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.
Thu, Oct 08, 2015, 8:14 am // John LesowA Canadian radio station is trying to install huge radio towers in Point Roberts for a Canadian audience. Citizen movement has fought them.
Sat, Oct 03, 2015, 3:47 pm // John ServaisJames King to return to Alaska and take job with U.S. Forest Service. Mayor will appoint a new parks director.
1 comments; last on Oct 04, 2015
Fri, Oct 02, 2015, 11:48 am // David CampThe "... new jail just doesn't pencil out", writes a well qualified accountant. A look at the future costs of the proposed jail.
11 comments; last on Oct 09, 2015
Tue, Sep 22, 2015, 5:54 pm // John ServaisThere is a good alternative for a decent jail - but we first must vote down the jail sales tax proposal in November.
5 comments; last on Sep 24, 2015
Sat, Sep 19, 2015, 4:37 pm // John ServaisWendy DeFreest, of Avenue Bread, will open a new "burger joint" called The Filling Station by late October in Fairhaven. It will not be a sandwich cafe.
Tue, Sep 15, 2015, 6:26 pm // Tip JohnsonFEMA camp or new county seat?
12 comments; last on Sep 24, 2015
Sun, Sep 13, 2015, 9:42 am // John ServaisBeware walking RR tracks on the Fairhaven waterfront in the event of unexpected encounter with a high speed train
2 comments; last on Sep 18, 2015
Mon, Sep 07, 2015, 9:06 pm // Tip JohnsonMains a' bursting - Avast!
Wed, Aug 26, 2015, 10:17 am // John ServaisPadden Creek daylighting project strays far from city promises to homeowner that his property would remain intact.
4 comments; last on Sep 05, 2015
Mon, Aug 24, 2015, 5:11 am // Guest writerChristopher Brown guest writes how traditional communal warrior reintegration practices could help our returning combat veterans.
Wed, Aug 19, 2015, 7:55 pm // Whatcom CitizenA Whatcom Citizen writes of protest movements and how our proposed county mega jail is related to them.
15 comments; last on Sep 04, 2015
Wed, Aug 19, 2015, 5:00 am // Dick ConoboyMoves to set the minimum wage to $15, even if successful, are woefully insufficient. And why aren't people speaking out about abusive work scheduling?
2 comments; last on Sep 17, 2015
Tue, Aug 18, 2015, 12:17 am // Guest writerBruce Radtke, a retired Bellingham librarian, reported to be assaulted by police for handing out leaflets
5 comments; last on Aug 27, 2015
Sun, Aug 16, 2015, 3:39 pm // Guest writerIs the tail wagging the dog? Edward Alexander guest writes on why predictive software for our police needs basic questions answered before purchase.
1 comments; last on Aug 22, 2015
Thu, Aug 13, 2015, 11:29 am // John ServaisNothing in the Herald this morning, so NWCitizen is informing citizens of shootout at Cornwall Park.
1 comments; last on Aug 13, 2015
Sun, Aug 09, 2015, 11:52 am // Guest writerBarbara Perry has been researching the secretive election processes of the Whatcom Conservation District. Really secretive. Probably fraudulent.
1 comments; last on Aug 12, 2015
Tue, Aug 04, 2015, 8:09 pm // John Servais9:52 - final post for tonight. A running blog about the election results on this August evening. Feel free to comment.
8 comments; last on Aug 06, 2015
Tue, Aug 04, 2015, 10:14 am // Dick ConoboyWhile the city deals with permitting on the Hansen rental megaplexes, the council has asked for proposals from staff on design standards for historic areas.
9 comments; last on Aug 07, 2015
Wed, Jul 22, 2015, 12:42 am // Guest writerEric Hirst provides us all with a well researched report on Whatcom County water issues - rights, Lake Whatcom, ground water and more.
10 comments; last on Aug 12, 2015
Tue, Jul 14, 2015, 4:13 pm // John LesowThe fight to keep Point Roberts from becoming a Radio Tower Farm is not over.
3 comments; last on Jul 22, 2015
Mon, Jul 13, 2015, 5:38 am // Dick ConoboyBellingham police are obviously trained to de-escalate armed confrontations. This is the way it should be.
6 comments; last on Jul 14, 2015
Thu, Jul 09, 2015, 8:27 am // John ServaisLois Garlick has died. For many decades, she and George served as environmental stewards and leaders in preserving wildlife and nature.
2 comments; last on Jul 10, 2015
Wed, Jul 08, 2015, 9:27 am // John ServaisLast minute political maneuvering by liberal council seeks to counter conservative review commission ballot proposals.
1 comments; last on Aug 12, 2015
Tue, Jul 07, 2015, 9:13 am // John ServaisThe Charter Review Commission made Monday evening's meeting their last - and forwarded 8 charter amendments to the County Council
3 comments; last on Jul 08, 2015
Tue, Jul 07, 2015, 5:34 am // Dick ConoboyFor Rent: York neighborhood, new, 7 bedroom single-family home, near WWU. Only $44,000 a year. City planning not paying attention.
6 comments; last on Jul 09, 2015
Mon, Jul 06, 2015, 4:30 pm // John ServaisTwo dirty tricks by the uber-conservative minority on the Charter Review Commission aimed to put their agenda before the council.
3 comments; last on Jul 07, 2015
Thu, Jul 02, 2015, 2:55 pm // David CampTrees are dying for lack of water! Only citizen action can save them.
Thu, Jul 02, 2015, 7:47 am // Dick ConoboyIf your 4th of July holiday is much more quiet this year, you can thank Clay Bulter who passed away at the end of May.
Mon, Jun 29, 2015, 5:00 am // Dick ConoboyThe Samish Neighborhood Plan has been the subject of three undesired rezones in the last year. The city ignores its own guidelines to the detriment of all.
Thu, Jun 25, 2015, 6:00 pm // John ServaisUpdated at 6 pm. Our county justice system has spent 6 years trying to teach Luba Pekisheva that she should not defend herself. Justice denied and miscarried.
8 comments; last on Jul 22, 2015
Mon, Jun 22, 2015, 5:00 pm // David CampA look at the proposal in historic financial context with projections and several questions for the proponents.
8 comments; last on Jul 10, 2015
Mon, Jun 01, 2015, 3:49 am // Dick ConoboyThree extraordinarily large (7-bedroom) single family home rentals are proposed by developers Dave and Jon Hansen on Iron St. in the York Neighborhood.
7 comments; last on Jun 10, 2015
Mon, May 25, 2015, 8:17 pm // John ServaisYoung Chiara spent 3 nights hanging from the anchor chain of Shell Oil's Arctic Challenger as a protest to arctic oil drilling.
Thu, May 21, 2015, 11:50 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein we ponder the fate of humanity
Mon, May 18, 2015, 11:17 pm // John ServaisJoy Gilfilen is challenging incumbent Jack Louws for County Executive.
4 comments; last on May 20, 2015
Fri, May 15, 2015, 6:10 pm // John ServaisRunning update of who is filing for office in Whatcom County. Posts during day Friday and final update Friday evening.
4 comments; last on May 17, 2015
Wed, May 13, 2015, 5:30 pm // John ServaisUpdated | Ski to Sea race does not need to race through sensitive Chuckanut Community Forest Park for special mountain bike leg. City did not renege.
10 comments; last on May 15, 2015
Sun, Apr 26, 2015, 2:05 pm // Guest writerTani Sutley writes a second article on the increasing number of vacation rentals - and the County Council bill to let them expand dramatically.
4 comments; last on May 02, 2015
Thu, Apr 09, 2015, 5:03 am // Dick ConoboyThe Puget Neighborhood is about to become a bit more crowded but less than originally planned. 600+ students to be housed south of Fred Meyer.
6 comments; last on Apr 12, 2015
Sat, Apr 04, 2015, 1:15 pm // John ServaisThe port's latest bone-headed deal calls for the good citizens of Whatcom County to consider the options...unless we're enjoying our Groundhog Day.
3 comments; last on Apr 07, 2015
Thu, Apr 02, 2015, 8:30 pm // Tip JohnsonThe difference between a threat and a promise
5 comments; last on Apr 03, 2015
Wed, Apr 01, 2015, 12:20 am // John ServaisPort of Bellingham today sold out our public waterfront to a foreign shell company formed 6 days ago. Sold it cheap and with a screwy arrangement.
32 comments; last on Apr 05, 2015
Sat, Mar 21, 2015, 11:16 am // Guest writerKamalla Kaur worked with David Mason on his biographical materials and offers this tribute to his illustrious life.
2 comments; last on Mar 23, 2015
Fri, Mar 13, 2015, 5:00 am // Dick ConoboyThe Whatcom County Council has sent discussion on changing the meth ordinance back to the Public Works, Health and Safety Committee
Thu, Mar 12, 2015, 1:06 pm // John ServaisAdd 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
Thu, Feb 26, 2015, 10:39 am // Riley SweeneyRiley shares some insight into the national political parties
5 comments; last on Mar 09, 2015
Wed, Feb 25, 2015, 6:31 am // Dick ConoboyIn 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
Mon, Feb 09, 2015, 6:00 am // Dick ConoboyNot all rent-to-own propositions are an unwise method to buy a home but some are schemes to rip off the unsuspecting tenant.
Mon, Feb 02, 2015, 9:34 am // Guest writerNo 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
Thu, Jan 29, 2015, 10:56 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein Bellingham's billion dollar boondoggle is revisited
5 comments; last on Aug 14, 2015
Tue, Jan 27, 2015, 9:55 am // Terry WechslerThe 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
Sun, Jan 25, 2015, 12:32 pm // Guest writerAdventures of George Pickett in the Pacific Northwest Wilderness
5 comments; last on Jan 28, 2015
Sat, Jan 24, 2015, 3:15 pm // Terry WechslerThe 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.
Fri, Jan 23, 2015, 12:13 am // John ServaisThe 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
Tue, Jan 20, 2015, 3:07 am // Guest writerGuest 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
Sun, Jan 18, 2015, 10:14 pm // Guest writerEllen Murphy gives us a poem for this Martin Luther King day of remembrance.
2 comments; last on Jan 21, 2015
Sun, Jan 18, 2015, 9:15 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein the ridiculous is ridiculed
5 comments; last on Jan 21, 2015
Thu, Jan 08, 2015, 2:54 pm // Guest writerTani 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
Wed, Dec 31, 2014, 1:16 am // Guest writerDuuhhh! 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
Wed, Dec 24, 2014, 1:23 pm // Riley SweeneyThe Herald gave us their top 10 stories, Riley gives you his top 5
New LinksBellingham Wins
Election InfoElection Results
WA State Elections
Whatcom County Elections
Coal, Oil & TrainsCoal Stop
Community Wise Bham
Powder River Basin R. C.
Local Blogs & NewsBellingham Herald
Bham Business Journal
Bham Politics & Econ
Friends of Whatcom
Get Whatcom Planning
League of Women Voters
Western Front - WWU
Local CausesChuckanut C. Forest
City Club of Bellingham
Futurewise - Whatcom
Lummi Island Quarry
N. Cascades Audubon
NW Holocaust Center
Salish Sea Org.
Save the Granary
WA Conservation Voters
Whatcom Peace & Justice
Governments- Whatcom County
Port of Bellingham
US Supreme Court
US The White House
WA State Elections
NWCitizen 1995-2007Early Northwest Citizen
Weather & ClimateCliff Mass Weather Blog
Nat Hurricane Center
Two day forecast
Watts Up With That?
Edge of Sports
Famous Internet Skiers
Good Web SitesAl-Jazeera online
Change The Mascot
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
Intrnational Herald Tribune
N. Sound Conservancy
No Leaky Buckets
Protect Bellingham Parks
The American Telegraph