A minority of one: An open letter to my fellow Bellingham residentsPermalink +
Sun, Aug 19, 2012, 9:29 pm // Larry Horowitz
It may come as a shock to some, but until April 2005, I had never attended a city- or developer- sponsored meeting, nor had I ever been inside Bellingham’s City Hall or any other city hall where I’ve lived. Keep in mind, I’ve been a homeowner since 1984, so that's 21 years of absolute inactivity.
Since that fateful day in 2005, I have found myself to be a lone voice in the wilderness all too often. Who has the time and energy to be active in civic affairs or to scale the steep learning curve - like where City Hall is even located or what a planning commission is? Certainly, no one’s paying me no ‘big bucks’ to do it. Without the financial incentive to get involved, why bother? Right?
Given the disincentive to get involved, it’s really no surprise I often find myself alone in what I know to be true.
Years ago, I stumbled across a quote by Mohandas (aka Mahatma) Gandhi that really spoke to me:
“Even if I am a minority of one, the truth is the truth.”
I have found, as fortune would have it, that the truth has magnetic properties, and before you know it you are no longer a minority.
A case in point: I have recently been told by an elected official that what I know to be true about Bellingham’s ability to accommodate population growth “is not likely to gain great traction in Bellingham, or anywhere in Whatcom County, because it's considered a pretty radical concept.”
With that in mind, I’d like to:
- share what I know to be true;
- explore why this truth is such a radical concept;
- and ask you, my fellow residents of this great city, to let me know if the truth has gained any traction with you.
First, the truth:
* There is enough developable land in Bellingham and its urban growth area (UGA) to accommodate the city’s projected population growth.
* There is no pressure or need to expand the UGA.
* There is no pressure or need to increase the zoning density in established residential neighborhoods.
How do I know this? Because, in 2005, a member of the Whatcom County Planning Commission asked me to take a look at the Bellingham Land Supply Analysis (LSA). And I did.
What I found was a number of items requiring adjustment, many of which the city agreed to correct. By doing so, the paradigm in which it appeared the city’s land supply was not sufficient began to change. All of a sudden, the city realized that its land supply may actually be adequate after all. Unfortunately, recommendations to expand the UGA and increase zoning densities had already been adopted and set in motion, so this paradigm shift was completely unwelcome.
When I continued to find items needing adjustment, I was told the city would no longer adopt any of my recommendations. At the time, the most glaring error involved the amount of developable land the city planned to acquire to expand its park system. The number of acres used in the LSA and Land Use Chapter differed from, and was inconsistent with, the number of acres called for in both the Park Plan and the Capital Facilities Chapter of the city’s Comprehensive (Comp) Plan. It was clear that the LSA was flawed, but the city refused to either acknowledge or correct the error.
To make a long story short, four of us filed a petition with the Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB) claiming that the city’s Comp Plan contained an internal inconsistency which violated the Growth Management Act (GMA). The GMHB agreed but ultimately allowed the city to retain the error in the LSA and Land Use Chapter as long as the error was used consistently in the Park Plan and Capital Facilities Chapter. The error itself was glaring because it resulted in a $100 million budget shortfall when comparing the cost of land the city said it would purchase with the funds available to do so.
Two years later, in 2008, the city finally corrected the error when the newly adopted Park Plan reduced the amount of parkland the city agreed (and could afford) to acquire by 1,132 acres.
Of course, in order to comply with the internal consistency requirement of the GMA, the city was then obligated to modify its LSA and Land Use Chapter to reflect the newly adopted Park Plan. Naturally, the city refused to do so, and the initial error remains in the LSA and Land Use Chapter of the Comp Plan to this day.
Since 2006, when the Comp Plan was adopted, the City has added to its UGA – and then annexed - the King Mountain neighborhood. This addition has never been reflected in the city’s LSA.
Additionally, the city has increased the zoning density in a number of locations since the LSA was adopted. None of these capacity increases have been reflected in the LSA.
These three significant capacity-expanding actions have created a new paradigm:
- The city’s land supply is sufficient to accommodate its projected population growth.
- The so-called pressure to figure out how to accommodate population is imaginary; it doesn’t exist.
- The city does not need to expand its UGA, nor does the city need to add multi-family zoning in established single family neighborhoods.
So why is this truth so radical?
By talking with people who attended the various growth forums, I’ve learned that the city long ago presented the community with a false dilemma. Residents were told that the city did not have sufficient land to house its projected population and were offered only those choices that expanded the city’s capacity: build up or out.
The fact is, the city’s land supply is sufficient, and the dilemma presented by the city was false. The city was prescribing treatment for an ailment that simply did not exist. The truth is radical now only because the fiction has been so well established.
Is it not time to finally tell the truth?
So now I turn it over to you, my fellow residents:
Has this truth gained any traction with you?
Sun, Aug 19, 2012, 9:29 pm // Larry HorowitzA radical truth trying to gain traction
10 comments; last on Aug 23, 2012
Sat, Aug 18, 2012, 7:39 am // Larry HorowitzExploring the myths and reality of accommodating population growth
2 comments; last on Aug 18, 2012
Paper Dreams in Fairhaven
Thu, Aug 09, 2012, 9:30 pm // Larry HorowitzQuestions raised by the Superior Court's barring of the Bellingham Community Bill of Rights initiative from being placed on the ballot.
21 comments; last on Aug 17, 2012
Thu, Jul 26, 2012, 8:18 am // Larry Horowitz... the person who recently had this to say about the Sunnyland Neighborhood rezone application
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Tue, Jul 10, 2012, 9:45 am // Larry HorowitzWanted: Someone to interpret chamber president Oplinger's remarks
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Mon, Apr 02, 2012, 12:43 pm // Larry HorowitzWhere to begin? Misinformation. Disinformation. Truths. Myths. Same old, same old. Paradigm shift. GMA. OFM. Growth pressures. Population loss. Growth subsidies. Proportionate share.
36 comments; last on Apr 11, 2012
Sun, Oct 02, 2011, 9:29 am // Larry HorowitzHow spending $1,000 could save millions on the acquisition of Chuckanut Ridge
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Tue, Mar 01, 2011, 11:58 am // Larry HorowitzAccording to Superstring theory, the universe consists of 10 dimensions, not 3 or 4. But what does this all mean?
14 comments; last on Mar 07, 2011
Fri, Jan 14, 2011, 11:54 am // Larry Horowitz“The woods that broke the bank: development or preservation as park?” is Bob Simmons’ latest article on Chuckanut Ridge published in today’s Crosscut.
Sat, Nov 06, 2010, 11:22 am // Larry HorowitzWhy Washington Federal's best option is to accept Bellingham's offer to take Fairhaven Highlands off its hands
6 comments; last on Nov 14, 2010
Open letter to Bellingham Planning Director Jeff Thomas re: Fairhaven Highlands application deadline
Sun, Oct 31, 2010, 7:20 pm // Larry HorowitzUpdated Sun, Oct 31. An open letter to Bellingham Planning Director Jeff Thomas re: Fairhaven Highlands application deadline
12 comments; last on Oct 28, 2010
Sat, Aug 21, 2010, 10:07 am // Larry HorowitzPolitics is like a pool of ice water. When men jump in their balls shrivel up.
5 comments; last on Aug 26, 2010
Tue, Dec 08, 2009, 2:29 pm // Larry HorowitzBREAKING:
On Dec 3, the FDIC issued a Supervisory Prompt Corrective Action Directive to Horizon Bank due to the bank’s critically undercapitalized status as of Sep
8 comments; last on Dec 09, 2009
Fri, Dec 04, 2009, 11:50 am // Larry HorowitzDateline: Nov 11, 2011
A series of recent landslides around the perimeter of Chuckanut Ridge, which caused substantial property damage, several injuries a
9 comments; last on Dec 08, 2009
Mon, Oct 26, 2009, 12:02 pm // Larry HorowitzProfessional journalist and local resident, Bob Simmons, has published an article entitled Horizon Bank and the fate of Fairhaven Highlands on the Seattle-based Crosscut.com3 comments; last on Oct 29, 2009
Fri, Oct 23, 2009, 4:11 pm // Larry HorowitzA public hearing on the Fairhaven Highlands Draft EIS was held on Tuesday, October 20 at the County Council Chambers. Approximately 250 to 300 were in attendance.
1 comments; last on Oct 30, 2009
Sun, Oct 18, 2009, 10:58 am // Larry HorowitzNo confidence. That’s right. NO CONFIDENCE! I have no confidence in the Fairhaven Highlands EIS… and neither should you.
And it’s not for the obvious reasons. Sure,
4 comments; last on Oct 19, 2009
Thu, Oct 01, 2009, 5:20 pm // Larry HorowitzIf you are interested in saving Chuckanut Ridge, there is some glimmer of hope for preserving this ecologically-rich and environmentally-sensitive property. If you are willing to make a…
3 comments; last on Oct 04, 2009
Thu, May 21, 2009, 7:00 pm // Larry HorowitzThe Associated Press (AP) has created an interesting interactive chart measuring the economic stress by County.
According to the AP, Whatcom County has a Stress Index of 9.86 for…
1 comments; last on May 22, 2009
Wed, May 20, 2009, 1:25 pm // Larry Horowitz“At present, we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product.” So says renowned entrepreneur and visionary Paul Hawken at his…
1 comments; last on May 21, 2009
Fri, Apr 10, 2009, 9:41 am // Larry HorowitzDear Director Stewart:
As I write this letter, I am reminded of a comment by a former planning department staffer who claimed he knew he had done his job…
2 comments; last on Apr 11, 2009
Sat, Apr 04, 2009, 12:30 pm // Larry HorowitzOn February 20th, I wrote a column about the Chuckanut Ridge / Fairhaven Highlands mature forested wetlands and the failure of Horizon Bank’s wetland consultant to properly rate…
4 comments; last on Apr 06, 2009
Fri, Feb 20, 2009, 9:57 am // Larry HorowitzPulitzer Prize-winning author of The Jungle, Upton Sinclair observed, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.”
4 comments; last on Feb 23, 2009
Thu, Feb 12, 2009, 8:36 pm // Larry HorowitzHave you ever wondered how truly livable cities become undesirable hell holes? Do the people who run these highly attractive areas into the ground merely fail to comprehend…
2 comments; last on Feb 16, 2009
Mon, Feb 09, 2009, 11:54 pm // Larry HorowitzIf you are new to Whatcom County (or have been hiding under a rock for the last several years), you may not be familiar with the gut-wrenching process…
Sat, Feb 07, 2009, 11:17 am // Larry HorowitzIf you happen to find yourself in the market for an 82-acre hilly swamp wholly encumbered by critical areas like steep slopes and mature-forested Category 1 wetlands in…
Wed, Feb 04, 2009, 12:54 pm // Larry HorowitzPlease don’t misunderstand. I’m not claiming that the Fairhaven Highlands environmental impact statement (EIS) does not have the potential to be meaningful. However, in its present form,
9 comments; last on Feb 05, 2009
Tue, Feb 03, 2009, 1:05 am // Larry HorowitzI really pity Horizon Bank’s CEO Rich Jacobson. His predecessor, Laury Evans, sure left him a bad hand to play. Not only is Mr. Jacobson faced with the…
2 comments; last on Mar 02, 2009
Sat, Jan 31, 2009, 6:22 pm // Larry HorowitzWhen Mayor Pike ran for office, he convinced me and thousands of others that he was truly concerned about the issues that impact those who call Bellingham home.…
12 comments; last on Feb 04, 2009
Sun, Jan 25, 2009, 9:59 pm // Larry HorowitzIn recent weeks, the Chuckanut Ridge / Greenways 3 mêlée has been blown way out of proportion and has become nothing more than an irritating sideshow. Personally, I…
Wed, Jan 21, 2009, 4:47 pm // Larry HorowitzElected officials will soon be making decisions that will determine how Whatcom County and its cities grow for the next two decades. These decisions will impact our quality…
4 comments; last on Jan 27, 2009
Fri, Oct 17, 2008, 1:20 pm // Larry HorowitzWhen it comes to planning for the future of our county and cities, must we be victims of the past or can we become masters of our own…
1 comments; last on Oct 18, 2008
Fri, Oct 03, 2008, 11:32 am // Larry HorowitzIf you pay taxes in Bellingham, prepare to be screwed… again. The city’s Parks Department and Planning Commission have recommended a new Park Plan that will require raising…
7 comments; last on Oct 08, 2008
Thu, Sep 11, 2008, 12:18 pm // Larry HorowitzPeople everywhere like to use labels to compartmentalize things - as well as other people. In the context of our local growth debate, we hear terms like Pro-Growth…
25 comments; last on Sep 18, 2008
Sat, Aug 16, 2008, 1:08 pm // Larry HorowitzThanks to all who responded to my last column - “Is anybody out there?” - both on the Northwest Citizen website and personally by email. From you, I…
5 comments; last on Aug 18, 2008
Fri, Aug 15, 2008, 9:45 am // Larry HorowitzHere’s a confession. I hate writing columns for this blog. They take time away from other things I’d rather be doing, and they certainly don’t engender any new…
13 comments; last on Aug 19, 2008
Sat, Aug 09, 2008, 7:10 pm // Larry HorowitzOn his personal blog, former City Councilman John Watts has written a column entitled, “Chuckanut Ridge: Land Supply Implications” in which he concludes, “without a reasonable level
12 comments; last on Aug 11, 2008
Fri, Aug 01, 2008, 10:47 am // Larry HorowitzIn “The thousand acre dilemma: Part 1” we introduced the $69 million quandary Bellingham officials are currently wrestling with: How does the city provide parks for the 13,000…
11 comments; last on Aug 05, 2008
Sun, Jul 20, 2008, 12:30 pm // Larry HorowitzAs a community, we ‘hamsters absolutely love our parks. It’s too bad we’ll have significantly fewer to love in the future compared with the level city officials had…
7 comments; last on Jul 22, 2008
Sat, Jun 28, 2008, 9:11 am // Larry HorowitzOn March 26, 2002, the US Patent Office issued Patent No. 6,362,718 B1, potentially altering the entire paradigm in our quest for the holy grail of unlimited clean…
11 comments; last on Jul 23, 2008
Sat, Mar 01, 2008, 12:28 pm // Larry HorowitzYou don’t need to be Nostradamus to make this prediction: Bellingham city officials are about to waste precious staff time and taxpayer resources preparing an environmental impact statem
6 comments; last on Mar 04, 2008
Fri, Feb 15, 2008, 10:13 pm // Larry HorowitzAfter an extended hiatus, the battle over Chuckanut Ridge has begun to heat up again. In one corner: landowners Horizon Bank and David Edelstein. In the other corner:…
2 comments; last on Feb 20, 2008
Tue, Jan 29, 2008, 3:44 pm // Larry HorowitzDear County Councilmembers,
Now that Bellingham has adopted a resolution signaling its desire to work with the County on the size of its UGA, the County has a tremendous…
Thu, Jan 24, 2008, 1:44 pm // Larry HorowitzCan Bellingham learn a trick or two about managing growth from the City of Tacoma? Councilmember Louise Bjornson thinks so; and I’m inclined to agree.
“I believe,” Louise…
2 comments; last on Jan 29, 2008
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