Save the Woods?Permalink +
Wed, Jan 16, 2008, 3:33 pm // Tip JohnsonOr how to mitigate the illegitimacies of Fairhaven Highlands, AKA Chuckanut Ridge and the Hundred Acre Woods.
Sorry, I didn't have time to write something short!
Tonight (1/16/2008) at 6:30 in Municipal Court, citizens will have the opportunity to comment on the scope of an environmental study for the proposed Fairhaven Highlands project, also known as Chuckanut Ridge. This controversial project was first proposed in 1996 but was met with intense public opposition. The property later became the poster child for the Greenways levy, offering the opportunity to enhance and extend Fairhaven Park. Somehow, acquisition was never accomplished. Now the project is back, under the aegis of Horizon Bank and Greenbrier Construction. At issue is the fate of a mature forested wetland that has been identified as a keystone of the food chain in the Interurban corridor connecting the Sehome Hill Arboretum to the Chuckanut Mountains. The property is replete with important wetlands that provide an important source of food and water to various critters and supply important flows of fresh, clean water to both Padden and Chuckanut Creeks during dry periods.
Many tonight will speak to the myriad environmental points subsumed under the State Environmental Protection Act - Water, Air, Land, Habitat, Traffic, etc. And well they should, since the impacts of such intense development will be devastating. My interest has narrowed to focus on two issues.
The owners and other proponents lean on property rights, suggesting that if citizens don't want to see development, then they ought to buy it. Otherwise, the owners have a right to develop. I agree. However, I disagree that the value they imagine is appropriate. More on that later. First, let's make sure we can protect what is ours and effect adequate redress if we fail.
Just downstream from the project, a large, ancient beaver pond forms the headwaters of an unnamed tributary to Chuckanut Creek. This publicly owned wetland pond is teeming with tiny freshwater shrimp and who knows what else. Steelhead trout have been observed, having made their way up the hill from Arroyo Park. It is a haven for birds and area wildlife, a source of pure, fresh water, untainted with petroleum waste or septage.
We need to make sure there is a comprehensive biological inventory of this ecosystem. We know that end-of-pipe stormwater treatment facilities fail during peak storm events, flushing their contents and discharging a toxic jolt of accumulated waste. The City has no program for maintaining such facilities, instead relying on the property owners whose record for such diligence is dismal. If we are going to build a bunch of homes, with roofs, lawns and landscaping, parking lots and dumpster depots, will we rely on grassy swales, grease traps and detention basins to protect the pristine public wetland that is destined to receive the results? It won't work.
Therefore, the public needs a thorough assessment of the receiving area as a baseline for evaluating future damages. Wiping out the shrimp could initiate a cascading failure of the food chain, resulting in significant natural resource damages. The City and Developer would be liable for these damages for having permitted the development with inadequate mitigation. I believe that adequate mitigation is impossible and that irreparable damage is inevitable. I, for one, intend to file a natural resources damage claim when they occur. The success of such an effort depends upon a complete and current assessment. It is the City's duty to protect the public's interest. Please do so.
However, the best possible mitigation for the project would be to review the zoning error that created this environmental catastrophe. Without going into excruciating detail on the numerous things the City did, but should not have, or didn't do, but should have, that have kept this project alive, it is worth outlining several points of illegitimacy that this project relies upon:
- The only rationale of record for the rezone appears in a 1979 presentation by then City Planner Rick Fackler, who stated that the bridge over Padden Creek would require replacement within “the next few years” if Chuckanut was not connected to Old Fairhaven Parkway (then Valley Parkway) through the project AND that zoning density sufficient to support the improvement through the subject property was necessary.
o This was an erroneous assertion. The connector was not built and the bridge did not require replacement.
o Density to make the property economically feasible for development is not a legitimate basis for zoning.
o The prerequisite conditions of a connector or bridge widening is not being met by the proposal, yet the density remains.
- There was never a public hearing specific to the zoning change before either the Planning Commission or the City Council.
- The zoning change was never advertised and affected property owners were never notified.
- The zoning change furthered none and contravened most of the adopted policies, goals and objectives in the South Neighborhood Plan. Many citywide policies, goals and objectives were and are similarly disregarded.
- The zoning change was adopted as part of the “whole cloth” of the original Bellingham Comprehensive Plan, in an unusual council action, and was hence generally unknown to citizens until the project was originally proposed in 1996.
- The resulting public furor prompted an exhaustive document review by then city planner Chris Spens, whose conclusion, “It’s a mystery at best”, was published in the Final Draft EIS for the original proposal.
o The City then had a duty to review this as a possible zoning error, but never did.
- The zoning change was supposedly legitimized by subsequent re-adoptions of the Comprehensive Plan, but has never been specifically reviewed for consistency with neighborhood or City goals.
- The zoning was administratively re-adjusted by mayoral memorandum involving a conveyance/reconveyance scheme that parceled out a major wetland and qualified the owner for a substantial tax benefit.
o The public was afforded no opportunity for input and no comprehensive review was conducted.
o The Growth Management Hearings Board has determined that this methodology constitutes an illegal development regulation and has overturned similar "deals".
- The City delayed adoption of new critical areas provisions beyond multiple deadlines and under threat of state sanctions until the project could be supposedly “vested”. Whether or not vesting has been actually achieved is subject to debate.
- The City downgraded expectations of traffic performance in the project vicinity to Level of Service "F", or gridlock, to circumvent the state Growth management requirement for traffic infrastructure "concurrency", saving the proponents millions.
- The project received a miraculous four-day Determination of Completeness, even though prerequisite conditions were not met, regulatory buffers were slighted and buildings were placed on known landslide scarps, designated steep slopes and sensitive areas.
o The most previous City Determination of Completeness was for a 350 square foot addition to an existing South Hill home and required nearly six months.
- Since the zoning was mysteriously “adopted”, changes in perspective on planning and environmental protection principles have made the designation appear less, not more, appropriate.
Altogether, sustaining this project has involved way too many miracles or mysteries. It is either a tragic comedy of errors, incompetent or inept planning, or much worse - a corrupt collusion of favoritism toward special interests. Informants, commenting confidentially, have asserted that elected officials of the time had a financial interest in the property, held under a blind Delaware Corporation located in Lynden. Only a subpoena can discover the veracity of the assertion. It definitely deserves an investigation.
However the City can and should overturn the Determination of Completeness and review the zoning error. Were the City to review the zoning error and designate land uses consistent with the long-adopted South Neighborhood and City policies, citizens would then have a chance to acquire the property at a realistic price. Festooned with the absurd prospect of 739 residential units, project proponents can't see the forest for the glitter of imaginary gold. That's not community spirit.
The real tragedy is that development of the property will forever foreclose the opportunity to extend Fairhaven Park to meet the City's own standard for the population they have targeted for the area. It will eliminate the chance to connect Fairhaven Park to our substantial Interurban corridor investments, leveraging their value and creating a "Gateway to the Chuckanuts". This is a once in a lifetime chance at an opportunity of regional importance. Don't miss it.
See you there!
Related Links:-> See the tiny freshwater shrimp video
Slum landlords are alive and thriving. Over this summer more than 40% of rental units failed the city's initial health and safety inspection.
Fri, Sep 16, 2016, 8:02 am
16 comments; last on Sep 26, 2016
The vital role in city politics of the Mayor’s Neighborhood Advisory Commission (MNAC) has gradually diminished over the past five years and is now at an all time…
Mon, Sep 12, 2016, 1:57 am
10 comments; last on Sep 24, 2016
Sat, Sep 10, 2016, 1:02 am
1 comments; last on Sep 10, 2016
The York Neighborhood is sponsoring a forum on housing concerns on Wednesday, Sept 14th at the Garden Methodist Church at 7pm.
Wed, Sep 07, 2016, 8:09 am
4 comments; last on Sep 10, 2016
Anne Mackie gives us an overview of the planning kerfuffle during August between citizens and the Bham city council. And the bad attitudes of some council members.
Wed, Aug 31, 2016, 4:59 am
5 comments; last on Aug 31, 2016
Updated on Monday. An elaborate tripod was erected over the railroad tracks on the bridge over Chuckanut Bay and protesters sat in a sling. 11 hour train stoppage.
Sun, Aug 28, 2016, 4:56 pm
3 comments; last on Aug 29, 2016
Tue, Aug 23, 2016, 9:02 pm
6 comments; last on Aug 25, 2016
Council President Pinky Vargas loses it over minor violations of the three-minute comment rule. Is this any way to run a council?
Mon, Aug 15, 2016, 3:13 am
11 comments; last on Aug 29, 2016
Ellen Murphy writes about the sailboat that sailed toward nuclear test site in Pacific in 1958 and will visit Bellingham August 20 - 22. Now protesting modernization of…
Sat, Aug 13, 2016, 11:19 am
1 comments; last on Aug 15, 2016
Jim Dickinson writes: Why the surplus Washington State ferry Hiyu should replace the Whatcom Chief for our Whatcom County ferry service to Lummi Island.
Tue, Jul 12, 2016, 10:55 pm
6 comments; last on Aug 06, 2016
The Lummi Island ferry is a very old and decrepit vessel. The state ferry system wants to give us a newer one in great condition. Whatcom County says…
Sat, Jun 25, 2016, 10:08 pm
6 comments; last on Jun 30, 2016
Mon, Jun 06, 2016, 5:03 pm
5 comments; last on Jun 26, 2016
Over 2,000 volunteers have just built a new playground in six days. We do a photo story.
Sun, Jun 05, 2016, 8:29 pm
1 comments; last on Jun 06, 2016
The Greenways Advisory Committee meets this evening and may reverse their May decision to purchase the heron colony buffer woods.
Fri, Jun 03, 2016, 12:29 am
10 comments; last on Jun 07, 2016
Bellingham's only heron colony needs forested buffer - and the land owner is willing to sell. Greenways has voted to buy it, but our city council must act.
Tue, May 31, 2016, 9:51 pm
5 comments; last on Jun 01, 2016
This veteran, Chris Brown, deserves our deep thanks for his achievement with Growing Veterans as Executive Director, a post that he has left. He will continue as President…
Thu, May 26, 2016, 5:23 am
3 comments; last on Jun 08, 2016
As the city council takes up consideration of the comprehensive plan, citizen input is critical. Otherwise in a few years and in response to housing and land use…
Mon, May 23, 2016, 5:21 am
The planned concrete walkway from Boulevard Park to the Cornwall landfill, using millions in Greenway funds, has been abandoned by Bellingham. We again thank the Lummi.
Sat, May 21, 2016, 4:32 pm
11 comments; last on May 26, 2016
Jay Taber, a strong environmentalist for decades, guest writes a harsh critique of the 350 org anti-fossil fuel demonstrations at the Anacortes oil refineries last weekend.
Wed, May 18, 2016, 4:46 pm
2 comments; last on May 24, 2016
Bellingham School officials expect a slam dunk by Hearing Examiner and city council on street vacation and conditional use permit. By Patrick McKee.
Tue, May 17, 2016, 7:45 pm
2 comments; last on May 18, 2016
Uber, the cheap ride taxi company, is targeting the troops to become drivers in ads disguised as articles in publications such as the Army Times.
Mon, May 16, 2016, 5:20 am
The March Point protestors this weekend will hopefully show serious concern and not disturb the heron colony near the refineries.
Sat, May 14, 2016, 9:34 am
2 comments; last on May 15, 2016
The Seattle office of the Army Corps of Engineers has formally denied a permit for building a coal terminal at Cherry Point in Whatcom County. Updated at 4pm.
Mon, May 09, 2016, 12:10 pm
4 comments; last on May 09, 2016
Supporters say he will beat Hillary Clinton.
Sat, May 07, 2016, 10:47 pm
3 comments; last on May 24, 2016
Group cites failure to investigate assaults on anti-police-racism marchers
Tue, Apr 26, 2016, 7:04 pm
5 comments; last on Aug 25, 2016
Also to all U.S. Representative candidates in the 1st and 2nd U.S. Congressional districts for the election in 2016
Tue, Apr 26, 2016, 3:46 pm
1 comments; last on Apr 27, 2016
Republicans rolled over and approved the Democrats' map to set the stage for a legal challenge
Thu, Apr 21, 2016, 8:40 pm
3 comments; last on Apr 24, 2016
GOP vote for Democratic plan to prevent locked committee and then county council becoming decision makers of districting boundaries
Wed, Apr 20, 2016, 8:01 pm
1 comments; last on Apr 21, 2016
The Bellingham City Council conducted a retreat on 16 April to discuss a number of issues, including a set of proposed strategies to ensure "sustainable services."
Tue, Apr 19, 2016, 5:14 am
Liquid natural gas terminal is rumored to be in planning stages for Cherry Point as the Oregon proposed LNG plan is abandoned.
Mon, Apr 18, 2016, 11:55 am
6 comments; last on Apr 19, 2016
Fate of new county five-district map remains uncertain.
Wed, Apr 13, 2016, 10:43 pm
5 comments; last on Apr 14, 2016
If you do, you better make sure you have something to say that's going to change someone's mind.
Wed, Apr 13, 2016, 9:09 am
3 comments; last on Apr 14, 2016
The Sunnyland residents have just learned they have only today to comment on a huge impacting building project in their neighborhood.
Mon, Apr 11, 2016, 1:06 am
11 comments; last on Apr 23, 2016
After a public hearing next week, the committee will be asked to vote on a five-district map for Whatcom County in two weeks.
Wed, Apr 06, 2016, 9:18 pm
5 comments; last on Apr 09, 2016
The Districting Master (the official title) has submitted his map for review by the Districting Committee this evening. Here it is for your review.
Wed, Apr 06, 2016, 1:14 pm
5 comments; last on Apr 07, 2016
At Clayton Beach, we have tracked increasing erosion under railroad tracks and written to the railroads and federal inspectors. To no avail.
Mon, Apr 04, 2016, 8:17 pm
2 comments; last on Apr 05, 2016
Accelerating efforts across the U.S. to install a $15 minimum wage are playing into the hands of big business and codifying enormously insufficient wages for years to come.
Mon, Apr 04, 2016, 5:25 am
2 comments; last on May 24, 2016
Fri, Apr 01, 2016, 3:49 pm
3 comments; last on Apr 02, 2016
Activist contests $10,000 fine for climbing on a Shell oil vessel. Rob Lewis guest writes this report.
Wed, Mar 23, 2016, 2:37 pm
Updated Wed, Mar 16. Tuesday, March 15, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., any registered voter of Whatcom County can vote in person at the conservation district office.
Wed, Mar 16, 2016, 8:26 pm
Updated 4:30pm. Helena, Montana newspaper says GPT may be denied this week by Army Corps of Engineers. US Rep Zinke panics and accuses Army of politics.
Wed, Mar 16, 2016, 12:19 am
4 comments; last on Mar 24, 2016
Not even a letter from a coal terminal spokesman can save them now.
Tue, Mar 15, 2016, 12:04 am
2 comments; last on Mar 17, 2016
We post the next two maps to be discussed at the Districting Committee today, March 14. For the few who might study them and later contribute perspectives.
Mon, Mar 14, 2016, 1:53 am
Legally threatening letter sent by Seattle law firm retained by prominent leading Democratic Party leaders.
Sun, Mar 13, 2016, 1:06 pm
1 comments; last on Mar 14, 2016
The third annual deArmond dinner celebrated the work of Sandy Robson and Neah Monteiro.
Fri, Mar 11, 2016, 11:28 pm
2 comments; last on Mar 13, 2016
What almost happened on the coast of Maine could happen here at Cherry Point. Portland, Maine, stopped oil exports - and Whatcom County can also. If we act.
Wed, Mar 09, 2016, 11:20 pm
Durham is an example of the efficacy of rental inspections, putting to bed the unsupported objections of landlords by presenting facts about conditions.
Wed, Mar 09, 2016, 2:20 pm
1 comments; last on Mar 12, 2016
Wherein, we correct some misassumptions but still ask the questions
Tue, Mar 08, 2016, 2:47 pm
The Republicans made concessions on their district map but took a final stand at Nooksack, Everson and Sumas.
Tue, Mar 08, 2016, 1:15 am
6 comments; last on Mar 12, 2016
Could this address the real problem with Puget Sound?
Mon, Mar 07, 2016, 10:40 am
6 comments; last on Mar 08, 2016
Republicans and Democrats remain far apart. Democrats have the legal high ground, but Republicans would go to court to challenge that if necessary.
Sun, Mar 06, 2016, 11:39 pm
1 comments; last on Mar 07, 2016
Wherein someone's gotta do the right thing
Tue, Mar 01, 2016, 3:40 pm
Chiara D'Angelo comes across as emotionally intelligent and uncompromising in her high-stakes Coast Guard hearing.
Mon, Feb 29, 2016, 11:55 pm
1 comments; last on Mar 01, 2016
Wherein inquiring minds want to know!
Sat, Feb 27, 2016, 1:24 pm
Republicans focused their efforts on torpedoing the Democrats' five-district proposal at the second committee meeting.
Tue, Feb 23, 2016, 5:01 am
4 comments; last on Mar 01, 2016
The Coast Guard has levied $30,000 in fines on two Bellingham climate activists. They will fight to have the fines dropped.
Thu, Feb 18, 2016, 5:01 am
16 comments; last on Feb 22, 2016
Wherein sanity may finally be approaching a nagging jail issue
Sun, Feb 14, 2016, 8:54 pm
2 comments; last on Feb 19, 2016
Republicans and Democrats traded barbs on the first day of the Districting Committee, but Dems may have won the first battle.
Tue, Feb 09, 2016, 5:02 am
5 comments; last on Feb 10, 2016
Inspections of rentals cannot begin too soon. Seven fires in rental units since 2011 and almost half with ONE landlord. No but the clock may be running out.
Mon, Feb 08, 2016, 6:26 am
From all the monumentally boring hoopla to the shameful rousting of the homeless Super Bowl 50 exceeds all expectations for greed and excess.
Fri, Feb 05, 2016, 12:45 pm
4 comments; last on Feb 12, 2016
We Thank Our SponsorsClick to See All Sponsors
About NWCitizenDonations maintain site
Thru the years
League of Women VotersCalendar of Events
Local Online NewsBellingham Herald
Bham Business Journal
Bham Politics & Econ
KPLU fm radio
Western Front - WWU
Local CausesChuckanut C. Forest
City Club of Bellingham
Community Wise Bham
Futurewise - Whatcom
N. Cascades Audubon
NW Holocaust Center
Powder River Basin R. C.
Salish Sea Org.
Save the Granary
WA Conservation Voters
Whatcom Peace & Justice
Our Governments- Whatcom County
Port of Bellingham
US Supreme Court
US The White House
NWCitizen 1995-2007Early Northwest Citizen
Weather & ClimateCliff Mass Weather Blog
EPIC World Photos
Nat Hurricane Center
Two day forecast
Watts Up With That?
Local LeisureAdventures NW
Good Web SitesAl-Jazeera online
Change The Mascot
Edge of Sports
Foreign Policy in Focus
Julia Ioffe/New Republic
Middle East Times
New American Century
Personal bio info
Portland Indy Media
Project Vote Smart
Stand for the Troops
Talking Points Memo
The Crisis Papers
War and Piece
Quiet, Offline or DeadBellingham Register
Bhm Herald Politics Blog
Citizens of Bellingham
Cordata & Meridian
Facebook Port Reform
Friends of Whatcom
Get Whatcom Planning
Intrnational Herald Tribune
N. Sound Conservancy
No Leaky Buckets
Protect Bellingham Parks
The American Telegraph