of tenants.
14 comments; last on Oct 01, 2014
Fri, Aug 01, 2014, 4:47 am // Terry WechslerCarefully planned actions are rolling across the state to make the point that it's not OK to expose us to risks associated with CBR.
7 comments; last on Aug 04, 2014
Thu, Jul 24, 2014, 11:40 am // Riley SweeneyNorthwest Citizen has conducted a phone poll of likely voters, with some surprising results!
9 comments; last on Jul 29, 2014
Thu, Jul 24, 2014, 7:52 am // Dick ConoboyIn contravention of the Bellingham Municipal Code, the City Council will consider on 4 August a last minute docketing request that ignores the Planning Commission and Samish Neighborhood.
1 comments; last on Jul 30, 2014
Wed, Jul 23, 2014, 10:47 pm // Guest writerGuest writer Mike Rostron explains how Bellingham city planners played loose and illegal with planning processes.
Tue, Jul 22, 2014, 7:22 pm // John ServaisSunnlyland residents win one - after a seven year effort. Planning Department failed them and all of us.
2 comments; last on Jul 23, 2014
Mon, Jul 21, 2014, 5:30 am // Guest writerLandlords are so caught up opposing a licensing and inspection ordinance, they cannot see the upside for them in ridding the city of bad rentals.
19 comments; last on Aug 01, 2014
Fri, Jul 18, 2014, 1:24 pm // Guest writerJudith Green explains how the Bellingham Planning Department is trying to cram their plan onto a neighborhood.
5 comments; last on Jul 21, 2014
Sun, Jul 13, 2014, 2:26 pm // Terry WechslerYears after BP completed its north dock, the Army Corps of Engineers released a draft EIS and it's really really stupid.
Tue, Jul 08, 2014, 8:20 am // Dick ConoboyThe city council "persuades" the city administration to withdraw a request for an intrusive police threat warning system
2 comments; last on Jul 08, 2014
Mon, Jul 07, 2014, 6:54 am // Terry WechslerIt is time we stop allowing corporations to externalize the costs associated with their risky business practices, and demand more from our regulators who hold the keys to…
3 comments; last on Jul 13, 2014
Mon, Jul 07, 2014, 5:04 am // Guest writerGuest writer Sandy Robson breaks the story of officials from Washington treated to a coal-promoting junket to Wyoming.
2 comments; last on Jul 13, 2014
Fri, Jul 04, 2014, 5:00 am // Guest writerFerndale's most famous landmark is frequently commented on and is often in the news. Here is their side of the story.
4 comments; last on Jul 07, 2014
Wed, Jul 02, 2014, 5:14 pm // Terry WechslerOn the anniversary of the Lac-Megantic disaster, communities throughout North America rally in solidarity to remember and protest wholly inadequate government response to crude-by-rail's risks.
4 comments; last on Jul 12, 2014
Fri, Jun 27, 2014, 9:01 pm // Guest writerIn the Weekly, Tim Johnson left out three words in quoting Craig Cole - and his story misleads readers. Guest article by Sandy Robson.
11 comments; last on Jul 01, 2014
Tue, Jun 24, 2014, 10:24 am // Dick ConoboyThe Bellingham Police Department wants to purchase "threat assessment" software with federal monies. Citizen comments were vehement and negative. City Council confused.
5 comments; last on Jul 03, 2014
Tue, Jun 17, 2014, 10:18 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein the failings of a bad policy framework are revealed
1 comments; last on Jun 19, 2014
Tue, Jun 17, 2014, 7:53 am // Dick ConoboyThe possession and use of consumer fireworks are no longer permitted within the city limits.
1 comments; last on Jun 19, 2014
Wed, Jun 11, 2014, 11:39 am // John ServaisWyoming Senators and coal honchos were in Whatcom County June 10 - to hold a news conference with select reporters.
7 comments; last on Jun 20, 2014
Tue, Jun 10, 2014, 11:20 am // John ServaisBellingham Hearing Examiner, Dawn Sturwold, retires in three weeks. Successor selection is hidden from all of us.
3 comments; last on Jun 11, 2014
Fri, Jun 06, 2014, 2:07 pm // Terry WechslerPart 2: Following Ken Oplinger to California, and Home Again
4 comments; last on Jun 19, 2014
Sun, Jun 01, 2014, 12:39 am // Guest writerA Venn diagram where coal, the Endangered Species Act, Republicans, and Wyoming’s Board of Education collide.
2 comments; last on Jun 02, 2014
Wed, May 28, 2014, 3:15 pm // Guest writerA perspective by guest writer Ellen Murphy reflects on the Whatcom Watch and the threatened law suit by Craig Cole.
22 comments; last on Jun 01, 2014
Tue, May 27, 2014, 1:23 am // Wendy HarrisWhy was so little consideration given to the concept of developing the waterfront for eco-tourism?
5 comments; last on Jun 11, 2014
Mon, May 26, 2014, 7:51 pm // Wendy HarrisCity park improvements have implications on the local and global scale.
2 comments; last on May 29, 2014
Thu, May 22, 2014, 12:10 am // Guest writerWyoming is ready to try and legally force us to limit our environmental scoping for the Cherry Point coal terminal
4 comments; last on Jun 17, 2014
Sun, May 18, 2014, 11:57 pm // Wendy HarrisReckless rezones and far-fetched explanations result in more slaughterhouses and meat packing plants
3 comments; last on May 20, 2014
Sat, May 17, 2014, 2:34 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley takes a closer look at the Charter Review Commission candidates
2 comments; last on May 21, 2014
Tue, May 13, 2014, 5:04 pm // Wendy HarrisBellingham's annual water quality report indicates that city hall's propoganda machine is going strong
1 comments; last on May 14, 2014
Sun, May 11, 2014, 2:20 pm // Terry WechslerPart 1: Introduction to the Bellingham Basin’s Potential for Fracking, Earthquakes, and Earthquakes Due to Fracking
3 comments; last on May 14, 2014
Fri, May 09, 2014, 10:02 am // John ServaisThe Political Junkie for Whatcom County - that would be Riley Sweeney - has Overstreet not running for reelection in the 42nd.
1 comments; last on May 13, 2014
Fri, May 09, 2014, 6:10 am // Terry WechslerWhy Washington must step in and assume lead agency status in Skagit County for the Shell crude by rail proposal.
6 comments; last on Jun 21, 2014
Tue, May 06, 2014, 5:52 pm // Riley SweeneyThe value of a Precinct Committee Officer . . .
1 comments; last on May 07, 2014
Mon, May 05, 2014, 3:34 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein the gyrations of the bid for widespread county slaughter are exposed.
2 comments; last on May 07, 2014
Thu, May 01, 2014, 10:21 pm // Guest writerMove to Amend is a national movement to amend the U.S. Constitution and define persons as people and speech as not money.
7 comments; last on Jun 02, 2014
Wed, Apr 30, 2014, 8:20 am // John ServaisRiley posted this morning that Seth Fleetwood has decided to challenge Doug Ericksen for state senate in the 42nd District.
1 comments; last on Apr 30, 2014
Mon, Apr 28, 2014, 6:28 am // Dick ConoboyEvery Bellingham Planning Commission member has ties to development or development-related businesses.
4 comments; last on Apr 30, 2014
Mon, Apr 21, 2014, 1:59 pm // Terry WechslerA closer look at Whatcom County's industrial "stewards of the environment."
4 comments; last on Aug 28, 2014
Mon, Apr 21, 2014, 11:43 am // Wendy HarrisThe public needs to support city council and request that a waterfront habitat assessment include terrestrial species and habitat connectivity.
Sat, Apr 19, 2014, 2:57 pm // Terry Wechsleror How Not to Plan for Future Generations' Water Needs
12 comments; last on Jun 30, 2014
Thu, Apr 17, 2014, 10:40 am // Riley SweeneyA simple explanation of the Charter Review and analysis of District only voting
Election InfoCandidate Filings
Primary election results
Coal, Oil & TrainsCommunity Wise Bellingham
Powder River Basin R. C.
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 CausesChuckanut Community Forest
City Club of Bellingham
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
Nat Hurricane Center
Two day forecast
Watts Up With That? - climate
Edge of Sports
Famous Internet Skiers
Good Web SitesAl-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
Stand for the Troops
Talking Points Memo
The Crisis Papers
War and Piece
NwCitizen 1995 - 2007Early Northwest Citizen
Quiet, Offline or DeadBellingham Police Activity
Citizens of Bellingham
Cordata & Meridian
Facebook Port Reform
N. Sound Conservancy
No Leaky Buckets
Protect Bellingham Parks
The American Telegraph