Deconstructing Chuckanut Ridge

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Wed, Jan 14, 2009, 8:28 pm  //  John Servais

Over 80 southside residents spent over two hours questioning and listening to Mayor Dan Pike as he attempted to defend city process.
A back room attempt by city staff to sneak the Greenways Plan through city council failed Monday evening. Tuesday evening the mayor got grilled strongly by south side residents about how the process was secret and the issue of "trust" of city government at the South Neighborhood Association meeting. It was quite a two night show. And exposed the back room dealing being done between the Greenways Advisory Committee - GAC - and city staff.

On Monday afternoon, backers of buying and preserving Chuckanut Ridge - CR - got alerting phone calls that the council was going to vote on the Greenways Strategic Plan that very evening. This agenda item was not known - except by the few who wanted this plan passed. The Plan eliminated millions of dollars that were promised for CR acquisition - and I'm not going to go into those controversial promises here. Regardless, opponents to the cut in funding were kept in the dark regarding Monday's planned approval by the council. This was an effort by staff and the GAC to slam dunk passage of this plan. It failed. Now comes the reckoning.

Supporters of full funding for acquisition of Chuckanut Ridge showed up in numbers at the council meeting and spoke strongly against the weak funding for CR. Council listened. Council tabled the Plan by a 6 - 1 vote with Stan Snapp being the Plan loyalist who wanted to vote it through. And this issue is again ablaze in our community, dividing us yet again.

I have stayed out of this issue for years now but after Monday night's sneak attack on public process, I'm now fascinated. I checked the council agenda and found the plan document was a PDF document formatted to prevent word searching. This prevents a citizen from scanning the 20 page document for key words. This is city staff routine for hiding information from the public. Blame for this deception must be put in the Mayor's office. He can change this routine with one word to staff. He has not. I told him of this problem when he ran for mayor and he promised change.

City staff, not the council, put this on the agenda and did not inform the public. Staff worked with the Greenways Advisory Committee to sneak this through. Council members - with the probable exception of Stan Snapp - did not know this was coming. The council expected it in February as did the supporters of preserving Chuckanut Ridge. It has existed as a draft plan since November 13 but has never been made public. Yes, this was a back room deal.

Tuesday night the mayor was scheduled from some time back to attend the South Neighborhood Association meeting at Faihaven Middle School and answer questions. Well, the council meeting Monday night set the stage for over 80 residents to give him some very sharp questions for two hours. It was not pretty.

Dan Pike was a straight shooter during his campaign for mayor and got my support and that of many other activists who wanted more open public process in city hall. Last night Dan scattered his shots all over the room and it looked like a couple went right into his feet. I thought he was talking down to the crowd but others told me later that, no, he was simply a deer in headlights. He defended staff, he suggested the residents should pony up the money to help purchase the ridge, he said unless you give money then you are not sincere in your efforts, he said funds are needed by Parks for maintenance, he said there are many other priorities. He denied any back room dealing - but then he may not be able to recognize that behavior. Like a civics teacher, he told these people who have worked for 19 years to preserve the ridge that they just need to be persistent in their efforts. How nice of him.

By the end of the meeting at 9:10 pm, Dan told the crowd the words he was told to say - that he "favors saving Chuckanut Ridge". Quite a turn from 8:04 pm when he said the issue is between serving north side interests versus south side interests and implying that north side interests would be served.

We worked to get Dan elected hoping he would bring leadership to good issues in our city. Instead we now realize we elected a very nice bureaucrat and technocrat who has much more concern about the feelings and priorities of other bureaucrats than he does for citizens. He is steadily stopping communications with those who worked for his election as he turns to the old established powers for his base of support. Last night saw him in the wrong meeting after a failed attempt by him and his staff to execute a back room arranged power play.

Dan could have prevented all this by insisting that his staff adhere to open public process. As the tag line on this website says, the mission here is to push for open public process by our government agencies. The question now is - will Dan Pike dig his hole deeper or will he learn and get a clue that we want leadership and open public process. And that he needs to build public trust - not assume he has it.

John Blethen, a member of the Greenways Advisory Committee, spoke sharply against supporters of full funding for the Chuckanut Ridge acquisition.

g.h. kirsch  //  Wed, Jan 14, 2009, 10:23 pm

Point of clarification please. 

I’m down here in southern California, and I knew the Greenway issue was on the council agenda.  I had read it on the city web site.

And though I hadn’t tried earlier, I went back to the site and my version of acrobat successfully executes word searches on the agenda.

What’s going on here?  Is this the city failing to give the usual public notice, or the public not noticing?

John Servais  //  Thu, Jan 15, 2009, 12:02 am

Yes, Greg, I also can do a word search on the agenda.  My post did not say I could not.  The post says you cannot do a word search on the Greenways Plan document. 

And this is further evidence that city staff knows how to save a Word document to either kind of pdf - and evidence they either have little regard for public transparency or that they tried to make it hard for us to find the information.  Take you choice.

Larry Horowitz  //  Thu, Jan 15, 2009, 12:25 am


Thanks for your efforts to summarize what occurred over the past two days.  While openness and back-room dealing are certainly important issues, I believe there are others that are much more relevant in terms of Chuckanut Ridge. 

First, the city is certainly not displaying any savvy in terms of negotiating with the sellers of this property, Horizon Bank and David Edelstein.  The sellers have made an offer to sell this land for a ridiculous price ($26 million or so).  On the other hand, the county just appraised this land at under $15 million? and we all know where real estate prices ? especially land - are headed. 
Second, most people seem to ignore the fact that the majority of park acquisition funds come from real estate excise taxes (REET) and park impact fees (PIF), not Greenway revenues.  Admittedly, REET and PIF revenues are down substantially; however, there are also fewer homes being built, which translates into a lower demand for more parks. 

Third, the city has been less than proactive in fairly regulating this development application.  They have allowed a misclassification of six Category I wetlands to proceed uncorrected for more than three years.  More importantly, they appear content to abrogate their responsibility to protect the public health, safety and welfare by failing to require that this development to meet the safeguards that are exclusive to the city?s Critical Areas Ordinance ? a law that was adopted in November 2005, just three days after the Fairhaven Highlands wetland application was submitted.  While the city claims the application is vested in terms of development regulations (a decision that is highly objectionable), the city?s CAO is a public health and safety regulation and, as such, is not subject to vesting.

We have asked the city time and time again to do its job and properly regulate this development application.  Given the fact that Chuckanut Ridge is essentially an interconnected wetland with steep slopes, failure to properly regulate this development application will surely increase the risk of flooding, landslides, erosion and slope failures. 

Isn?t the protection of public safety a primary responsibility of government?

Tip Johnson  //  Thu, Jan 15, 2009, 2:58 am

I am not going to say Servais’ analysis is inaccurate, but I would like to add some perspective.

First, the idea of a conspiracy involving the entire staff may be a bit far fetched.  However, upon reading the latest “Gristle” in the Cascadia Weekly, I was struck by how consistently the author’s points matched the points made by Council member Jack Weiss at last night’s meeting.  Then I received a copy of an email originating with Council member Stan Snapp.  Exact same playbook.  It’s quite clear that strategy has been seriously discussed somewhere. Talking points have been formulated and message discipline is being exercised. However, Pike’s performance gave little indication that he has been included in the conversations.

Dan’s ordeal before last night’s crowd suggests he is deeply embedded in an administrative “bubble”.  He admitted to not having read materials submitted to him by the group soon after his election.  By asking citizens to pony up for the acquisition, he seemed to lack historical perspective on the three Greenways Levies that the folks who have been struggling with this issue for nearly two decades were instrumental in passing.  By steering the discussion into bizarre corners, like irrelevant county development standards, he appeared insensitive to the City’s responsibility for creating the price incongruity fundamental to the acquisition dilemma and the conflict within the Greenways community. The City’s zoning created the proponent’s $26mm asking price.  The last publicly sponsored commercial appraisal of the property I have seen was just over $3mm.  In Pike’s defense, almost all of it happened before his watch.  Nevertheless, the impression I was left with was that Pike’s information comes to him through a heavy filter. Many have observed that he is no longer in touch with them. He is in danger of becoming an appliance for his staff.

That’s what’s disturbing.  Throughout the years - from the mysterious rezone, through the project’s first promotion, the City’s failure to subsequently revisit the zoning error, the negligence of continued inconsistency with area goals, objectives and policies, from the Memorandum of Agreement that illegally (if favorably) reduced the density (while affording the property owner a generous tax benefit), through the public expenditure of roadway and sidewalk improvements to the project’s front door, to the adoption of traffic concurrency exemptions beneficial to the project and the unprecedented rapidity of the absurd application’s acceptance - one thing is true.  Everything that should have been done that might have limited the proposal was astutely avoided while many things that should not have been done, but benefited the proposal, happened with alarming alacrity. That’s what’s disturbing.  Now it seems to be happening again, this time right under Pike’s nose.

During the meeting, John Blethan took umbrage with remarks he perceived as disparaging toward the Greenways Advisory Committee.  He produced an unfortunate display of stuttering anger that disturbed many and prompted a number of comments after his abrupt departure.  He, Weiss and Pike all referred at various times to the supposedly well rounded make up of that committee, even as it includes a predominance of “Southsiders”.  None seemed to realize that citizens that have battled against all odds for many years might easily be underwhelmed with the so-called representation appointed committee members deliver.

In Blethan’s defense, I would much rather listen to the passionate ravings of someone who has walked their talk than over-intellectualized, under-informed mumblings of unintegrated policy perspectives.  I expect elected officials to do their homework and frame their priorities.

I have exhaustively researched and written extensively on the history of this issue, as many who will read this are already aware.  My conclusion is that this is either the most profligate display of government incompetence imaginable, or it is what it appears to be - an ingrained, institutionalized and corrupt abuse of the public treasury.  Citizens tax themselves millions of dollars repeatedly over many years on the promise of relief but instead face the prospect of shelling out $26mm to avoid total devastation of a unique resource and a $12mm public subsidy.  That’s extortion.

Larry Horowitz put it quite simply.  The City should do it’s job and assert its regulatory authority.  Then citizens would not have to do their job so unpleasantly.  Nobody is in favor of things happening too quickly in government.  But twenty years, Dan, is too long.  It’s time to do the right thing and it’s time for the City to do it.

Doug Karlberg  //  Thu, Jan 15, 2009, 1:57 pm

From reading Horizon Banks financials, this property is costing them $2,000,000 in interest a year to simply hold onto the property in a declining real estate market. A market that is showing signs of declining further.

Buying this property now with tax dollar would be like catching a falling knife, and reeks of a political bailout of a real estate investment gone bad.

The average duration of falling real estate prices during a recession is five years, and we are only in year two. Remember this is only the average duration, some recessions like Japan’s, last a decade.

Ultimately the price that we could have paid for this property if we had simply waited, will be revealed. This decision has all the earmarks of a folly, named after an unemployed, but prominent politician.

How much should one pay for a swamp? Maybe we could purchase it, and rename it Pike’s Swamp. (sorry Dan)

Horizon, like many banks heavily invested in real estate, is under severe pressure, as they fear that there are more real estate loans to go bad. At some point they will be under extreme pressure to sell. $26,000,000 is joke for a bad investment on their part.

With tax dollars, we should wait and get a spectacular deal, or let it sit and lose value and $2,000,000 in interest for another year.

They are losing $3,000,000 a year on this property, let em wait.


Larry Horowitz  //  Thu, Jan 15, 2009, 2:37 pm


As always, I appreciate your well-considered comments; however, I question your interest calculation and would like to add a caveat about waiting too long to acquire this property.

First, Horizon Bank?s latest quarterly report indicates that its investment in the Chuckanut Ridge property is $17.7 million, with related borrowing of $23.4 million.  Clearly, the bank is taking a bath on this investment.  However, your claim that the bank is paying $2 million per year in interest on a $23.4 million loan assumes an interest rate of 8.5%.  I doubt seriously that Horizon Bank is paying anywhere near 8.5% on its loan.

Second, while I absolutely agree that land prices will continue to fall for the foreseeable future and time is on our side, the real value of this property will be set when the city issues a building permit.  My fear has been, and continues to be, the city?s failure to independently and fairly regulate the developer?s application.  For more than twenty years, this property has received overly favorable treatment from supposedly independent regulators.  In that lax regulatory environment, my fear is that the city will erroneously issue a permit to develop this swamp and arbitrarily enhance its intrinsic value.  As long as this does not happen, I absolutely agree that the value will continue to fall as we wait.  However, astute investors never wait too long, as they are capable of discounting the future value and buying for pennies on the dollar NOW.

$26 million is a joke, and so is the $17.7 million value currently on Horizon?s balance sheet.  Generally accepted accounting principles would require the bank to reflect a reduced market value in its financial statements.  Holding this land is not a good idea for the bank; however, bank management has displayed an irrational and emotional attachment to it ? to the detriment of bank stockholders.  Perhaps their new CEO will reconsider Horizon?s approach and convert an unproductive and depreciating asset into one that might better serve the bank and its investors. 

Don?t you think a privately-placed municipal bond earning tax-free interest might look better on the bank?s balance sheet than land that is losing value while racking up substantial interest costs?

Doug Karlberg  //  Thu, Jan 15, 2009, 4:06 pm


It is always dangerous when I read someone else’s financial, or make predictions.

Horizon’s balance sheet has a liability for Joint/Ventures which list a change in value upwards of $2,000,000 last year. I assumed this to be interest, but without details it could be other expenses associated with the land. This is how I derived the number.

I am always more worried about buying large assets in an obviously falling market, versus paying too much in a rising market. One makes you look dumb, and the other smart, over time.

Horizon’s made a bad investment and their offer if accepted would have clearly had the taxpayer bailing out their bad investment. So much for civic duty.

Your point about the zoning is well taken. In today’s environment rebuilding trust in government is important.

The City should remove the taint once and for all. Fairly and transparently.

Special deals for special interests is not in the public’s interest, ever.

Horizon’s offer at a ridiculous price is a clear indication of stubborn refusal to deal with reality. Embarrassing offer really. Transfer it to the taxpayer. Nice.

I agree clear up the zoning, and hope for a more sober, civic minded Horizon.

I don’t see any other offers for this land,...

... on the horizon.


Tip Johnson  //  Thu, Jan 15, 2009, 6:15 pm


No one is building 739 units of anything anywhere in Whatcom County in the foreseeable future - years.  O.K., that’s our queue.

I don’t want to buy it at $26mm either.  I think $5mm might be about right - or maybe even the $4.1 already allocated.  I don’t mind competing aggressively with development for preservation lands, but as one former consultant to the project said of the site, “The site is FUBAR for development”.

Horizon’s ridiculous application strongly indicates that they have an agenda other than building.  Otherwise, they would have complied with applicable regulations.  Somehow, they knew that they could skip that detail and still get a determination of completeness, raising at least the specter of vesting.  That’s why I call it extortion.  They are literally holding a gun to the head of this treasure to see what they can squeeze out of the community.  Some community bank!

We saw this at Hoag’s Pond, when several department heads and program coordinators with exclusive access to the confidential Greenways list engineered a hackneyed deal for a retiring Public Works administrator that would have added a half million dollars of value to his land - scheduled for acquisition - without accomplishing any of the stated goals of the transaction.  It was nothing more than an attempt to plunder the Greenways levy.

The similarities with this project are glaring.  It appears as though somewhere in City Hall, someone has decided that Greenways can be a cash machine for their friends or families. I don’t think it’s Dan, but it is his job to put a stop to it.

The time is perfect to redouble our efforts on the DEIS, to fight and make sure every applicable regulation is enforced and every possible mitigation required.  We should be ready for court, because that’s exactly where Tim Stewart publicly asserted he’d be willing to talk to us about it.  Dan suggested this the other night, too.  Too bad, I’d rather plow my dollars into the land.

It’s also time to go after the Bank.  This spring will be a good time to start regular pickets.  It’s time to stop being nice and ridicule the ridiculous.

We need to organize.  Bringing Julia Butterfly Hill to town for a tree sitting workshop is a good place to start.  Middle Schoolers need good projects.

And we need to keep the pressure on our elected officials, hold their feet to the fire and make them do their job.  That job is more likely regulatory than financial.

It’s hard to keep going after twenty years, but now is no time to waiver.

John Watts  //  Fri, Jan 16, 2009, 12:45 am

Former US Senator Moynihan once said that ‘everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.’

Since the author of this piece admits to several years absence -ergo ignorance- in following the Greenways intrigues, let me suggest that he avail himself of a few facts that others are able to verify, including myself, as Council member and chair of the Parks & Recreation Committee in 2006 & 2007.

The Greenways 3 levy language that was agreed to unanimously by the Council contained no money solely designated to purchase any so-called Chuckanut Ridge property. If someone feels otherwise, let them demonstrate credible evidence to the contrary.

I do know that Council members Barbara Ryan and Terry Bornemann wished otherwise either influenced or sought to influence members Joan Beardsley and Gene Knutson to ‘earmark’ very substantial GW3 funds -up to $10.5 million- for CR purchase,but none of this was ever approved by Council action.
Again,  if someone feels otherwise, let them demonstrate credible evidence to the contrary.

The Greenways 3 measure that went to the ballot designated $6 million for ALL southside GW3 purchases, with CR being the largest of several possible.
An additional $2 million was made available for potential purchase of property anywhere, with ‘priority’ given to a credible proposal for acquiring additional right of way that might be required to provide for a trail connection through the CR property. Again, there was no guarantee, or ‘earmark’ in current vernacular.

The above is the plain language that was presented to the voters, which ought to be readily verifiable through the City Attorney’s office.

While there are those who are determined to question and or try to contravene the clear true intent of the Greenways 3 measure, that is already well defined.
But, the penchant for controversy and wishful thinking remains strong among the former so-called Legacy proponents, which explains this latest demonstration of discontent and amateurish political pressure.

Another person who has paid careful attention to the Greenways 3 issue and timely reported on it, is the editor of the Cascadia Weekly, whose Gristle column of January 13 not only got it right on this latest dust-up, but also got it right on three previous Gristle columns which can be easily accessed at the following URL:
+ Link

It is regrettable that the same people who threatened to ‘hijack’ the Greenways vote in 2007 are still up to mischief making using our valued Greenways program as their instrument of choice to fight a planned infill development.

Democracies are never perfect, but continuing to try to put more lipstick on the ‘100 acre woods’ piglet seems a loser’s game that carries more promise for undermining, rather than improving, the credibility of the CR acquisition advocates.

Tom Pratum  //  Fri, Jan 16, 2009, 1:18 am

Thanks John W. for your comments - you were there, you know what went on. Thank god we don’t need to accept re-written history on this one.

I have not been involved in this, but I did grow up on the Southside of town, and have walked all over this property. I think it is a shame it might be developed (and “might” is the word here), but where were the 100 acre (actually 85 acres) woods folks 10 or 15 years ago when the purchase would have been reasonable? There has been a development proposal on the table for a long, long time.

I hope some of the comments are correct, and this property isn’t really worth as much as Horizon Bank thinks it is, but I am not sure it is a good idea for the city to cough up an exorbitant fee to undo past mistakes that are really the responsibility of all of us who did not enough to get this property in public ownership long ago.

As is well-known, the original developers of CR are moving forward with Governor’s Point. I am not sure we can stop that one, but it seems like there is a better chance to do something good there than at CR.

John Servais  //  Fri, Jan 16, 2009, 5:31 am

John Watts writes:
“Since the author of this piece admits to several years absence -ergo ignorance- in following the Greenways intrigues,?”

As the writer of this piece, let me parse this.  I did not admit to any absence in following the intrigues.  Indeed, I have followed these intrigues for more years than Mr. Watts has been in Bellingham.  And carefully.  What I wrote is “I have stayed out of this issue?”  and that is entirely different.  One can study and follow an issue very carefully and still not get involved in the fray.  I would hope a reader would know the difference.

Secondly, my piece did not even touch on the concerns Mr. Watts then proceeded to explain.  I wrote about the abysmal public process over two days.  And I notice Mr. Watts did not write about any of this.  So why the need to try and discredit me is a bit baffling.  Mr. Watts does not point out any error in anything I wrote.  Again why the snide and insulting lead sentence when it serves no purpose?

Rick Anderson  //  Fri, Jan 16, 2009, 2:20 pm

I am a bit puzzled by your assertion that the vote on this was a “back room attempt” as though it was done in secret.  It was an agenda item and was also written about in the Bellingham Herald.  I’m not an avid follower of this issue yet I was aware of it being on the agenda without any special digging on my part…..and had read the proposed plan prior to watching the proceedings on Channel 10 on Monday afternoon and Monday evening.  Maybe the lesson here is that if people are interested in an issue they need to be consistently monitoring for movement on that issue…..and not relying on a special invitation from the city or a call from a council person.

Larry Horowitz  //  Fri, Jan 16, 2009, 2:39 pm


Thanks for taking time to add your thoughts to this dialogue.  I appreciate your concern that CR ?might? be developed.  Because, as you plainly admit, you have not been involved in this issue, I believe there is much information you are not aware of. 

First, thanking John W. for his comments because he was there and knew what went on is a gigantic stretch.  Yes, John W. was a ? I repeat ?a? ? member of council at the time, but he did not attend every meeting between other council members and CR supporters.  His claim that Joan Beardsley and Gene Knutson were ?influenced? by Barbara Ryan and Terry Bornemann to support an $8 million allocation of GWIII funds for the acquisition of CR is patently false.  Gene and Joan, in addition to Barbara and Terry, gave their word that they would support such an allocation.  Their commitment was not forced in any way and was repeated multiple times.  Perhaps John W. doesn?t place much faith in his own word (I know I never would), but those of us who met with the other council members (never more than three at a time), felt that their word was their bond.  Of course the GWIII ballot measure did not plainly state this commitment.  No one ever suggested that it should.  However, for those of us who trusted Joan, Gene, Barbara and Terry, it was not necessary.  No one I know gave it a second thought because we knew we could trust Joan, Gene, Barbara and Terry to stay true to their word.

Second, the current application for Fairhaven Highlands was submitted in April 2005.  Since then, more than 1,000 residents have actively opposed this development.  There has been no delay in this opposition as you infer with your comment that ?There has been a development proposal on the table for a long, long time.?

Finally, no one is asking the city to ?cough up an exorbitant fee to undo past mistakes?; however, we are asking the city to correct past mistakes and independently regulate the current development application.  If they do their job, the development value of CR will be extremely low, and an acquisition will certainly be affordable.  Remember, park acquisitions must consider value in addition to cost.  Value factors in how many people the park will serve.  Since CR is centrally located to the five southside neighborhoods and is within walking distance to thousands of residents, it will serve many people and is a good value.  A ?cheap? park acquisition that serves relatively few people is a much more expensive proposition.

Again, thanks for your interest in this issue.  I hope you?ll continue to stay involved.


Tip Johnson  //  Fri, Jan 16, 2009, 4:04 pm

I am always a little surprised at how glibly Watts avoids the many points raised to condescendingly disparage the writers as ignorant.  It’s a little tiring.

Watts relies on the instruction manual to avoid acknowledging the machinery.  He hews to the map and disdains the territory.  He asserts that because an appropriation was not publicly made, that there was no representation of commitment to acquiring Chuckanut Ridge.  Well, that’s not the way it works.  For one, it’s a confidential program within which specific allocations are made in executive session.  On the policy side, where “lipstick” is applied to the levy prior to the ballot, representations of support were definitely made.  That’s how they got it passed.  It would have failed without the support of southsiders convinced that was true.

Watt’s, as Servais points out, may not understand that this goes back far before the last levy.  The Chuckanut Ridge Property was literally the poster child of the first two levies.  The third looked very weak until key players fluffed up the appearance of support for acquisition and dragged Greenways separatists back into the fold.  Pratum asks where folks were 10 to 15 years ago.  They were busy opposing this project and passing Greenways levies on hollow promises, again and again, providing tens of millions for acquisitions - just not theirs.

What Watt’s is saying is not pretty.  The essence is that elected representatives can promise anything and do nothing, that you can mislead citizens repeatedly to get their votes and then do whatever you want, carefully legitimizing it with a bit of paperwork.  Hopefully, that is a rare perception of the role of representatives within our system.

Nevertheless, I think we can all agree that Greenways should not shell out a ridiculous $26mm.  But get back to basics.  Is development of 739 units appropriate on this site? Can we afford to trash this ecological treasure? SHould we have to forgo the opportunity to extend Fairhaven Park to the Interurban and create a gateway to the Chuckanuts?  It’s absurd.

Who will take responsibility for creating the “density” that causes this dilemma?  Who will assure that zoning is consistent with longstanding policies, goals and objectives? Who will protect the public’s interests by preserving critical areas and unique opportunities?  That’s the City’s job and it’s why citizens elect representatives to integrate their concerns into our community’s emerging character.  Most citizens are busy with their jobs and families, creating the tax base that supports the kind of shenanigans Watts defends. Expecting them to read agendas and legal notices is just an excuse for representatives not doing their job.

It’s time for the City to do its job.  Put not one drop of roadway runoff or dumpster depot drippings into the already publicly owned wetland, teeming with tiny shrimp, supporting the foodchain of the most significant habitat corridor in Bellingham’s portfolio. First, just say “NO” to bad development.  That’s been an election promise of elected officials for many years. Then get busy and buy it. That’s been promised, too.

Jeffrey Schmidt  //  Fri, Jan 16, 2009, 4:50 pm

Being a long time sideline listener, I just have a few comments….......
Tip, your astute observations are appreciated and seem to make sense to me, although I’m just a simple goatherder (no, really I am). Not just on this thread, but almost every post ive read of yours.  However, my understanding of the 100 acre wood is that it has been projected to be built out for a long time.  I used to live on Old Samish Rd. and I could walk out my back door and hike to mud lake, pine, cedar lakes, lily and lizard lakes, etc. without ever passing private property.  I do believe the other side of Chuckanut drive opposite the 100 acre wood, Mud Bay,would have been better to protect.  I believe this was a trillium project.  All of these people protesting this makes my blood boil…....Anyways, with horizon bank trading for around a $1, seems like a good time to buy if you ask me

Tip Johnson  //  Fri, Jan 16, 2009, 6:13 pm


Yes.  The property has been slated for build out since 1981 - when the City first illegally rezoned the property without review, recommendation, hearing or notice.

Yes. We tried to save Mud Bay.  In fact, a lot of the “mud” was saved, but Trillium got the uplands.

For some reason, outfits like Trillium and Horizon Bank get the deals while citizens get the stick.  Go figure.

John Servais  //  Fri, Jan 16, 2009, 6:57 pm

Jeffrey - yes, I and others tried hard with months of effort to save access around Mud Bay back in the 1980s.  We wanted to have enough of an easement above the high tide line for a trail along the shore around the bay.  All to no avail - and some of it was very dirty dealings by city bureaucrats.  The developer’s point person had been hired away from city planning and, of course, there is always that smell of cronyism. 

As Tip wrote, we did save the mud - we bought the tidelands - and got a bit of open space in the undevelopable marsh at end of Fairhaven Avenue.  And now the “trail” is in the upper part of the tideland - the mud - instead on the lower 10 feet of shore where it would be a decent trail next to and above the tideland.

Jeffrey Schmidt  //  Fri, Jan 16, 2009, 7:09 pm

i reread my post and I believe it may have came across as me being upset about the people protesting the 100 acre wood…..I meant the blood boiling comment to be directed to the homeowners of the trillium project. (Now you know why I dont post on here very often).  Andrea (my wife) likes to point out if I have something important to say, I probably shouldn’t! She is a smart women.

Tip Johnson  //  Sat, Jan 17, 2009, 12:20 am


There’s no reason to feel reticent to post.  We’re all just wagging our tongues.  Remember…

“Opinion is the lowest form of knowledge” - Plato

Vince Biciunas  //  Sat, Jan 17, 2009, 3:29 am

At the risk of sticking my neck out too far again, and with the additional suspicion that this idea must be too naive:

Why don’t I just suggest to Horizon Bank that they use Triple Bottom Line accounting and the attendant tax write off, and donate the 85 acres of Fairhaven Highlands to the City of Bellingham. We could re-name it Horizon Forest in their honor, with gratitude. Isn’t that the best disposition for the bank in this economic climate?

All of the bad karma of the previous decisions and machinations and arguments could be wiped clean. RD could donate its legal defense funds to the City as well, towards trail maintenance. No court battles.

Tell me why this isn’t a good idea.

Tip Johnson  //  Sat, Jan 17, 2009, 4:54 am

I’d back that.

John Servais  //  Sat, Jan 17, 2009, 2:46 pm

Some readers may not know that the organization “RD” that Vince refers to is “Responsible Development”.  They are a southside group that formed some time back - year? - to work towards the saving of Chuckanut Ridge natural area.  There is no explanation of RD in any post above.

Perhaps someone else could post a short but better description of them.

Larry Horowitz  //  Sat, Jan 17, 2009, 2:52 pm


Thanks for sticking your neck out and suggesting that the Fairhaven Highlands / Chuckanut Ridge property be donated for the benefit of the community ? the community that Horizon Bank derives its profit from.

I cannot tell you why this isn?t a good idea, although if David Edelstein were willing to post his thoughts in this venue, I?m sure he?d have a few (million) reasons.

Here?s the grim reality:  Your recommendation is one of the few options Horizon Bank has to generate a positive outcome from their poorly-conceived decision to develop an ecologically sensitive urban forest and wetland habitat.  Except for the city, there are no potential buyers waiting in the wings who might be willing to pay a premium for this land.  That market has dried up and gone south and may be in hibernation for years to come.  The bank?s dream of obtaining a favorable permit has become a nightmare, as hundreds (if not thousands) of citizens lie in wait to attack at every opportunity.  If the city does its job, a permit may never be issued, certainly not a favorable one.  To be sure, any permit will be challenged in the legal courts, not to mention the outrage it will cause in the court of public opinion.

Can you imagine the outcry just waiting for Horizon Bank should they ever get to the point where they begin clear cutting Chuckanut Ridge? 

Can the bank withstand the public hatred it will engender for the years it will take to complete the deforestation alone - not to mention the buildout of 739 units?

Your naivet? is a virtue.  Thanks for having the courage to stick your neck out.  I hope you always will.


The Last Lessons of Dr. David T. Mason

Sat, Mar 21, 2015, 11:16 am  //  Guest writer

Kamalla Kaur worked with David Mason on his biographical materials and offers this tribute to his illustrious life.

2 comments; last on Mar 23, 2015

County Meth Ordinance Sent Back to Committee

Fri, Mar 13, 2015, 5:00 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The Whatcom County Council has sent discussion on changing the meth ordinance back to the Public Works, Health and Safety Committee


Paper Dreams in Fairhaven

Next door to Village Books

Robyn du Pre` Has Passed On

Thu, Mar 12, 2015, 1:06 pm  //  John Servais

Add your thoughts and remembrances. Robyn du Pre` was a stalwart and true environmental advocate for Bellingham and Whatcom County. She died this week.

9 comments; last on Mar 23, 2015

How the Party Treats Jeb and Hillary Tells You Everything

Thu, Feb 26, 2015, 10:39 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley shares some insight into the national political parties

5 comments; last on Mar 09, 2015

Dealing with Meth Contamination - A Race to the Bottom in Whatcom County

Wed, Feb 25, 2015, 6:31 am  //  Dick Conoboy

In a hearing, possibly on 3 March, the Whatcom County Council will consider an ordinance changing the rules for contaminated meth use sites.

1 comments; last on Feb 27, 2015

Rent-to-Own Scam on Tenants

Mon, Feb 09, 2015, 6:00 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Not all rent-to-own propositions are an unwise method to buy a home but some are schemes to rip off the unsuspecting tenant.


The Hidden Election

Mon, Feb 02, 2015, 9:34 am  //  Guest writer

No ballot mailed to you. You must request a ballot for voting in the Whatcom Conservation District election. Deadline to apply is Feb 9. By Barbara Perry


Little Hong Kong by the Bay

Thu, Jan 29, 2015, 10:56 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein Bellingham's billion dollar boondoggle is revisited

4 comments; last on Mar 03, 2015

A Call to Action to Support the Lummi Nation

Tue, Jan 27, 2015, 9:55 am  //  Terry Wechsler

The Lummi requested on Jan. 5, 2015, that the federal government, through the Army Corps of Engineers, honor Art. V of the Treaty of Point Elliott and deny…

1 comments; last on Feb 04, 2015

The Pickett House Museum

Sun, Jan 25, 2015, 12:32 pm  //  Guest writer

Adventures of George Pickett in the Pacific Northwest Wilderness

5 comments; last on Jan 28, 2015

Call to Action—Shell Anacortes Crude by Rail Proposal

Sat, Jan 24, 2015, 3:15 pm  //  Terry Wechsler

The fourth area refinery crude by rail infrastructure project to receive permits without benefit of environmental review is being appealed, and provides an opportunity to make precedent.


Riley Sweeney to Receive Paul deArmond Award

Fri, Jan 23, 2015, 12:13 am  //  John Servais

The second annual award for Citizen Journalism will be to The Political Junkie himself who runs the Sweeney Politics blog, Riley Sweeney.

2 comments; last on Jan 24, 2015

The Annexation Games

Tue, Jan 20, 2015, 3:07 am  //  Guest writer

Guest article by Sandra Alfers. Water and sewer connections drive unwanted annexation. Trickle Creek homeowners are muzzled by a "no protest zone."

1 comments; last on Jan 20, 2015

A Walk With Hope

Sun, Jan 18, 2015, 10:14 pm  //  Guest writer

Ellen Murphy gives us a poem for this Martin Luther King day of remembrance.

2 comments; last on Jan 21, 2015

Dead or Alive: How do you like your herring?

Sun, Jan 18, 2015, 9:15 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein the ridiculous is ridiculed

5 comments; last on Jan 21, 2015

Lodging Goals for Whatcom County

Thu, Jan 08, 2015, 2:54 pm  //  Guest writer

Tani Sutley guest writes about the vacation rentals situation and presents goals for the county council to consider for improving our rural neighborhoods.

1 comments; last on Jan 10, 2015

Water is Valuable

Wed, Dec 31, 2014, 1:16 am  //  Guest writer

Duuhhh! Try doing without it. Marian Beddill provides an overview of our rural Whatcom County water situation and the efforts to find fair solutions.

3 comments; last on Jan 08, 2015

Riley’s Top 5 Whatcom Political Stories of 2014

Wed, Dec 24, 2014, 1:23 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

The Herald gave us their top 10 stories, Riley gives you his top 5


Coal Ship Collisions Study Is Released

Thu, Dec 18, 2014, 5:04 pm  //  John Servais

One part of the environmental study for the proposed Cherry Point mega coal terminal has been completed and released. It deals with ship collisions - they call it…

2 comments; last on Dec 22, 2014

Twas the Week Before Christmas…

Thu, Dec 18, 2014, 12:26 pm  //  John Servais

Bellingham Public Works shows how tone deaf they can be to business concerns. They insisted on street work that takes away up to 80 parking spaces in Fairhaven…


Bellingham City Council Approves Rental Inspections

Tue, Dec 16, 2014, 3:51 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

7-0! City Council Unanimous. Rentals Will Be Inspected in Bellingham. Thanks go to WWU students for speaking out to city council.

4 comments; last on Dec 18, 2014

Council Moving Rapidly on Rental Registration and Inspections

Thu, Dec 11, 2014, 5:05 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The Bellingham City Council has added an inspection component to the registration-only rental ordinance proposal of Councilmember Murphy

4 comments; last on Dec 16, 2014

New Year’s Eve and Consumer Fireworks - Ban in Effect

Wed, Dec 10, 2014, 6:37 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The ban on consumer fireworks that took effect last summer is valid all year, even New Year's Eve

1 comments; last on Dec 11, 2014

Ship Breaks Loose at Port of Bellingham

Tue, Dec 09, 2014, 1:31 pm  //  John Servais

The Horizon Lines ship - the many year resident of the Port of Bellingham - broke loose this morning due to failure of some system. A few photos.

3 comments; last on Dec 10, 2014

Whatcom County and the New Sharing Economy

Tue, Dec 09, 2014, 2:25 am  //  Guest writer

Tani Sutley writes of how unregulated vacation rentals are invading the Lake Whatcom watershed. She urges action before the Planning Commission meeting on 11 December.

4 comments; last on Jan 03, 2015

War and Peace

Wed, Dec 03, 2014, 2:20 pm  //  Richard Lewis

Poet Richard Lewis reflects on Elizabeth Warren

3 comments; last on Dec 07, 2014

Prosecutor McEachran Calls Racism Charge “Preposterous”

Sun, Nov 23, 2014, 4:27 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein Whatcom's Klan heritage may be oozing from some cracks

8 comments; last on Dec 06, 2014

Where are the persuadable voters in the 42nd District?

Sat, Nov 22, 2014, 3:48 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley dives into the data with precinct maps and historical perspectives


Campus View Apartment Project Officially Defunct

Thu, Nov 20, 2014, 9:15 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Campus Crest Communities, Inc. has officially offered for sale the Lincoln St. property that was to be a student apartment development.

2 comments; last on Nov 23, 2014

Howard Harris Dies - More Testimonials Added

Wed, Nov 12, 2014, 1:51 pm  //  John Servais

Updated Nov 12. Howard Harris, the founder of the Bellingham silent peace vigil at the Federal Building in Bellingham, has died. He and Rosemary were leaders in our…


A Veterans Day Note

Tue, Nov 11, 2014, 2:34 pm  //  John Servais

On this Veterans Day, a note about how vets need our government to step up - as has never been done. And a personal note on the power…

3 comments; last on Nov 13, 2014

Lincoln Street Apartment Development May Be Abandoned

Thu, Nov 06, 2014, 6:53 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The Campus Crest apartment complex may be the "victim" of a corporate restructuring plan.

3 comments; last on Nov 10, 2014

Doug Ericksen’s Tax Lien

Tue, Nov 04, 2014, 12:28 pm  //  John Servais

While smearing Seth Fleetwood over a common tax arrangement, we discover Doug Ericksen also has a benign tax lien - one he denied.

6 comments; last on Nov 11, 2014

A Recent GOP History in Not-So-Terse-Verse

Mon, Nov 03, 2014, 8:14 pm  //  Richard Lewis

Poet Richard Lewis weighs in on the Tea Party values



Sat, Nov 01, 2014, 12:29 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Or why to vote for Nyima, the dog, for County Prosecutor

4 comments; last on Nov 03, 2014

Election Recommendations

Thu, Oct 30, 2014, 2:18 am  //  John Servais

A link to Riley's Political Junkie for excellent recommendations - and a few thoughts of my own.

1 comments; last on Oct 30, 2014

Something Gristly to Chew On: The rest of the story -

Thu, Oct 23, 2014, 11:01 am  //  Tip Johnson

It's just how things roll in Whatcom County

5 comments; last on Oct 26, 2014

Point Roberts vs. the FCC:  Modern David and Goliath

Wed, Oct 22, 2014, 2:44 pm  //  John Lesow

Update Oct 22: John Lesow has posted a comment with considerable more information on this issue.

1 comments; last on Oct 22, 2014

Tune in TONIGHT for Political Comedy

Tue, Oct 14, 2014, 6:36 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley does a local political comedy show

1 comments; last on Oct 15, 2014

Bham Planning Director - Rick Sepler Chosen

Wed, Oct 08, 2014, 6:24 pm  //  John Servais

Three 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

The Business of Government

Sat, Oct 04, 2014, 12:23 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein we see that sometimes government can do what business can't.

9 comments; last on Oct 07, 2014

Rental Conditions -  A Real Estate Inspector’s View

Fri, Oct 03, 2014, 10:26 am  //  Dick Conoboy

An experienced real estate inspector provides a window to the dangeroous conditions found in rentals in Bellingham

3 comments; last on Oct 05, 2014

Few Surprises at the Tea Party Debate

Thu, Oct 02, 2014, 2:33 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley files a full report of the Tea Party debate for State Leg candidates

1 comments; last on Oct 04, 2014

Satpal Sidhu, Candidate for State Representative, 42nd District

Tue, Sep 30, 2014, 8:00 am  //  Guest writer

Wherein a Fulbright scholar, professional engineer and successful business owner files for public office

4 comments; last on Oct 02, 2014

Hickory, Dickory, Docketing…Yet Another Spot Rezone

Mon, Sep 22, 2014, 5:07 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Last 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

Samish Way Experience - Drug Dealing Dangers?

Wed, Sep 17, 2014, 10:26 am  //  John Servais

We 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

Who Will Be Appointed to Lehman’s City Council Seat?

Tue, Sep 09, 2014, 8:21 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley 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

An Imminent Threat:  The State Plans for CBR Disaster While Counties Punt

Mon, Aug 25, 2014, 11:48 am  //  Terry Wechsler

While 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

You can’t fight city hall: city hall doesn’t fight fair

Fri, Aug 22, 2014, 2:06 pm  //  Guest writer

Patrick McKee of the Sunnyland Neighborhood guest-writes about the August 11 City Council slap-dash zoning changes.

2 comments; last on Aug 23, 2014

Good Friends and Neighbors:  What $54 Million Doesn’t Buy, Part 2

Wed, Aug 20, 2014, 4:54 pm  //  Terry Wechsler

Not content with causing massive inconvenience, BNSF is now literally dumping on county residents.

10 comments; last on Aug 26, 2014

Devil In the Details

Sat, Aug 16, 2014, 3:48 pm  //  Guest writer

Judith 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

Good Friends and Neighbors:  What $54 Million Doesn’t Buy

Fri, Aug 15, 2014, 7:12 am  //  Terry Wechsler

A 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

Reliable Prosperity

Thu, Aug 14, 2014, 3:13 pm  //  Guest writer

Sandy 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

Fleetwood versus Ericksen: What Happened in Round One?

Tue, Aug 12, 2014, 10:52 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Some Context for the Primary Results


The Rule of Law - Bellingham Style

Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 11:31 pm  //  John Servais

Bellingham City Council abruptly changes zoning codes to force Planning Department plan on Sunnyland residents.

7 comments; last on Aug 14, 2014

Final Updated Election Results

Fri, Aug 08, 2014, 10:10 am  //  John Servais

Updated Wed evening. The Tuesday evening 8:20 pm Auditor report on the election is in.

5 comments; last on Aug 08, 2014

Councilmember Murphy’s Proposed Rental Ordinance Is Deeply Flawed

Fri, Aug 01, 2014, 8:00 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Councilmember 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

Trial by Fire:  A Rising Tide of Civil Disobedience

Fri, Aug 01, 2014, 4:47 am  //  Terry Wechsler

Carefully 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

Northwest Citizen Releases Polling of Whatcom Voters

Thu, Jul 24, 2014, 11:40 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Northwest Citizen has conducted a phone poll of likely voters, with some surprising results!

9 comments; last on Jul 29, 2014

Plan Commission & Samish Neighbors Bypassed on Rezone Docketing

Thu, Jul 24, 2014, 7:52 am  //  Dick Conoboy

In 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


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