Neiner, Neiner - The private benefits of avoiding public dialog

Permalink +

Sun, Apr 13, 2008, 6:18 pm  //  Tip Johnson

The dialog over the proposed Fairhaven Highlands development has deteriorated into a childish "neiner-neiner" squabble. Opponents continuously propose a host of rational objections while a few proponents call them names. Meanwhile, for more than a decade regulators have completely ignored the most basic precepts of planning. A letter in today's Herald by Ray Ballweg makes a couple solid complaints about the paper's editorial position on the subject. The blog responses of his critics are not so eloquent. Why is there no venue for discussion of these differences? How can government go for years without addressing a single substantive point of public concern?

Most citizens would agree that zoning should not be arbitrarily imposed, that it ought to take into account the policies, goals and objectives established through open public process for any area.

Most would agree that overarching public purposes should first be accommodated before public entitlements like zoning foreclose important opportunities.

Most would agree that important natural features should be protected when zoning is established.

None of this occurred with the zoning for Fairhaven Highlands, aka Chuckanut Ridge and the Hundred Acre Woods. Not one South Neighborhood policy, goal or objective is furthered by the zoning this area received. Many were contravened. The policy framework for the neighborhood was never considered in establishing the zoning. That is a fundamental requirement of zoning.

There is no record of any public discussion of the rezone that designated such unprecedented density to the Fairhaven Highlands wetland area. No notice of the specific changes were ever published or mailed to affected property owners. No hearing on the change was ever held before either the Planning Commission or the City Council. That is a fundamental abbrogation of government's obligation to public process.

The only public record of this rezone is a staff suggestion, in 1979, that the bridge over Padden Creek would need immanent replacement if a road were not constructed through the property to connect Chucknut Drive to 24th Street. We can only guess, but apparently the density was granted to make development of the property with a road feasible. That is not a legitimate basis for zoning. Furthermore, the assertion was erroneous. The bridge has not been replaced and the proposed development contemplates neither the roadway extension or improvements to the bridge.

Since the zoning was installed, we have come to learn that we must do a much better job of protecting watersheds. Citizens will now be required to pony up untold billions an an attempt to reverse the cumulative impacts from such mistakes upon Puget Sound. Meanwhile, important publicly owned wetlands immediately downstream of the project are destined to become the development's storm sewer. Tiny, sensitive freshwater shrimp teeming in these waters will likely be destroyed. Why would government hew to an obviously bad decision and continue the mistakes of the past?

Since the zoning was installed, we have made substantial investements in public land along the Interurban corridor, and designated large population increases for the service area of Fairhaven Park. The Fairhaven Highlands property is the only property that is capable of expanding Fairhaven Park to the City's own standard for the targeted population and the only property that can leverage the value of our Interurban investments into a regionally significant "Gateway to the Chuckanuts". Why would government avoid reviewing a blatant zoning error and forego the chance to seize these opportunities?

Instead of dialog on these important public issues, we have seen nothing but further accommodation of the mistake. The zoning was readopted as part of the Comprehensive Plan's whole cloth, instead of specifically reviewed. The city built sidewalk improvements at its own expense, spanning the breadth of Fairhaven Park, right to the project's front door. A significantly defective application was determined "substantially complete" in a record three business days while a 350 square foot addition to a South Hill home had to wait for six months. A traffic infrastructure concurrency ordinance, required by the Growth management Act, was adopted that exempted the already overburdened, relevant stretch of Chuckanut Drive from improvement. An Environmental Impact Statement was commissioned by the developer's consultant of choice and its scoping artifically limited to existing, out-of-date, developer-sponsored studies. Now the City is adopting Essential Public Facilities provisions that will allow roads to be built through wetlands and other sensitive areas.

Something has gone horribly wrong when the rational concerns of hoards of citizens fall upon deaf government ears and the many things that should have been done go undone while many things that shouldn't be done get priority. That is a fundamental failure of government. Are cities merely collections of buildings and government of, by and for developers? Or are cities collections of people and government the means for them to determine the character of their community? Would that it were the latter!

It is past time that the City officially reviewed the zoning for Fairhaven Highlands and established land use consistent with existing neighborhood policies, compatible with the natural features of the property, and which meets citywide needs without burdening the general taxbase with future problems. The questionable zoning that exists today amounts to no more than an irrationally based public gift that adds incredible, arbitrary value to the land. That is not zoning. It is a zoning error. This arbitrary value now stands between the community and any reasonable alternatives. Mr. Ballweg is correct. The City's continued avoidance of their responsibility to assure that zoning is rational amounts to nothing less than a massive public subsidy for this developer - a public gift to a prominent local bank. That's not government.

Tom Pratum  //  Tue, Apr 15, 2008, 1:35 am

Clearly the area is inappropriately zoned; we have known that for some time now. I don’t see how any attempt to rezone it at this point will have any effect on the current proposal, which is vested under current zoning.

There are a lot of areas in Whatcom County that were inappropriately zoned and we are stuck with them. How about Sudden Valley as a huge example. The Kendall area is yet another, and I think a lot of folks would think Birch Bay is another. All we can do at this point is try to get parts of them downzoned that do not yet have pending applications.

It is obvious to me that we need to make sure areas like this are not inappropriately zoned in the future. A recent attempt was for Galbraith Mt, but there will surely be others.

Tom Pratum

Tip Johnson  //  Tue, Apr 15, 2008, 9:29 pm


It’s not clear whether the project is actually vested.  The City thinks it probably is, but the City has never done anyything that might detract from this project. The test will need to be in court. Larry Horowitz has outlined this issue in the following article:
+ Link

The City has the right and a duty to reevaluate zoning errors.  I believe they have considerable latitude for correcting such errors, particularly when the zoning is ostensibly irrational and public harm could result.

Given that there is no evidence of any public process, rational or not, leading to the zoning, and since the result is obviously inconsistent with the rational framework otherwise arrived at through a bona fide public process of record, and because significant harm might also occur, I believe the City has every right to review the zoning and designate land use that is rational, whatever that might be.

All the available evidence points to it being a mistake. If it was not a mistake, then it is likely something much worse, like fraud or corruption. Regardless of which, the City still has a duty to revisit and correct the error.


Court: No Radio Towers in Point Roberts

Thu, Oct 08, 2015, 8:14 am  //  John Lesow

A Canadian radio station is trying to install huge radio towers in Point Roberts for a Canadian audience. Citizen movement has fought them.


James King Resigns as Bellingham Parks Director

Sat, Oct 03, 2015, 3:47 pm  //  John Servais

James 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

Just Say No - to the Incarceration-Industrial Complex

Fri, Oct 02, 2015, 11:48 am  //  David Camp

The "... 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

Alternative Jail Proposal for City Center

Tue, Sep 22, 2015, 5:54 pm  //  John Servais

There 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

Wendy DeFreest is Opening a ‘Burger Joint’

Sat, Sep 19, 2015, 4:37 pm  //  John Servais

Wendy 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.


That Louwsy Jail Deal

Tue, Sep 15, 2015, 6:26 pm  //  Tip Johnson

FEMA camp or new county seat?

12 comments; last on Sep 24, 2015

A Learning Moment - Hopefully

Sun, Sep 13, 2015, 9:42 am  //  John Servais

Beware 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

Second Water Main Break on Donovan in a Year

Mon, Sep 07, 2015, 9:06 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Mains a' bursting - Avast!


Homeowner to city: Please buy me out

Wed, Aug 26, 2015, 10:17 am  //  John Servais

Padden Creek daylighting project strays far from city promises to homeowner that his property would remain intact.

4 comments; last on Sep 05, 2015

How Our Community Can Welcome Our Troops Home

Mon, Aug 24, 2015, 5:11 am  //  Guest writer

Christopher Brown guest writes how traditional communal warrior reintegration practices could help our returning combat veterans.


Black Lives Matter, Occupy WS & Whatcom Jail

Wed, Aug 19, 2015, 7:55 pm  //  Whatcom Citizen

A Whatcom Citizen writes of protest movements and how our proposed county mega jail is related to them.

15 comments; last on Sep 04, 2015

$15/hr Minimum Wage - Seriously?

Wed, Aug 19, 2015, 5:00 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Moves 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

Local retired librarian injured by police

Tue, Aug 18, 2015, 12:17 am  //  Guest writer

Bruce Radtke, a retired Bellingham librarian, reported to be assaulted by police for handing out leaflets

5 comments; last on Aug 27, 2015

Predictive Policing Comes to Bellingham

Sun, Aug 16, 2015, 3:39 pm  //  Guest writer

Is 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

Gunfight at Cornwall Park on Wednesday

Thu, Aug 13, 2015, 11:29 am  //  John Servais

Nothing in the Herald this morning, so NWCitizen is informing citizens of shootout at Cornwall Park.

1 comments; last on Aug 13, 2015

Whatcom Conservation District Elections

Sun, Aug 09, 2015, 11:52 am  //  Guest writer

Barbara Perry has been researching the secretive election processes of the Whatcom Conservation District. Really secretive. Probably fraudulent.

1 comments; last on Aug 12, 2015

Election Results - Aug 4 Primary

Tue, Aug 04, 2015, 8:09 pm  //  John Servais

9:52 - 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

The Hansen’s Giant Rental Megaplex - Part 2

Tue, Aug 04, 2015, 10:14 am  //  Dick Conoboy

While 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

Whatcom Co.: 90 Million Gallons of Water a Day

Wed, Jul 22, 2015, 12:42 am  //  Guest writer

Eric 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

Electromagnetic Radiation: Who’s Looking Out for You?

Tue, Jul 14, 2015, 4:13 pm  //  John Lesow

The fight to keep Point Roberts from becoming a Radio Tower Farm is not over.

3 comments; last on Jul 22, 2015

Kudos to Our Police

Mon, Jul 13, 2015, 5:38 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Bellingham police are obviously trained to de-escalate armed confrontations. This is the way it should be.

6 comments; last on Jul 14, 2015

Lois Garlick was our hero

Thu, Jul 09, 2015, 8:27 am  //  John Servais

Lois 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

Whatcom County Council adds ballot measure

Wed, Jul 08, 2015, 9:27 am  //  John Servais

Last minute political maneuvering by liberal council seeks to counter conservative review commission ballot proposals.

1 comments; last on Aug 12, 2015

Charter amendments approved

Tue, Jul 07, 2015, 9:13 am  //  John Servais

The 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

Family Home For Rent: $44,000/year

Tue, Jul 07, 2015, 5:34 am  //  Dick Conoboy

For 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

Charter Commission Tricks

Mon, Jul 06, 2015, 4:30 pm  //  John Servais

Two 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

Drought Tree Emergency!

Thu, Jul 02, 2015, 2:55 pm  //  David Camp

Trees are dying for lack of water! Only citizen action can save them.


Fireworks and Clay Butler

Thu, Jul 02, 2015, 7:47 am  //  Dick Conoboy

If your 4th of July holiday is much more quiet this year, you can thank Clay Bulter who passed away at the end of May.


A Tale of Three Rezones

Mon, Jun 29, 2015, 5:00 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The 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.


County prosecutor plays cruel games

Thu, Jun 25, 2015, 6:00 pm  //  John Servais

Updated 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

Proposed New County Lockup - Financial Analysis

Mon, Jun 22, 2015, 5:00 pm  //  David Camp

A look at the proposal in historic financial context with projections and several questions for the proponents.

8 comments; last on Jul 10, 2015

Hansen-Iron Street Rental Megaplex Planned for York Neighborhood

Mon, Jun 01, 2015, 3:49 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Three 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

Chiara D’Angelo comes down from anchor chain

Mon, May 25, 2015, 8:17 pm  //  John Servais

Young Chiara spent 3 nights hanging from the anchor chain of Shell Oil's Arctic Challenger as a protest to arctic oil drilling.


Flash Mob Protests Arctic Drilling

Thu, May 21, 2015, 11:50 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein we ponder the fate of humanity


Joy Gilfilen Declares for County Executive

Mon, May 18, 2015, 11:17 pm  //  John Servais

Joy Gilfilen is challenging incumbent Jack Louws for County Executive.

4 comments; last on May 20, 2015

85 County Single Candidate Elections

Fri, May 15, 2015, 6:10 pm  //  John Servais

Running 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

Updated:  Ski to Sea Tries to Bully Bellingham

Wed, May 13, 2015, 5:30 pm  //  John Servais

Updated | 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

County proposes free pass for vacation rentals

Sun, Apr 26, 2015, 2:05 pm  //  Guest writer

Tani 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

Student Housing Project Revived for Lincoln St. Development Site

Thu, Apr 09, 2015, 5:03 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The 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

A Perspective on Port Politics

Sat, Apr 04, 2015, 1:15 pm  //  John Servais

The 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

Irish Thuggery

Thu, Apr 02, 2015, 8:30 pm  //  Tip Johnson

The difference between a threat and a promise

5 comments; last on Apr 03, 2015

Port Gives Away Our Bellingham Waterfront

Wed, Apr 01, 2015, 12:20 am  //  John Servais

Port 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

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


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

5 comments; last on Aug 14, 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



New Links

Bellingham Wins

Noisy Waters

Election Info

Election Results

WA State Elections
Whatcom County Elections

Coal, Oil & Trains

Coal Stop

Community Wise Bham
Powder River Basin R. C.

Local Blogs & News

Bellingham Herald

Bham Business Journal
Bham Politics & Econ
Cascadia Weekly
Ferndale Record
Friends of Whatcom
Get Whatcom Planning
Latte Republic
League of Women Voters
Lynden Tribune
Noisy Waters
Northern Light
Twilight Zoning
Western Front - WWU
Whatcom Watch

Local Causes

Chuckanut C. Forest

City Club of Bellingham
Conservation NW
Futurewise - Whatcom
Lake Whatcom
Lummi Island Quarry
N. Cascades Audubon
NW Holocaust Center
RE Sources
Salish Sea Org.
Save the Granary
Transition Whatcom
WA Conservation Voters
Whatcom Peace & Justice


- Whatcom County

Port of Bellingham
Skagit County
US House
US Senate
US Supreme Court
US The White House
WA State
WA State Elections
Whatcom COG

NWCitizen 1995-2007

Early Northwest Citizen

Weather & Climate

Cliff Mass Weather Blog

Climate Audit
Nat Hurricane Center
NW Radar
Two day forecast
Watts Up With That?


Adventures NW

Bellingham Wins
Edge of Sports
Entertainment NNW
Famous Internet Skiers
Recreation Northwest
Sailing Anarchy

Good Web Sites

Al-Jazeera online

Alaska Dispatch
Arab News
Asia Times
Atlantic, The
Change The Mascot
Common Dreams
Crosscut Seattle
Daily Kos
Daily Mirror
Drudge Report
Foreign Policy in Focus
Guardian Unlimited
Gulf News
Huffington Post
Innocence Project
Irish Times
James Fallows
Jerusalem Post
Joel Connelly
Juan Cole
Julia Ioffe/New Republic
Le Diplo
Media Matters
Michael Moore
Middle East Times
Nation, The
New American Century
News Trust
Online Journal
Palestine Daily
Palestine News
Paul Krugman
Personal bio info
Portland Indy Media
Progressive Review
Project Vote Smart
Sea Shepherd
Stand for the Troops
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Talking Points Memo
The Crisis Papers
The Intercept
the Oatmeal
War and Piece
Washington Votes

Quiet, Offline or Dead

Bellingham Register

Bhm Herald Politics Blog
Bob Sanders
Carl Weimer
Chuckanut Mountains
Citizen Ted
Citizens of Bellingham
Cordata & Meridian
David Hackworth
Facebook Port Reform
Intrnational Herald Tribune
Jack Petree
N. Sound Conservancy
No Leaky Buckets
Northwest Review
Protect Bellingham Parks
Sweeney Politics
The American Telegraph
Wally Wonders