A group of already very perturbed neighbors arrived at the neighborhood meeting required in the pre-application stage of the development of CityView apartments located about 5 blocks east of the Lincoln Park and Ride lot. Morgan Bartlett, the developer, quickly realized what he was up against as he attempted to brief this project. (See my earlier article on this project: Another Attempt to Develop the Hawley Tract in the Puget Neighborhood)
He did not even get past the first briefing board when the deluge of questions began. The question of the evening was, “Is this being built for student housing?” Bartlett’s answer was that he had not yet decided. It went downhill from there. The building looked like a dorm, walked like a dorm and quacked like a dorm. It was, alas, a dorm. Quack! Most of the 50+ people present were veterans of the now defunct dormitory project called University Ridge who knew what to ask and were insistent and persistent.
Apparently anticipating the ire of the group, the city planning staff was out in force with Director of Planning Rick Sepler, Manager of Development Services Kurt Nabbelfeld, and Senior Planner Kathy Bell all in attendance.
Most notably, it appears that this will not be a Type III process that goes before the hearing examiner… unless the planning staff discovers, once the official application to build is received, that a variance of some sort would be needed to move forward. What this means is that the planning director will have approval authority as provided by city code and the Type I and II processes. , only written comments, within a 14 calendar day window. When that comment period takes place depends on the developer’s submission of a complete package. The decision can be appealed but the appellants must be prepared to open their wallets. Money talks in Bellingham.
The developer will do the building construction and will operate the apartment complex after completion with a 24/7 management office. Quack! He has planned for 400 parking spaces to avoid the issue brought up last time about residents/guests parking in the neighborhood. Quack! Concern was expressed about the roof deck and attendant noise/partying. Again, sounds more like a dorm than a normal apartment building. Quack! He expects the traffic study to be done in the next few days. Many were concerned that the study was not done while WWU classes were in session. He could not answer the question about when the traffic survey was done. More to be seen. Quack!
There will be 136 three bedroom units (408 bedrooms total) of an A and B version. Each bedroom will have its own bathroom. Quack! Rates will be at market and likely about $2100 per apartment or $700 per bedroom (unfurnished). He expected the building to be ready late 2020 or in 2021. The more this looked like a student dorm, the more Bartlett declined to characterize it that way. Quack! Quack!
Many homeowners had concerns about the proximity of the building and parking lot on the west side to the homes on Nevada and Marionberry and about water runoff from the impervious surfaces to be created. The hill behind the proposed development (along Puget St.) is at 40% grade and the ground is a sieve. As far as city water delivery, one resident complained of already low water pressure and the eventual effect on overall water pressure. Bartlett agreed to re-look at his project with the neighbors concerns in mind, but after all, that is what the meeting was supposed to be about in the first place, according to city code. In reality, he doesn’t have to change a thing unless and until the city tells him to do so.
Unfortunately, this monolithic, 5-6 story edifice will be yet another ugly stick building, regardless that the developer calls it a “podium building.” These wretched buildings now proliferate throughout Bellingham adding insult to injury. (The “Stick”-ification of Bellingham)
Quality of life suffers, but with respect to the city code, like a bullet, it pays no mind. Imagine 400 students being plopped down a hundred feet from your residence. Not illegal but… City hall says “suck it up.” Got it?
You can add your comments or express your concerns about this project to Kathy Bell (at firstname.lastname@example.org). She is the responsible planner and must ensure we get prompt notification of the developer’s final packet. Although another neighborhood meeting is not required, the developer seemed to agree to have one. But we shall see. Stay tuned.