Greenways III: Policy and Practice DisasterPermalink +
Fri, Feb 27, 2009, 7:11 pm // Guest writerBarbara Ryan, Terry Bornemann and Gene Knutson, all members of the Bellingham City Council, have submitted this guest article.
Until now, we have chosen to let our record speak for itself on the Greenways III issue, which has been painful, divisive, and caused us many nights of lost sleep.
Recent accusations about our actions now require us to respond. We will not accuse others of lying, as we have been accused. Rather we will chronicle the history of this troubled plan as we see it and as we lived it.
For those citizens new to Bellingham, you may know that the 85 acres called Chuckanut Ridge, or Fairhaven Highlands, has been the object of discussion since the first Greenway levy passed in 1990. In fact, it was this property that spurred southside citizens to organize the first Greenways Levy, hoping that the Levy would provide funds to protect the property as wildlife habitat and trail corridor. Unfortunately, the previous owner and the City were unable to agree on a price, and the property was eventually sold to its current owners, Horizon Bank and Greenbriar Associates.
The property continued to be important to many in our community. Its wetlands are the headwaters of two salmon-bearing streams - Padden Creek and Chuckanut Creek. Its 50 to 80-year old trees, forest floor, and wetlands are home to many varieties of birds and mammals. It is contiguous to a several hundred yards of the Interurban Trail, offering a near-wilderness experience for hikers of all ages and abilities.
The problem is that the property is inside city limits, zoned for high density development (739 units on 85 acres, minus significant wetlands). That has made the price higher than the Greenways Committee has been willing to pay.
After the Greenways II levy expired, Mayor Mark Asmundson appointed a third Greenways Committee to begin organizing a third levy campaign. He asked John Blethen to head this effort. John asked several others to join him including Del Lowry and Jack Weiss, currently a member of City Council.
This group was opposed to acquiring Chuckanut Ridge because of the price and because the city had acquired other Greenways properties in the area, including property around Hoag's Pond. The need for parks and open space was clearly in the north end of town.
But the desire to acquire Chuckanut Ridge was still strong among some citizens, who formed their own group. This group agreed that the highest need for parks and open space is on the north end of town. But it also felt that Chuckanut Ridge should be acquired as open space, environmental laboratory, trail corridor, tree canopy and animal habitat.
Months of meetings ensued. Both groups met separately and together many times to try to reach consensus. Heated debate, often beyond any reasonable rules of engagement, hardened feelings. Many members of the Council were involved in these debates, trying to find consensus. The three of us, and Joan Beardsley, after months of listening, decided on our positions, which we made known in public. Only the details remained to be worked through.
It's all on tape.
About the time that this item hit our Council agenda, Bellingham began video taping both afternoon work sessions and evening meetings. In fact, the full discussion of the March 10, 2006 meetings in which we discussed the Greenways III proposal can be seen on-line. (Call the Council office, 778-8200, for information about how to access the video of these meetings).
After several hours of discussion and straw votes, most of which were split 4-3 with Terry Bornemann, Barbara Ryan, Gene Knutson, and Joan Beardsley favoring allocating $8 million to Chuckanut Ridge and $12 million to north side acquisitions (this was not the only acquisition money in the levy proposal), and Louise Bjornson, John Watts, and Bob Ryan opposed to any acquisition proposal for Chuckanut Ridge, we were at an impasse. Mayor Mark Asmundson and Council President Gene Knutson begged for a solution to which most of us could agree. It makes little sense to send a proposal to the public for a vote on which the Council is split.
Finally, Joan Beardsley suggested that "In addition to $6 million to acquire Chuckanut Ridge, we set aside an additional $2 million to be used to acquire the property, if necessary."
During this discussion, Terry and I asked Mayor Asmundson to clarify our proposal. We wanted the public to know what was being discussed so that they could vote based on whether they agreed with the proposal. He clearly said that "What you are proposing is to spend $6 million, plus $2 million if necessary, which is a total of $8 million to purchase Chuckanut Ridge and, at the end of the day, that is how the staff will interpret this vote." We believed that the Mayor, staff, and citizens understood that this was the Council intent.
John Watts had nothing to do with this compromise. But he went along with it, as did the entire Council (7-0), because he knew that no mention of the specific property, or our specific recommendation for an amount to be spent to acquire all or part of the property, would be included in ballot language. He voted for the proposal, knowing that he could then accuse the majority of not having made any decision at all because no mention of $8 million for Chuckanut Ridge would be specifically in the ordinance.
Just who were we fooling?
Past Greenways practice says that no specified dollar amount will be set aside for any specific property. If developers understand the city's financial limits, the city's bargaining position will be severely compromised.
After all this discussion, it was probably more clear to the developer than to anyone what the council had decided. But the final language of the ordinance, and an accompanying outline of potential Greenways III expenditures, never made this explicit.
The omission of this language in the ordinance was probably a huge mistake. We weren't fooling the developer. But we did not make Council intent clear to the public nor to the people who were supporting the levy. We believed that the omission was standard procedure, to protect the City. Instead, it turned out to be the pivot point on which the anti-Chuckanut Ridge folks hung their "you don't have it in writing, and thus you have nothing" hats. We have been accused of lying. We have been charged with everything from collusion to fraud.
Joan Beardsley, who died in office in 2007, isn't here to defend herself. But the written record testifies to the fact that she attended a Greenways meeting and suggested that the Greenways Committee not bring requests for funds for southside acquisition because the four Council had already made their positions clear to spend $6 million, plus to $2 million if necessary, on the Chuckanut Ridge property. She was bullied into recanting her statement. She knew that four Council members, including herself, had, independently, concluded that they would support this proposal.
Charges of collusion are neither fair nor true. After months meeting with both Greenways groups, most of us came to conclusions based on what we heard. We made these determinations independently, as did those who opposed acquiring Chuckanut Ridge.
What concerns us most is the question that Chuckanut Ridge opponents have sown about their government and this process. The secretive property acquisition process itself is rife for these accusations. These are among the very few discussions that can be held in Executive Session, without public scrutiny. In order to continue to set aside land for parks and open spaces, some confidentiality must be maintained.
But what this process shows is that same need for confidentiality has created rifts and fissures and a lack of trust for the process, and ultimately, for our ability to govern ourselves.
Where we are now.
On January 12, the Greenways and Parks Boards decided that no more than $4 million of the $44 million levy should be spent on the Fairhaven Highlands property, known as Chuckanut Ridge. They made their recommendation public, for the first time, in the Council packet published Thursday, January 8.
Council decided, 6-1 (Stan Snapp opposed), to postpone any decision on this property, and to not bring forward any potential Greenways purchases for southside properties until after the Environmental Impact Statement now being prepared by the developer has been submitted and studied. This will give all of us a better indication of the value of the Chuckanut Ridge property.
It is our hope that we can acquire some or all of the Chuckanut Ridge property using Greenways funds. That will depend, of course, on who sits on Council when that final vote is taken. We hope citizens make their preferences known.
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
4 comments; last on May 03, 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
Harriet Spanel was many years our representative in the state legislature and served Whatcom County and Bellingham very well.
Wed, Feb 03, 2016, 5:49 pm
4 comments; last on Feb 04, 2016
Lisa Anderson will fill the remaining term of real estate broker, Cerise Noah. who left the Bellingham Planning Commission several months ago.
Wed, Feb 03, 2016, 2:53 pm
Talib Kweli played the Wild Buffalo a couple evenings ago and Ralph Schwartz was there. He writes a very personal take on the evening.
Mon, Feb 01, 2016, 4:00 am
2 comments; last on Feb 04, 2016
Uber has started a new type of public taxi service in many cities, including Bellingham. It is controversial.
Sun, Jan 31, 2016, 12:04 pm
3 comments; last on Feb 04, 2016
Raising the minimum wage to $13.50/hr by 2020 cements workers into permanent slave wages that cannot pay the bills.
Mon, Jan 18, 2016, 6:35 am
1 comments; last on Jan 20, 2016
They are less famous than the eagles on the Skagit but closer to Bellingham, fewer people and still lots of eagles. A great January afternoon outing.
Tue, Jan 12, 2016, 12:18 am
1 comments; last on Jan 13, 2016
Earthquake near San Juan Island felt in Bellingham late Tuesday night
Wed, Dec 30, 2015, 1:15 am
What the campaign styles of local politicians Pete Kremen and Carl Weimer tell us about presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders
Tue, Dec 29, 2015, 12:06 pm
4 comments; last on Dec 31, 2015
Shell Polar Pioneer floating oil drill rig left the Pacific Northwest for Norway today. Nice holiday gift for all of us.
Fri, Dec 25, 2015, 11:31 am
2 comments; last on Dec 25, 2015
Tani Sutley writes on the continuing issue of houses in residential zones that are used essentially as hotels and disrupt quiet neighborhoods.
Mon, Dec 21, 2015, 3:14 am
We Thank Our SponsorsClick to See All Sponsors
About NWCitizenDonations maintain site
Thru the years
Election LinksJeff Strung / WA Auditor
Mike LaPointe / US Congress
League of Women VotersCalendar of Events
Videos of Districting Committee
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
Lummi Island Quarry
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