Eleven days - 11 days - for the public to comment on a huge neighborhood impacting building project. March 28 to April 11 - with 4 days being weekends. The Sunnyland folks are only learning this weekend what ends on Monday.
The Bellingham planning department appears to be shorting the public process for the new Options High School on Franklin Street in the Sunnyland Neighborhood. Why? Well maybe because it is so much bigger than the neighbors were told it would be. It is over twice as large as they were told in the past.
Here are some concerns. These need public comment and public explanations.
- The plan is to school 400 students, not the 150 students that residents were told
- Parking will be less than 70 spaces and handicapped will be 3 or 4 - violating laws. This will flood the residential streets with student, faculty and staff cars.
- The bicycle path will be vacated and the school constructed on it. It will not be replaced.
- Part of Franklin Street will be vacated.
- There seems no outside areas for a school with 400 students aged 16 to 21.
The real deceptions are coming from the Bellingham School District and the superintendent Greg Baker. They have not told the residents the truth about this project for months. Now it appears the plan is the city and school district will not have to deal with the public. The public never really knew of the public comment period. Notices were sent to a very small area and late in the time period.
What needs to be done.
Mayor Kelli Linville should be contacted. She is the boss of the planning department. She can tell them to run a full, legal and informative public process. All others - council members included - can only request she order planning to open up this process to the public. Phone: 778-8100 and email email@example.com
There appears to be no information online at the city planning website. The public notice simply says one needs to visit city hall and request to view the documents at the Permit Center.
Normally when a project is rushed and public notice is minimized, there are bad impacts being hidden. Part of this hidden project is the very public notice itself. The text of the specifications is so small it can not be easily read. It may be 4 point type. Yeah, they obeyed the law by including the specs - but they hid them in tiny text.
Maybe this project will not have huge negative impacts. Well that needs to be explained in an open public process. A decent amount of time and full specs on the project are needed. Neither are present for this project. Look at that drawing at the top of this article. What if that were being planned in your residential neighborhood. Can you even make sense of it?
The architect did not even indicate where North is. (Corrected - as north is showing, but also very small.) Nor provide enough street information so a person can locate the project without a lot of study. They should be ashamed. Zervas is a reputable firm, so perhaps they were asked to provide a minimal drawing with text too small for reading.
I was phoned this weekend about this. I drove over to Sunnyland and walked the area and talked with residents. As the need is for the mayor to extend the comment period, I am writing and posting this Sunday evening. On Monday I will be at city hall trying to verify this information and learn more. So, this article is being thrown together as time is of the essence, so some of this may not be 100% correct. But the thrust of the article is the important issue: the residents did not know of the immensity of this project and need more time to learn and comment.