CityView Apartment Development - Update IV

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• In Bellingham,

Morgan Bartlett, the developer of CityView, the student rental dormitory project in the Puget Neighborhood, submitted his final application to the city and the city has deemed the application complete. That means the clock is ticking on public comments which are now due no later than May 8th.

Pictured at the top of the collage above is the CityView dormitory apartment complex as the developer would like you to perceive it. A lovely place nestled in the woods far from anything else. One might think that one is in the middle of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The bottom portion of the collage is an oblique aerial shot of the area to be developed as it exists today. The wooded area in which the three building complex is to be placed is surrounded by single family homes. Quite a different picture.

The developer’s narrative in its entirety can be found here but this is the basic proposal:

“The proposed project has been revised to include 3 buildings. Buildings A & B (20 units each) are identical 2.5 story, 35’ foot tall (height definition #1) residential multi-family buildings. Each building (A and B) consists of 4 walk-up ‘daylight’ residential units on the basement level. The upper two levels contain 16 residential units. Each building has 4 secure entrances, 3 stairwells, and a riser/utility room. Building C is a 5.5 story, 65’ tall (height definition #1) residential multi-family building. Building C consists of 6 walk up ‘daylight’ residential units on the basement level. The five upper levels contain 60 residential units. The building has 4 secure entrances, a riser/utility room, 3 stairwells and 2 elevators (1 gurney), as well as 3,000 SF of interior common usable area.

Translated, the proposal calls for 106 three bedroom/three bath apartments for 318 residents. The development is to have 249 parking stalls, however, the developer claims that only 212 are required. The developer refers to the three buildings as “multi-family” but that is only the zoning term. In fact, the bedrooms are slated to be rented separately at market prices. No family would likely want to live there with hundreds of college students and pay rent separately for three bedrooms/three baths in one unit. See site plan at left.

Site Plan for CityView Dormitory Complex
Site Plan for CityView Dormitory Complex

All documents submitted by the developer can be found on a separate web page created on the City of Bellingham website. There are about three dozen separate documents, some quite lengthy, associated with the application. The developer has had 7 months to prepare his package while the public is presently accorded a mere 14 days to comment. This is patently unjust. The Director of Planning has the authority to extend the minimum comment period (14 days) under current city code ( 21.10.210 Minimum comment period). In fact a letter has already been sent to the Director of Planning to request an extension of the comment period to May 23rd. The letter reads in part:

“Under the provisions of the Bellingham Municipal Code section 21.10.210 Minimum comment period [“The minimum comment period shall be 14 days following the date of notice of application…”] the Puget Neighborhood Association requests the extension of the minimum, 14 day comment period on the applications PDP2019-0015/DR2019-0036/CAP2019-0037/SEP2019-0039 to 30 days to end on the 23rd of May 2020.

The development in question is a particularly complicated project with submissions (several dozen documents) in a number of categories that require sufficient time on the part of the public and the Puget Neighborhood Association to study and provide informed comments, as well as to consult if need be with legal counsel and informed experts. The developer has had multiple extensions to his application for a project permit over a period of 7 months. Fairness also calls for ample time for public comment.”

A group of nearly 100 Puget and Samish neighbors who oppose the project has already engaged an attorney to contest the density allowance on the parcel. My article of February 14th “Density Allowances for CityView Development Challenged” outlines the lawyer’s rationale.

There will be more to report on this project over the next several weeks. Stay tuned.

Attached Files

About Dick Conoboy

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Member since Jan 26, 2008

Dick Conoboy is a recovering civilian federal worker and military officer who was offered and accepted an all-expense paid, one year trip to Vietnam in 1968. He is a former Army [...]

Comments by Readers

Michael Riordan

Apr 27, 2020

This project obviously assumes that the WWU student population will grow unabatedly. But what if they don’t come back this fall due to the coronavirus and a switch to online classes?

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Dick Conoboy

Apr 27, 2020

 Michael,

Yes, this pandemic will, without a doubt, turn the rental market upside down.  I see a drastic decrease in rental rates.  Whether or not WWU opens in the fall is still up for grabs.  I think not since social distancing is a laughable concept in such a context.  Think what Bellingham might have looked like had the “lockdown” not taken place during spring break.

With many, if not most of the employment opportunities gone, students will not be able to work to provide for rent, tuition, food, etc.  This is based on my judgement that we will not be back anywhere to “normal” until late 2021 and that is my optomistic thought.  Summer school at WWU is to be on line.  To invite thousands of students to return in September as inscouciant “vectors” from all over WA and the west coast would set up the fall and winter as pandemic on steroids. 

The developer of this project seems determined to move forward while damning the obvious torpedoes. 

 

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Dianne Foster

May 04, 2020

Dick,

Do you want residents outside of Puget and Samish neighborhoods to submit comments?

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Dick Conoboy

May 04, 2020

Dianne,

 

Absolutely.  The public comments are open to everyone in the city.  Send comments to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Notice of Application with artist rendering and site plan can be found  here.

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Dick Conoboy

May 05, 2020

The following letter was sent by the York Neighborhood Assocation to the city as a comment on the CityView project:

April 29, 2020

Kathy Bell

Senior Planner

Planning and Community Development Dept.

210 Lottie St.

Bellingham, WA 98225

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address); cityviewcob.org

 

Rick Sepler

Director, Planning and Community Development Dept.

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

 

Dear Ms. Bell and Mr. Sepler:

The York Neighborhood Association Board of Directors (the YNA Board) met on April 29, 2020, via an open public virtual meeting.  An agenda item we discussed was the City View development project in the Puget Neighborhood (PDP2019-0015/DR2019-0036/CAP2019-0037/SEP2019-0039).

Last year, the City Council heard many, many speakers at a meeting regarding this development proposal.  Many residents in the Puget Neighborhood – and others – voiced and continue to have differing views on this project.

Normally, the prescribed process would allow all views to be properly aired and weighed in going forward with this project’s consideration and beyond.

However, public meetings have been banned in the State of Washington by order of the Governor.  The City Council responded by suspending Open Public Meetings as defined by State law and City ordinance.  Instead the Council is conducting its businesses in a manner which expressly precludes the normal and appropriate level of public interaction and does not conform to State law or City ordinance and is outside what is customary, correct or right for a process of this type.

Regarding the State restrictions, the latest pronouncement from the Governor was to extend many of the restrictions until May 31.  The pronouncement gave indication that the restrictions will be reviewed in the interim and could be curtailed sooner or extended further.

Obviously, some City business must proceed adapting to the situation.  However, to bring business of this type and this project forward at this time under these aberrations in process is inappropriate and defies the intent and meaning of an “open public process” and democratic transparency.

Aggravating this situation and further corrupting the letter and intent of the process, the deadline for public comments as announced in the Notice of Application is May 8, 2020, and it is impossible for the neighbors and other members of the public to meet prior to that deadline.

The YNA Board understands there is no intent to abrogate the Open Meetings law or applicable City ordinances, on the part of the Council or the City Administration.  However, regardless of intent, there has been a break from longstanding normal process, without adequate adaptation or accommodation to the exclusion of Puget Neighborhood and Citizens at large from meaningful participation.

For at least all the above reasons, the York Neighborhood Association Board urges the Planning Department and City Council to suspend consideration of this proposal until such time Open Public Meetings resume in a manner adhering to the letter as well as the intent of State law, City ordinance and according to customary precedent.

Further, we urge you to postpone the timeline for this project until after such time as an Open Public neighborhood meeting may be facilitated and held.

Thank You for Your Consideration,

 

 

Thomas R. Scott

President, York Neighborhood Association

On behalf of the YNA Board of Directors

 

CC:       Kevin Jenkins, President, Puget Neighborhood Association

Mayor Seth Fleetwood

City of Bellingham Council Members

Steve Abell, President, Samish Neighborhood Association

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