A Tale of Three Rezones

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

Samish zoning map. Applicable until a developer does not like it.

Without horrendous effort on the part of a neighborhood, or even with horrendous effort, neighborhoods are hard-put to fend off unwanted development, some in the form of rezones.  The rules of engagement are stacked against a public that plays second fiddle to developers who are aided and abetted by planners, an acquiescent City Council and a stacked Planning Commission.  The mayor's Neighborhood Advisory Commission, that was statutorily in the planning process, has removed itself (albeit initiated and encouraged by the mayor) from any meaningful role, thereby abrogating its responsiblity as an official voice of the neighborhoods.  The present Type VI process (for rezones and other shenanigans) is the poster child of unfairness. Its approval criteria are vague and subjective, the bar risibly low for developers and unbeatably high for citizens.  Which is why over the past year, three rezones were approved in the Samish Neighborhood, none of which the citizens wanted in the form presented (with the exception of a few households).  Each one represented a divergence from many of the stated goals and interests professed by the city through its own Comprehensive Plan and other planning documents. Yet instead of learning from our mistakes, we continue to piecemeal our rezones and review our stated policies and procedures later.

801 Samish.  This was approved for a rezone from Residential Single to Commercial Planned (office only).  The Planning Commission, consisting entirely of developers and related businesses, saw no reason to vote no. The city is crying out for residential infill but the council chooses to rezone almost two acres of prime residential land to commercial use to accomodate one business. So much for consistent planning.

Area 9 Samish Way - This was approved for a rezone from Commercial (non-retail) to Commercial Planned in order to accomodate the building of apartments.  It was rubber stamped by the same Planning Commission.  So much for citizen representation. The city laments having little in the way of affordable housing but asked nothing along those lines from this developer.  We will now have another rental complex that will seek market rates, leaving the working poor in the lurch again.  So much for consistent planning.

100 Block Ashley St. -  This was approved for a rezone from Commercial Auto to Commercial Planned also to accomodate an apartment complex.  The Planning Commission, not surprisingly, saw no alternative to this rezone.  The city claims that most people moving to Bellingham are looking for affordable single family homes.  Again, in an area that is rapidly becoming overcrowded, the council asked nothing from the developer of land that would have been ideal for the small and affordable houses proposed in the infill Tool Kit. So much for consistent planning.

[The consistency of the real estate and building industry is also in question.  In none of the cases above did these groups come forward to implore the Planning Commission or the City Council to consider rezoning these parcels to include single family homes, especially affordable ones such as cottage housing.  At the same time, they have been appearing before the Planning Commission begging them to consider maximum growth figures and adding several new UGAs to the city.]

Note that only a property owner can apply for site-specific amendments.  The neighborhood is consulted only after the rezone has been framed by the city and the developer/owner in a pre-application meeting to which the public is not invited. This immediately places the neighborhoods at a considerable disadvantage by effectively discarding other options at the outset. (BMC 21.10.180 "An applicant is required to conduct a neighborhood meeting prior to the submittal of an application and after any required preapplication conference. The director may provide standard notice formats and guidelines for conducting the meeting. The notice shall include a brief description of the project, date, time and location of the neighborhood meeting and name and phone number of the applicant or their representative.")  A ten day advanced notice of the meeting is required.  This provides little time for residents to gather information and arrive with a modicum of familiarity with the issues.  The meeting then becomes a venue for a sales pitch, framed and presented to an uninformed public. Nevertheless, while operating at a constant disadvantage, the residents vociferously opposed the three Samish rezones. Every time it was to no avail and the character of the Samish Neighborhood continues to degrade.

With the current work on reviewing the Comprehensive Plan, this ought to be a moment to study the processes that inform and direct (or misdirect) our planning.  Instead, we seem to be piecemealing our efforts by rezoning first and only subequently reviewing policies and procedures. 

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.

0 comments

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


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

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

0 comments

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.

0 comments

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.

5 comments; last on May 02, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intrado Not to Intrude in Bellingham

Tue, Jul 08, 2014, 8:20 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The city council "persuades" the city administration to withdraw a request for an intrusive police threat warning system

2 comments; last on Jul 08, 2014

DOJ Grant Brings Confusion and Anger to City Council Meeting

Tue, Jun 24, 2014, 10:24 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The Bellingham Police Department wants to purchase "threat assessment" software with federal monies. Citizen comments were vehement and negative. City Council confused.

5 comments; last on Jul 03, 2014

Fireworks Ban in Bellingham in Effect as of 18 June

Tue, Jun 17, 2014, 7:53 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The possession and use of consumer fireworks are no longer permitted within the city limits.

1 comments; last on Jun 19, 2014

Planning or Development Commission?

Mon, Apr 28, 2014, 6:28 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Every Bellingham Planning Commission member has ties to development or development-related businesses.

4 comments; last on Apr 30, 2014

Anatomy of a Development Part XII - Citizens Win Against University Ridge

Wed, Apr 02, 2014, 6:00 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Ambling University Development Group pulls out. University Ridge will not be built.

12 comments; last on Apr 06, 2014

Is ALEC Jr. Coming to Whatcom County or Bellingham Soon?

Wed, Mar 12, 2014, 8:28 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The infamous American Legislative Exchange Council plans to send its spawn to cities and counties throughout the U.S.

1 comments; last on Mar 24, 2014

Panem et Circenses - Why I Did Not Watch “The Super Bowl”

Mon, Feb 03, 2014, 6:30 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Professional and even college sports have morphed into a circus of corporate greed and the fleecing of the public.

3 comments; last on Mar 01, 2014

Anatomy of a Development Part XI - The Doldrums at University Ridge

Mon, Jan 20, 2014, 6:14 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The developers of University Ridge have been silent since shortly after the hearing examiner's decision on 23 October last year. Will they walk?

0 comments

The Bellingham “Riot” - Let’s Expand the Conversation

Thu, Dec 05, 2013, 6:00 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The post "riot" conversation is terribly lacking in several areas. We must expand the discussion or risk learning little from the experience.

3 comments; last on Dec 15, 2013

Walmart and McDonald’s - Partners in Institutionalized Cluelessness

Wed, Nov 20, 2013, 6:03 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The advice coming from Walmart and McDonald's to its low paid employees becomes more and more bizarre and inane.

0 comments

Anatomy of a Development - Part X Appeals of the Hearing Examiner’s Decision

Tue, Nov 19, 2013, 6:35 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Ambling's motion to the hearing examiner for reconsideration was definitively rejected. The developer has not met the deadline for an appeal to the Superior Court

0 comments

Puget Neighborhood Likely New Home for 1,300 Students

Tue, Nov 12, 2013, 6:16 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Puget Neighborhood will likely have in the immediate future 1,300 new rental units that will be marketed primarily to the student population.

0 comments

Health Insurance Scams - Washington Not Spared

Mon, Nov 04, 2013, 10:55 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The call of the dollar speaks more loudly to health insurance companies than does the voice and well-being of the consumer, even here in Washington.

8 comments; last on Nov 06, 2013

Anatomy of a Development - Part IX BMC Rule of Three Thwarts Plans

Thu, Oct 31, 2013, 11:19 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Four bedroom dorm rooms have been nixed by the hearing examiner. University Ridge may be in trouble as a cash cow for Ambling Development of Georgia

3 comments; last on Nov 04, 2013

Dick’s Picks for City Council - Burr and Petree

Mon, Oct 28, 2013, 1:00 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Independent voters are for independent thinkers on the city council. Vote for Burr and Petree.

0 comments

Anatomy of a Development Proposal - Part VIII The 12 October Riot and University Ridge

Tue, Oct 15, 2013, 4:16 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

The development of University Ridge will replicate the student ghetto that fueled the riot on 12 October.

6 comments; last on Oct 25, 2013

Anatomy of a Development Proposal - Part VII The Hearing on University Ridge

Fri, Sep 20, 2013, 8:09 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Hearing held on 11 September. Comment period extended 10 days. Effects on home owners already manifest.

8 comments; last on Sep 22, 2013

Anatomy of a Development Proposal - Part VI Hearing Examiner Date Set - A Broken Process

Mon, Aug 26, 2013, 5:00 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The University Ridge process works only to the benefit of the developers. The public is offered tight deadlines and insufficient information.

1 comments; last on Sep 21, 2013

Anatomy of a Development Proposal - Part V The SEPA Determination

Fri, Aug 16, 2013, 5:00 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The University Ridge dormitory development approval process is broken. The City Council should act.

1 comments; last on Aug 17, 2013

Charter Schools Redux - Primary Election for School Board upon Us

Tue, Jul 23, 2013, 11:22 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Candidates for the Bellingham School Board need to let us know where they stand on charter schools.

3 comments; last on Aug 05, 2013

Anatomy of a Development Proposal - Part I The Variance

Wed, Jun 26, 2013, 8:04 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

A variance request without merit is the centerpiece of a development proposal to construct a complex of four dormitory-style buildings among single family homes in the Puget Neighborhood

0 comments

D-Day 6 June 2013

Thu, Jun 06, 2013, 6:30 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

D-Day forgotten.

0 comments

Skip the Fireworks - Send Money to Support Our Troops

Mon, May 20, 2013, 12:48 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

You can give your money, normally dished out to fireworks manufacturers and distributors, to organizations that help our disabled veterans. Change the way we celebrate Independence Day.

0 comments

University Ridge Dormitory, The Infill Tool Kit and Our Neighborhoods

Mon, May 13, 2013, 3:50 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Some very important issues with respect to the University Ridge private dormitory project in the Puget Neighborhood will not be considered in the approval process.

10 comments; last on Jun 30, 2013

Update on University Ridge Student Dormitory Development

Wed, May 08, 2013, 9:53 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Ambling University Development has proposed building private, off-campus dormitory buildings in the Puget Neighborhood. Their revised proposal was submitted on 29 April.

0 comments

Status of the Move to Ban Fireworks in Bellingham

Sat, Apr 06, 2013, 3:59 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

Dangerous fireworks likely to continue being sold in Bellingham for this 4th of July

1 comments; last on Apr 06, 2013

Is That Apple Hard Drive Really Yours?

Thu, Apr 04, 2013, 12:48 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

It seems that for Apple products, you do not really own that hard drive... as a journalist recently discovered.

2 comments; last on Apr 13, 2013

University Ridge Height Variance Hearing Postponed

Tue, Mar 12, 2013, 11:50 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Several complaints to the city seem to have occasioned a postponement of a height variance hearing until a complete development proposal is submitted.

1 comments; last on Mar 12, 2013

Obamacare and the Coming (Not Again?) Wealth Transfer

Wed, Mar 06, 2013, 11:05 am  //  Dick Conoboy

You are not likely to escape the coming transfer of $billions from your pocket to the health insurance industry. You will get little, if anything, in return.

4 comments; last on Apr 05, 2013

Support our Troops - Ban Fireworks

Sun, Mar 03, 2013, 5:17 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

Do we need to recreate the sounds and sights of the battlefield when doing so brings pain and suffering to our combat veterans?

0 comments

University Ridge Student Housing - What is it?

Mon, Feb 25, 2013, 7:54 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

There is a private sector development proposal to house approximately 600 students in the Puget Neighborhood on 11 acres to the east of Nevada St.

5 comments; last on Feb 27, 2013

Behind the Charter Schools Initiative

Fri, Oct 19, 2012, 2:24 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

Washington voters have wisely turned down three attempts to create charter schools in this state. They should replicate these defeats in 2012.

1 comments; last on Oct 23, 2012

Petition Drive to Ban Consumer Fireworks Underway

Thu, May 24, 2012, 9:22 am  //  Dick Conoboy

A case for eliminating consumer fireworks in Bellingham city limits

3 comments; last on May 26, 2012

Padden Trails.  It Is Not About Infill; It Is About Profits

Sat, Apr 07, 2012, 2:05 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

The issue is not sprawl or infill, but the money to be made by the type of infill and its placement

7 comments; last on Apr 09, 2012

2012-2013 Priorities from City Council

Sun, Mar 11, 2012, 11:20 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The City Council outlines their agenda for the coming year

2 comments; last on Mar 12, 2012

Padden Trails Rezone – You Should Be Worried

Tue, Nov 15, 2011, 11:43 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The Padden Trails rezone effort is a misuse of the Infill Tool Kit on the outskirts of Bellingham.

8 comments; last on Nov 16, 2011

Bellingham Bank of America hires security guard

Wed, Nov 02, 2011, 4:00 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

Occupy Bellingham is already creating jobs for the 99% - but this raises some interesting questions.

8 comments; last on Nov 04, 2011

Status of Rental Licensing and Inspections in Bellingham

Thu, Jun 02, 2011, 9:32 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

Updates on Rental Licensing in Bellingham

15 comments; last on Jun 25, 2011

Fireworks in Bellingham

Mon, Jan 17, 2011, 5:22 pm  //  Dick Conoboy

Why a ban on fireworks in Bellingham is needed, and a look at the politics of the issue.

31 comments; last on Jan 25, 2011

 

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