There should be commemorative marble arches placed at entry points of Bellingham's city limits. Replacing the now banal sobriquet, “City of Subdued Excitement,” each arch should be engraved with:
NO PROJECT TOO ABSURD
In this instance, it is the case of the CityView private student dormitory project. Its 106 three-bedroom, three-bathroom apartment units will have shared kitchens and living areas. They will be rented out by the bedroom, likely in the range of $800-$900 per bedroom, or a neat $9,600-$10,800/year/bedroom. How does that work as family housing? Got an extra $30,000 per year your family is not using? No matter. It does not stop the developer from insisting the layouts will appeal to a broad range of singles and even refugee families. (The developer really wrote that!)
[NB: Some background on CityView can be found below under Related Links].
But let's cut to the chase. After almost three years and several Requests for Information (RFIs) from the city to the developer for clarification purposes, the Bellingham Planning Department, on February 9th, finally issued a Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance (MDNS) on the developer's responses to the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) questionnaire. The report can be found at CityView Mitigated Determination of Non-significance
The Planning Department states, “This MDNS is issued under WAC 197-11-350; the lead agency will not act on this proposal for 14 days from the date of issuance. Anyone wishing to comment on this threshold determination is invited to submit written comments to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5:00pm on 2/23/2022.” The complete file including referenced documents can be found at Current Planning Notices (cob.org). Scroll down to Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance SEP2019-0039 4413 Consolidation Ave.
The Washington State Department of Ecology states, “The State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) process identifies and analyzes environmental impacts associated with governmental decisions. These decisions may be related to issuing permits for private projects.” And, my friends, this is a private project through and through. It's all about money.
- This Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance is the Planning Department's statement that for the CityView project environmental impacts have been considered and determined to be non-significant (with several exceptions where further mitigation is necessary)
- Once issued, a fourteen-day Public Comment period begins. This will be the only opportunity to respond to the SEPA report with your comments!
- After the comment period, ending February 23rd, the city will decide whether to finalize the SEPA report and proceed with the project approval process.
For those interested or incensed by this continuing absurdity, there are some steps you can still take to bring back reason and stop this project:
- Review the SEPA report found at SEPA Checklist (cob.org)
- Prepare your SEPA comments (see the example SEPA Comment below)
- Submit your comments at Public Hearing Testimony - City of Bellingham (cob.org)
Remember, every comment represents a concerned citizen. It is important for our elected officials and city administration to understand that this issue is significant not only for the neighbors in the immediate vicinity of CityView but for all residents who may soon find themselves under assault by a similar project next door.
If you have questions, please contact the CityView neighborhood working group by email: Puget Neighborhood Working Group