CityView Private Dormitory Proposal Moving Into Third Year Of Consideration

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• Topics: Bellingham, Planning, WWU, Business,

OVERVIEW TO DATE: 

University students in Bellingham who were freshman at the time the CityView private dormitory development was proposed in July 2019 are now moving into their junior year. The wheels of planning turn slowly but not in a manner sufficient enough to put the development out of its lingering misery. They shoot horses don't they?

CityView is a proposal for a 106 unit, 318 bed, market rate apartment complex at the northeast corner of Nevada and Consolidation. Each apartment has three bedrooms, each with an attached bathroom. The builder claims it is an all-purpose multi-family project but the layout belies that assertion. Citizen reaction to the proposal was rapid condemnation that such a large student-oriented dormitory complex would be placed among single family homes. Some of the prior reporting on this seemingly formless project can be found at the links at the bottom of this article.

PLANNING COMMISSION SPECIAL MEETING:

On June 3rd, a special meeting of the Bellingham Planning Commission was held to consider the CityView development proposal and make recommendations to the planning director. Written public comment as well as residents' oral testimony were reviewed during the meeting and the following items were highlighted for the planning director in making further decisions with respect to the application.  Click here to review the entire document RECORD OF PROCEEDINGS OF THE PLANNING COMMISSION (June 3, 2021):

  " -Drainage and Stormwater Runoff – 1) Ensure that cumulative impacts are considered; 2) ensure the adequacy of the scope of review; and 3) ensure the adequacy of any technical responses to the proposed design of the system meets or exceeds all adopted standards. 

    -Critical Areas and Geological Hazards - Consider both slope stability and seismic activity and implement appropriate measurements [sic] to address them. 

    -Traffic and Pedestrian Safety – 1) Assess consistency with the City’s climate goals and policies as it relates to transportation; 2) assess the demands and limits of multi-modal accessibility to the site and the plausibility of multi-modal use; 3) ensure adequacy of street infrastructure; 4) clarify why one traffic standard is chosen over another; 5) ensure that fair-share contributions are provided; and 6) consider parking demand based on anticipated demographics. 

    -Project Scale – Consider the concerns raised related to: 1) the adequacy of the transition and separation between the proposed project and the adjacent uses; 2) the adequacy and applicability of the multifamily design guidelines when applied to this circumstance – specific to the intent to provide a better transition between uses when they are dissimilar; and 3) acknowledging the contextual use patterns – can the scale and transitional impacts in the neighborhood be adequately mitigated to an acceptable level. 

    -Parking – 1) Assess the adequacy of the provided off-street parking to accommodate likely demand and use and consider appropriate ways mitigation measures [sic]; and 2) consider requiring the project to enhance and encourage multi-modal use through incentives or other appropriate methods. 

    -Comprehensive Plan Consistency – 1) Assess the comprehensive plan consistency with attention specifically directed to the friction between needing to separate because of dissimilar scale and the desire to build integral neighborhoods that are connected. 

    -Social Behaviors (noise, garbage, parking) – 1) Assess the adequacy of solid waste and recycling facilities; 2) assess the rules related to discouraging or prohibiting disposal off-site; 3) consider strategies that can be implemented on-site to minimize some of the adverse effects; and 4) evaluate use terms for the open-space so that it minimizes off-site disruption.

    -Housing Affordability – Encourage alternative floor plans to accommodate a range of current and future uses. A third Request for Information (RFI) to the CityView developer has been issued by the Planning Department.  Dated June 24th, the developer was granted up to 120 days to reply (approximately October 21st)."  

RESULTS FOLLOWING THE PLANNING COMMISSION RECOMMENDATIONS:

Subsequently, an additional Request for Information (RFI) was issued by the City based upon elements surfaced at the Planning Commission meeting. This latest RFI includes Action Items for the following issues:

Residential Use - The City is again requesting the CityView developer to “Submit a detailed response how the proposal with its unit layout is anticipated to function.” In other words, is it a “purpose-built,” student dormitory or a multi-family apartment building? 

Planned Development (Parking/Bicycle Storage) - The City is requesting the CityView developer to, “Revise the proposal to increase the proposal’s availability of both vehicular and bicycle parking.” 

Planning Commission Recommendation (Parking) – The Planning Commission, “identified parking as a substantial planning issue and matter of public interest and recommended the Planning Director assess whether the number of proposed parking spaces is sufficient to accommodate the likely demand and use of the proposal.” 

The City demands that the CityView developer, “provide a parking demand analysis,” which, “evaluates the proposal with an occupancy consisting of college students.”  Alternatively, the applicant “may provide a market study,” that will be used “to establish the anticipated occupancy percentages of the various demographics discussed in this notice that could occupy the proposal.” 

NEXT STEPS

The developer must respond to the latest RFI for the application process to continue. While the developer has until October 21st, he can respond at any time before that date. “Within 14 days of submitting the above information, the City will either determine that the information is sufficient or specify in writing what additional information is required. If the information is sufficient, processing of the application(s) will resume in accordance with BMC 21.10.”

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Go to the CityView website (maintained by the City) at CityView - 4413 Consolidation Avenue for all project Documents and Comments to date.

Planning Department Director Rick Sepler, who ordered the special meeting of the Planning Commission, retired June 30th. The decision will fall to a future planning director. However, there will not be an interim director appointed. The City will reportedly rotate amongst several Planning Department senior leaders, each having the assignment of “director” for approximately five weeks. How this lack of permanent leadership at the top of the Planning Department will affect the decision on this project is not clear.

Questions? Contact the residents' CityView Working Group by emailing Puget Neighborhood Working Group.

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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 [...]

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