The Rule of Law - Bellingham Style

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Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 11:31 pm  //  John Servais

The underlined words were inserted into city planning code tonight, enabling high density where city code did not permit it. Next neighborhood?

Tonight the Bellingham City Council - after seven years of a confused, delayed and intimidating process - figured out how to force an illegal plan amendment onto the Sunnyland Neighborhood. For seven years, city planning has been trying to push their own agenda, but the residents used Bellingham city code - the planning code - to stop the city and have worked toward getting their own plan adopted.  City planning law was on the residents' side.

The Bellingham City Council, made up of elected politicians, always showed great verbal support for the residents.  Some council members almost swooned in their great affection.  But in the end, it was all just for show.  The council kept delaying and not approving the resident’s plan. 

Council basically ignored the Sunnyland Neighborhood residents.  Why?  Because the residents - the property owners who will bear the impact of the plan - did not go along with the planning department and agree to the city’s plan.  When the neighborhood refused to fall in line - guess what happened?  The city simply suspended the planning process and waited a couple years. When they finally got back around to it, the city dragged out the process. And the council - the same folks who went to great lengths on Monday evening to explain themselves - allowed the planning department to delay and confuse the issue.

Tonight - with no advance notice or hearing or open process - the council simply changed city law to accommodate what they wanted and quickly voted in changes for the Sunnyland Neighborhood.  Yep.  If you cannot win under the rules, change the rules.  And our City Council did that tonight. So much for the rule of law in Bellingham.  See the illustration above for their insertion of the killer words into the Bellingham Municipal Code.  Easy peasy. 

Before they voted to degrade the Sunnyland Neighborhood, several council members spoke to an empty council chamber pleading their angst over this issue.  It is actually funny to watch given the quick butchering they were about to do to city codes and a neighborhood. 

One council representative said we should not criticize current planning and city officials because they were not there seven years ago.  Well, excuse me Gene Knutson, but we citizens demand legal process in making laws - and we have the right to, and will hammer, the council for violating the law and our city processes.  The council approved the Sunnyland Neighborhood plan amendment on Monday evening - not because it was the better plan, but just to get it off their plate. 

Council members deserve personal criticism for caving to the planning department.  Pinky Vargas was almost tearful as she claimed she did not deserve criticism. Sorry, Pinky, but you are responsible for not representing residents.  And it is personal.  Cathy Lehman would build skyscrapers there if she could; she never met an excessive building height she did not like.  Gene Knutson voted for it because he is tired of dealing with it.  Michael Lilliquist voted for it because, as he explained to us, he understands all this much better than we do.  And finally, Roxanne Murphy, a resident of Sunnyland, has ignored her own neighborhood and shown little interest in the project, but she voted for it.  Only Terry Borneman voted against it.  Jack Weiss was absent.

This article is about a process I have seen on a routine and almost regular basis by our City Council for many years.  Gene may say we should not blame these new members, but in truth they are upholding a long-standing tradition of the council by kowtowing to the planning department. Changing the law with no advance notice when obeying the law is inconvenient is the same as not having laws.  Changing a law should require advance notice, a chance for citizens to participate - in short, an open process.   

Walter Haugen  //  Tue, Aug 12, 2014, 8:15 am

“Michael Lilliquist voted for it because, as he explained to us, he understands all this much better than we do.”

Spot on!

Tip Johnson  //  Tue, Aug 12, 2014, 11:28 am

BMC 20.04.030 Purpose.

A. It is the purpose of this title to promote the health, safety, and general welfare of the citizens of Bellingham by coordinating and guiding both public and private development of land by means of a comprehensive land use plan which is, in part, carried out by the provisions of this title.

B. The regulations and standards of this title are intended to promote high standards of development for living and in the operation of commerce and industry in order to help assure a pleasant environment for the people of Bellingham.

C. In utilizing the comprehensive neighborhood plans as a basis of land use implementation, it is recognized that Bellingham is made of many unique and diverse areas each with its own characteristics, and further it is recognized that to treat these areas uniformly – on a citywide basis – would not conserve or encourage those peculiarities which distinguish Bellingham from other communities.

Mickey McDiarmid  //  Tue, Aug 12, 2014, 5:46 pm

What mostly infuriates me is they accepted the “sunnyland plan” and then went with the newly proposed plan from the city, which as we all know was never docketed to begin with. Why didn’t they stay honest and say they were going to accept the city proposal?. Gene stated we can’t always get what we want but we the people of bellingham and the residents of the neighborhoods should have a FAIR say. We weren’t expecting everything we wanted, we had already compromised for Mr Eddlestein we knew this would be a compromise too, but not so grossly changed to where there is nothing other than a former zoning label (that has been changed to unrecognizable). Not some manufactured special circumstance so the city can achieve, what they have changed rules and process to do, for 8 years. I feel we have been duped into believing there is a process in which we have a role only to find it so corrupt that it’s pointless to use our energy to become part of the process. This is what all dictatorships do, is make it impossible to oppose them.

Tip Johnson  //  Tue, Aug 12, 2014, 11:48 pm

Just back from a meeting with DOE on the waterfront remediation plan. It became clear that “public comment” has no intrinsic relation to the “preferred plan”, and that citizens who desire “influence” will have to take legal action.

Meanwhile, someone independently suggested we explore crowd-sourcing for legal action on matters of protecting the Salish Sea. 

Legal action may be an ideal application for the utility of crowd-sourced funding.

If you have interest and money you can slow or change things. Pay to play.  That’s the game these days.

Game on!

John Servais  //  Wed, Aug 13, 2014, 6:54 am

Totally missing the point, Ralph Schwartz in today’s Herald writes how the council tried to satisfy the Sunnyland residents but had to do a little “... bending its rules ...” to achieve their plan.  He never revisits those words to explain and so the Herald fails totally to inform readers of the council’s very illegal actions. 

+ Link

I have tried to get a council member to address this issue - and the one will only talk about how the neighborhood should be happy.  They will not go near explaining why several city law procedures were violated to achieve this zoning change.  And the Herald is, as usual, giving cover to the council and not informing its readers of the news.

The issue is not about the plan but about the total violation of city planning codes to achieve the plan.  After seven years of confusing the process, in the end the council just decided to ignore city codes and do what the Planning Department wanted.  This is not compromise.  This is criminal action by the council.  That is why I wrote about this. 

Which neighborhood is next?  Yours?

Mike Rostron  //  Wed, Aug 13, 2014, 9:53 am

Business as usual in Bellingham. Airport expansion without citizen input. 100 Acre Wood. The Padden Lake debacle. …and so it goes. Zoning and development decisions are made by the developers with collusion of the planning department, while citizen input is given little more than lip-service. The recent fearless leader of our planning department—like those before and those to come—simply moves on, leaving the residents of the neighborhoods to deal with the mounting costs and burdens of the developer’s latest schemes to increase population growth at artificially pumped-up rates, regardless of resident’s desires.

Meanwhile political office-holders and folks who should know better put forth spurious arguments for adding population density to neighborhoods willy-nilly.

They say such infill will help protect to farmlands. Malarkey! The only way to protect farmlands is by having the courage to zone farmlands for farming and to enforce those zoning laws.

The “so-called progressives” say people are buying properties in rural areas because they can’t afford homes in the city. Nonsense! Without exception, the people we know who have bought land in the rural areas of the county have done so because they chose to live there. These people want enough land to have horses, cows, or chickens, or they want to grow their own food, or they simply want to live in a quieter environment. In many cases they have paid more than they would have for a similar sized home in the city.

Meanwhile, valuable time and resources are allotted to ensuring that carpet-bagging development corporations get their greedy hands on the old toilet paper factory acres while the downtown languishes, and historic old buildings lie empty, threatening to turn our city center into a Lilliputian version of Detroit.

When most of our politicians are part of the pro-growth pro-developer cartel the average resident’s voice has little weight. Rather than just continually grousing about this situation, we are here proposing a possible step towards a more thoughtful and democratic process, to wit:

*We propose that Bellingham citizens unite and give neighborhoods, through their already established neighborhood associations, the power of veto over all proposed zoning changes within their boundaries. This would function as a check to balance the inordinate power that the planning department and development corporations are exerting at present.

*The way to do this is through the Initiative and Referendum process as described in the Bellingham Charter, Article X. We should put this idea to a public vote. We hope other neighborhoods will join us in this effort to give residents a true voice in preserving and enhancing the characteristics of their neighborhoods. 4,963 approved signatures are needed to refer this to a general election. It would be an initiative, not a referendum.

If the council and planning department knew that their decisions on zoning changes were subject to approval of the affected neighborhood residents, perhaps they might be more sensitive to the wishes of their constituency, and less beholden to the developers.


Hue Beattie  //  Thu, Aug 14, 2014, 2:24 am

What is good for the neighborhood is good for the city.

The Rule of Law - Bellingham Style

Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 11:31 pm  //  John Servais

Bellingham City Council abruptly changes zoning codes to force Planning Department plan on Sunnyland residents.

7 comments; last on Aug 14, 2014

Final Updated Election Results

Fri, Aug 08, 2014, 10:10 am  //  John Servais

Updated Wed evening. The Tuesday evening 8:20 pm Auditor report on the election is in.

5 comments; last on Aug 08, 2014

Village Books

In historic Fairhaven. Take Exit 250 from I-5.

City Council Approves Resident’s Sunnyland Plan

Tue, Jul 22, 2014, 7:22 pm  //  John Servais

Sunnlyland residents win one - after a seven year effort. Planning Department failed them and all of us.

2 comments; last on Jul 23, 2014

Herald and Weekly Withhold the News

Wed, Jun 11, 2014, 11:39 am  //  John Servais

Wyoming Senators and coal honchos were in Whatcom County June 10 - to hold a news conference with select reporters.

7 comments; last on Jun 20, 2014

Dawn Sturwold Retiring End of Month

Tue, Jun 10, 2014, 11:20 am  //  John Servais

Bellingham Hearing Examiner, Dawn Sturwold, retires in three weeks. Successor selection is hidden from all of us.

3 comments; last on Jun 11, 2014

Riley scoops Herald - again

Fri, May 09, 2014, 10:02 am  //  John Servais

The Political Junkie for Whatcom County - that would be Riley Sweeney - has Overstreet not running for reelection in the 42nd.

1 comments; last on May 13, 2014

SweenyPolitics:  Fleetwood files against Ericksen

Wed, Apr 30, 2014, 8:20 am  //  John Servais

Riley posted this morning that Seth Fleetwood has decided to challenge Doug Ericksen for state senate in the 42nd District.

1 comments; last on Apr 30, 2014

Fukushima Radiation Found In Canada

Fri, Mar 14, 2014, 10:47 am  //  John Servais

Fukushima radiation has been found 20 miles from Whatcom County farmland along the Fraser River in British Columbia.

1 comments; last on Mar 17, 2014

Whatcom Watch Editor Resigns

Sun, Mar 02, 2014, 3:22 pm  //  John Servais

The editor of the Whatcom Watch, Richard Jehn, has resigned effective today. Chalk up a victory for Craig Cole and Pacific International Terminals.

8 comments; last on Mar 05, 2014

Relevant Documents to Libel Threat

Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 9:29 pm  //  John Servais

The full text of Craig Cole's threatening letter of libel against the Whatcom Watch. And the emptiness of the threat.

16 comments; last on Mar 20, 2014

Craig Cole Threatens Libel Suit

Wed, Feb 19, 2014, 5:48 pm  //  John Servais

Craig Cole, the local contact for the proposed Cherry Point coal port has threatened the Whatcom Watch with a libel lawsuit.

6 comments; last on Mar 20, 2014

Reid Boiler Works Burns Down

Sun, Feb 09, 2014, 10:13 am  //  John Servais

The old empty Reid Boiler Works industrial building in Fairhaven burned to the ground Saturday night.


The Marijuana Bowl

Sun, Jan 19, 2014, 9:39 pm  //  John Servais

Super Bowl ... Weed Bowl ... This bud's for you ... Bong Bowl ... Marijuana Bowl ... whatever. It is on!

1 comments; last on Jan 20, 2014

Gary Jensen Not Running for State Senate

Mon, Dec 16, 2013, 1:30 pm  //  John Servais

Ferndale Mayor Gary Jensen has decided not to file for the 42nd state Senate seat currently held by Doug Ericksen.

5 comments; last on Dec 24, 2013

Video Exposes City Council Dysfunction on Waterfront Plan

Thu, Dec 05, 2013, 12:58 pm  //  John Servais

The Political Junkie has posted a 3 minute video showing Bellingham City Council members explaining their idiocy for all of us to watch.

2 comments; last on Dec 06, 2013

Cascadia Weekly Blasts Waterfront Plan

Wed, Dec 04, 2013, 11:53 am  //  John Servais

Bellingham City Council and Port of Bellingham finalize the waterfront plan. In his weekly Gristle, Tim Johnson blasts the corrupt public process.

4 comments; last on Dec 05, 2013

Election Results - November 2013

Tue, Nov 05, 2013, 9:21 pm  //  John Servais

With lots of outside county money flowing in to our local races, this election is weird. But real - and we county residents have spoken.

11 comments; last on Nov 09, 2013

Boulevard Park Reopens

Sat, Oct 26, 2013, 8:36 pm  //  John Servais

Beach reconstruction is done at Boulevard Park on the Bellingham waterfront. Paths along shore are again open - and it looks good.

6 comments; last on Nov 01, 2013

Ken Bell and Renata for Port

Sun, Oct 20, 2013, 8:07 pm  //  John Servais

Ken Bell has my vote over Mike McAuley for port commissioner. And Renata Kowalczyk has it over Dan Robbins.

8 comments; last on Oct 30, 2013

Government is Good

Sat, Sep 28, 2013, 3:20 pm  //  John Servais

As the right wing radicals seek to shut down our national government this week, we need to push back with common sense.

8 comments; last on Oct 01, 2013

Syrian War Perspectives: Jon Stewart

Wed, Sep 04, 2013, 9:37 am  //  John Servais

An attempt at linking to one or more writers who can help us make sense of going to war with Syria. An alternative to Kerry-Obama.


We Citizens Get a Say on War

Wed, Sep 04, 2013, 1:36 am  //  John Servais

Contacting Rick Larsen and Susan Delbene is actually a viable citizen exercise just now. Tell them to vote NO on bombing Syria.

1 comments; last on Sep 04, 2013

Riley Covers Anti Syria War Demo

Sat, Aug 31, 2013, 3:10 pm  //  John Servais

Saturday afternoon - and a rally is taking place in downtown Bellingham against bombing Syria. Riley Sweeny and his Political Junkie site cover it.


To Obama:  No.  Do Not Bomb Syria

Fri, Aug 30, 2013, 12:08 pm  //  John Servais

Gee, can we make it any clearer? Publisher opinion. So sad that we have to write this to Obama - who got our vote in 2008 because he…

4 comments; last on Aug 31, 2013

Privacy Story of Feds Stripping All

Wed, Aug 14, 2013, 12:24 pm  //  John Servais

The Feds gag an Email service owner - so he cannot even tell us why he is gagged.

2 comments; last on Aug 15, 2013

So Long Lawrence O’Donnell

Thu, Aug 08, 2013, 1:05 am  //  John Servais

Liberal talking head Lawrence O'Donnell went into a bullying rant against a well qualified guest - and showed he's just like O'Reilly.

2 comments; last on Aug 08, 2013

Advertising Rates & Specs

Wed, Jul 31, 2013, 12:59 am  //  John Servais

Ad rates are in the norm of Internet rates and reach a well educated local audience.


Celebrations More Racist than Verdict

Sun, Jul 14, 2013, 11:25 am  //  John Servais

The explosion of hate and racist rhetoric is the saddest aspect of the verdict. The evidence was complicated and the verdict difficult to make.

2 comments; last on Jul 16, 2013

Zero Public Process for New Jail

Fri, Jul 12, 2013, 9:29 am  //  John Servais

Riley Sweeney has a short but important expose over at the Political Junkie today.

1 comments; last on Jul 12, 2013

The Irony of City Council Attitudes

Wed, Jul 03, 2013, 12:06 pm  //  John Servais

Public process ignored. Citizen commenting castigated. Paranoid city legal department. Our city council merrily goes through another session.

6 comments; last on Aug 06, 2013

Greenways Levy Money Used for AstroTurf

Sun, Jun 30, 2013, 11:28 am  //  John Servais

Bellingham City Council ready to approve $500,000 of trails money for resurfacing plastic grass on Civic Field.

15 comments; last on Jul 02, 2013

NWCitizen Stands With Edward Snowden

Mon, Jun 10, 2013, 1:53 pm  //  John Servais

Edward Snowden is a very courageous patriot, in the opinion of the publisher of NWCitizen.

3 comments; last on Jun 14, 2013

Intersection Art Comes to Happy Valley

Sun, Jun 09, 2013, 10:37 pm  //  John Servais

Intersection art - the painting of a design on the actual streets - is being developed in the Happy Valley neighborhood.

1 comments; last on Jun 15, 2013

Riley On An Astounding Practice by the Herald

Sat, Jun 08, 2013, 4:21 pm  //  John Servais

Over at the Political Junkie, Riley Sweeney has a report on one criteria the Herald uses to reject letters to the editor.

1 comments; last on Jun 10, 2013

Bellingham Passes Fireworks Ban

Mon, Jun 03, 2013, 10:05 pm  //  John Servais

City Council passes long-debated ban 4 to 3. It is effective in 2014.


Caught In The Whatcom Court System

Fri, May 31, 2013, 5:43 pm  //  John Servais

Luba Pekisheva has been given a confusing run around in our Whatcom County courts for over three years. Judges, prosecutors and clerks have all participated.


Who is filing for elective offices???

Fri, May 17, 2013, 5:44 pm  //  John Servais

Tuesday morning and nothing in today's Bellingham Herald. Nor online. We provide the basics to fill in this latest omission by our "daily" newspaper.

9 comments; last on May 23, 2013

Coal Trains and Unhealthy Air - Any Connection?

Sun, May 05, 2013, 3:45 pm  //  John Servais

Help fund a scientific study looking for links between diesel locomotives, coal trains and unhealthy air.


Krugman Spells It Out In Plain English

Sun, Apr 28, 2013, 10:30 pm  //  John Servais

New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman, has a masterful short article that explains why austerity is not working.

3 comments; last on May 23, 2013

Cascadia Weekly Tribute to Paul de Armond

Wed, Apr 24, 2013, 11:58 am  //  John Servais

The Gristle in today's Cascadia Weekly is devoted to a tribute to Paul de Armond. Tim Johnson gets it right.


Paul de Armond has passed away

Sun, Apr 21, 2013, 1:59 pm  //  John Servais

Well known political writer has died.

5 comments; last on Apr 23, 2013

No City Housing Hearing on March 20

Tue, Mar 19, 2013, 10:05 am  //  John Servais

The Bellingham Herald article today is wrong. There is no hearing tomorrow, March 20


Valuable Article in the Whatcom Watch

Sun, Mar 17, 2013, 9:42 pm  //  John Servais

Wendy Harris writes about the proposed $8 million concrete bridge along the Bellingham waterfront - using Greenways funds to build.

3 comments; last on Mar 20, 2013

Senator Ericksen Displays His Colors

Fri, Feb 22, 2013, 4:01 pm  //  John Servais

Riley Sweeney has posted a great video clip of Sen. Doug Ericksen flouting rules and legal procedures at a Senate hearing in Olympia.


City Controls Chuckanut Park - Not New Park District

Fri, Feb 22, 2013, 3:47 pm  //  John Servais

The election created a new park district with taxing power - but with NO control over Chuckanut Ridge - the 100 acre woods.

1 comments; last on Feb 23, 2013

Thoughts on the Park District Vote

Wed, Feb 13, 2013, 4:42 pm  //  John Servais

The Park District vote is close and we will not know final results until late ballots are counted.

6 comments; last on Feb 19, 2013

Time to Vote on Park District

Sat, Feb 09, 2013, 1:14 am  //  John Servais

The proponents have avoided the issues on the Park District as the close of voting nears this weekend.

2 comments; last on Feb 12, 2013

Check the Protect Bellingham Parks Website

Wed, Feb 06, 2013, 11:42 pm  //  John Servais

When is a vote No the most positive and common sense action? Check the park district opponents website to learn why.

15 comments; last on Feb 10, 2013

Ironies With the Park District

Tue, Feb 05, 2013, 1:59 pm  //  John Servais

This Park District proposal has several ironic twists and facets - some involving the advocates.

10 comments; last on Feb 07, 2013

A note from the publisher

Sat, Feb 02, 2013, 12:18 pm  //  John Servais

The Chuckanut Park District ballot issue has another 10 days to run. A few notes about NWCitizen and this issue.

11 comments; last on Feb 05, 2013

Why I am voting NO on the Park Disttict

Wed, Jan 30, 2013, 10:40 am  //  John Servais

The Park District is a panic action that over taxes a small group. A city wide solution is by far the better way to proceed.

13 comments; last on Feb 01, 2013

Feb 12 election:  Bham Southside Only

Thu, Jan 24, 2013, 5:09 pm  //  John Servais

Updated Sat, Jan 26. A primer on the special Parks District election - and where to find more info.

15 comments; last on Jan 31, 2013

Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks

Thu, Jan 10, 2013, 12:23 pm  //  John Servais

A digression from politics. Checking with Green Bay relatives turns up an unexpected hope by fans there.


Correction of Error

Wed, Jan 02, 2013, 12:31 pm  //  John Servais

A needed correction and apology for an error in a story that has been pulled.

3 comments; last on Jan 03, 2013

Skiing, Avalanches, and Internet Media-

Fri, Dec 21, 2012, 2:18 pm  //  John Servais

The Tunnel Creek avalanche and three skiers' deaths last February was a confusing tragedy. Experts killed. How did it happen?


Video of Mudslide Derailing Train Monday

Wed, Dec 19, 2012, 12:12 pm  //  John Servais

A dramatic video of yet another mudslide near Everett - and what will be coming down on coal trains. Amtrak service to Bellingham is shut down.

4 comments; last on Dec 20, 2012

Are you in foreclosure?

Wed, Dec 12, 2012, 12:04 pm  //  John Servais

If you or a friend are in foreclosure, or an attorney defending someone, then hopefully you already know about this. If not... here it is.

2 comments; last on Dec 19, 2012

Coal Ship Wrecks Vancouver Terminal

Sat, Dec 08, 2012, 2:43 pm  //  John Servais

A giant coal freighter went right through the long dock early Friday morning. Nothing in print edition of Herald

3 comments; last on Dec 11, 2012

Riley teases us with 2016

Sat, Nov 24, 2012, 12:09 pm  //  John Servais

Wherein that local political junkie, Riley Sweeney, has written up a comprehensive analysis of 2016 U.S. presidential election.


Election Night at the VFW

Wed, Nov 07, 2012, 1:21 am  //  John Servais

A light and short take on the Democratic Party celebration at the VFW Post meeting hall. And a heavy bit on national politics.

18 comments; last on Nov 10, 2012


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