The city assured homeowner Richard Sullivan, 77, that their construction would not touch his property. They have assured him of this for the past couple years as they planned the daylighting of Padden Creek and the construction of a bridge over the stream they will divert between Sullivan's home and Fairhaven Parkway. Specifically, project planner and stormwater manager for Bellingham Public Works, Bill Riley, assured Sullivan he could continue to use his driveway and home during construction and that the new creek would not interfere with his home.
Standing beside his house in the photo above is Richard Sullivan - Sully to all who know him in the Happy Valley Neighborhood. More photos, below, show the construction site from different angles. What cannot be shown are the minor earthquakes that have been occurring as heavy equipment opened a huge area within three feet of his home and approximately 14 feet onto his property.
The city has been planning this project for 10 years, thinking they can squeeze a new Padden Creek between the parkway and Sullivan's home, plus put a bridge over the creek between his driveway and the parkway. At least that's what Riley assured Sullivan. At pre-construction meetings, many locals repeatedly expressed skepticism that Sullivan's home would not be impacted. Riley was disdainful of the concerns. The city signed contracts with Sullivan, paying him to use the alley easement running to within about 10 feet of his home, again, insisting they would not touch his property. Over the summer, the crater got bigger, huge excavators parked along his driveway and Sullivan stopped using it. His home has been buffeted with minor earthquakes for a couple of weeks now.
As far back as two years ago, some of us in Happy Valley urged the city to buy Sullivan out and give themselves enough room to make a decent channel and embankment for the creek. It seemed the city - in the person of Riley - wanted to cut corners and save costs. Through the entire half mile of daylighting the creek, the narrowest part will be the culvert/bridge at 22nd Street, next to Sullivan's home. The daylighting is supposedly designed to handle a “100 year flood” but the city's own study shows the bridge will not accommodate that - which means Sullivan's home will flood. The rest of the creek appears able to handle the 100 year event.
In response to Sullivan's complaint regarding the excavation of his property, Bill Riley suggested Sullivan sue Strider Construction, the company awarded the daylighting contract. Sullivan pointed out that his contract was with the city, not Strider, and he assumed Strider was working under the city's direction.
Richard Sullivan would like to be bought out so he can move. He has talked to the city about it and they are apparently considering it. Currently, they are assuring him they will completely restore the property, but have yet to put anything in writing. Ted Carlson, Public Works Director, refused to comment for this article. Until the mayor intervened, Riley was refusing Sullivan's phone calls.
Richard Sullivan has tried to accomodate the city. In return, the city has deprived him of the use and enjoyment of his home this summer. Local residents questioned the city's claims that construction activity would not interfere with Sullivan's home and property. Now they question the city's calculations that the creek will not interfere with Sullivan's life and home in the future.