B’ham Planning set to allow Stebner to build virtually in Padden Creek

Update: comment extended to May15 for requesting public shorelines hearing, EIS, and public hearing - else city poised to approve townhouses by Derek Stebner be build virtually in Padden Creek.

Update: comment extended to May15 for requesting public shorelines hearing, EIS, and public hearing - else city poised to approve townhouses by Derek Stebner be build virtually in Padden Creek.


Update, Wed, April 25 noon.

The comment time for this development will be restarted next Tuesday, May 1 and continue through Tuesday, May 15. This is according to an email from the planning department this morning. New legal notices will be posted showing the legal address that had been omitted from the notices that expired yesterday. And signs will be posted both where passersby can see them on Donovan and also on the lots themselves which are isolated next to the Padden Creek.

The city notices were illegal and once the public was aware of that, the city was forced to re-post. The “new” addresses are not yet legal addresses and thus cannot be used as the legal locations of the two lots proposed for development. Posting the notice only on the lot at Donovan and 8th led most everyone to think the development was there and not a block away on Padden Creek. Thus, no neighborhood concern or awareness by any of the public. One can believe what they want about possible motivation for this error.

Between now and May 15, comments need to be submitted that substantiate the need for a full Shoreline Hearing and possibly an Environmental Impact Study. Included should be a geological study as this whole embankment sloughs off into the creek. This is a sensitive salmon stream where the shoreline needs to be preserved, not have 30 foot high buildings built within 30 to 50 feet of the stream.

Greenways considered buying these two lots years ago at a bargain price but decided against it thinking they would never be developed anyway. This was related to me by a former Greenways board member who was on the board at that time. Indeed, perhaps now is the time for Greenways to offer to buy these from Stebner and protect the creek. If we expect to protect our streams we should do it with community dollars and not expect a private landowner to sacrifice their property for the public good.

Original article below posted Mon, April 23 at 5 pm.

The Bellingham Planning Department is about to approve the development of two large rental townhouses on two lots that are halfway into the flood plain of Padden Creek. This is in the Fairhaven Neighborhood of south Bellingham. Derek Stebner, a developer well known in Bellingham, is behind the townhouses by way of an LLC based in Scottsdale, Arizona. ​

While other developers of property next to Whatcom and Padden creeks are required to have setbacks of 100 feet from such shoreline flood areas, city planning is tripping all over itself to make adjustments and exceptions to allow Stebner to build.

Seemingly to disguise this proposal, the city has changed the numbers and street addresses for these properties. Since Fairhaven was platted by Dan Harris in the 1800s, these properties have been on the Larrabee Avenue right of way. To this day, according to the county assessor’s records, the properties are listed as 800 and 810 Larrabee Avenue. But the city fire department has changed the addresses to 8th street - 1507 and 1509 8th Street. Funny that 1509 8th Street does not touch 8th Street, much less front on 8th Street. This project was hidden in plain sight. So, although many people saw the development application weeks ago, we thought it was a block south at the corner of 8th and Donovan. Fooled us.

The reason given for the change is bogus: that it is to allow the fire department to find the locations. It’s bogus because there are six homes on this alley with addresses on Larrabee - and have been for over 100 years. So has the fire department been in the dark and potentially unable to find the six other homes for the past 100 years? Naw. Our firefighters know their city streets and buildings. This address change is all a shadow game by city hall.

This morning, I learned of the new numbering. This is just one day before the comment time expires. I have written the city asking that the comment period be extended at least two weeks while we inform people of just where this project is actually located. I encourage any others who have a concern about this building virtually in - and almost literally in - Padden Creek to also quickly ask for an extension of comment time. Bellingham city hall has developed a sad concept of public process under Mayor Linville. Hopefully, this can be reversed.

If some think the actual development of this property, done correctly, can protect the creek - and if they think Stebner is the responsible type of developer to do what he says he will do to protect the creek - then an open public process with shoreline hearings and environmental evaluation of the site should not be a concern. Let the proposal be put to the public for discussion and feedback.

The image above is a screen shot of the city’s own GIS online CityIQ system. The maroon is the creek bed and normal high water each year, and the pink is the 100 year flood plain. The outer line of this is supposed to be the starting point for a 75 or 100 foot setback for any construction.

If you are concerned, please send an email to ssundin@cob.org requesting the comment period be extended two weeks and that a shoreline hearing and an EIS be required.

Attached is a 10 point comment by the immediate neighborhood Drue Robinson that explains what is so wrong with this project. It was Drue’s work that led to informing the rest of us about this project.

Attached Files

About John Servais

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]

Comments by Readers

Dick Conoboy

Apr 24, 2018


Thanks for your work on this although in a more sane world the Fairhaven Neighborhood Association should have been all over this  project from the very beginning.  All association presidents and Mayor’s Neighborhood Advisory Commission (MNAC) representatives receive copies of these project notices but where was the Fairhaven Association?  Sleeping. 


John Servais

Apr 24, 2018

Yes, where was the Fairhaven Neighborhood Association on this?  This application was filed on March 5.  Were they also thinking it was on the corner of Donovan and 8th - a block away and far from Padden Creek?  This is their neighborhood.  I understand Drue tried to alert them.  She lives next door to this and knew well where it was to be.  She spent weeks researching for her comments to Planning.  See the pdf link above - just below the article

And where was the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement group?  Why the radio silence until yesterday from everyone except Drue Robinson?  My article explains why NWCitizen missed this.  Were all who normally would raise the awareness of this development also thinking this was at Donovan and 8th?  Anyone know?



Tim Paxton

Apr 25, 2018

Nice work Nwcitizen readers!

Who ever did the fake Public Notice on this land use permit scam needs to be re-deployed out to the general labor pool, and then face criminal charges.    

Taxpayers have put more than $9 million into restoring this Creek for salmon and one Planner can destroy that effort with a dubious effort to bypass public notice or review.

This type of Public Notice  process abuse is constant and reflective of the Mayor’s office and City  Council continued contempt of the public.    As long as there are no consequences for Planning to do this, they will continue.


Vince Biciunas

May 01, 2018

Guys, I hate to pick at scabs, but you could be more careful about the accusations you post here.

Fairhaven Neighbors knew about this pending application as of last summer, discussed it at our January, February, and April meetings, shared with the neighborhood contact list the dates and times of the pre-app meetings, and hosted Senior Planner Steven Sundin at our April 4th meeting.  Our email and nextdoor and facebook communications went out monthly to those who are signed up for messages. We fought this battle back in 2014 when Stebner tried to  put in a four-plex, and we sent an official letter to object to this iteration too. No one was confused about where the property corners were located. And no one is confused about the threat to our salmon stream, Padden Creek and its wetlands, nor the threat of a geologically unstable bluff.

It’s true in general, that some people only show up to meetings when some crisis affects them directly. That’s a conundrum that neighborhoods and volunteer groups deal with universally. But you can’t say ‘we didn’t know.’ And you can’t say we didn’t do anything about it.


Dick Conoboy

May 01, 2018


I am not in the Fairhaven Neighborhood but I too knew about this months ago and even met with Drue Robinson to review the project which is directly behind her home.  Even so, when I got the Notice of Application several weeks ago, I did not react to it as I thought, given the not-yet-approved address, that the notice was about the property at the very corner of 8th and Donovan which is also undeveloped.  Therein lies some of the confusion.

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