The city published a Notice of Application and Optional DNS* Process on October 5, 2016 with a comment period of only two weeks for a logging operation of a substantial nature on Samish Hill. The operation, under a Type II process (administrative decisions), would remove 30% of the trees in a 110 acre, single-family zoned area over a period of 4-6 weeks involving 25-30 log-truck loads per week, i.e., from 100 to 180 loads over the period of the operation. That represents from 200 to 360 individual truck trips if one counts round trips. Access to the logging area would be through Wildwood and Whitewater Drives which are single family residential streets. The clearing operation is essentially one of culling trees for the short term with future plans (not yet specified) for long term development according to the SEPA checklist. Unfortunately, the SEPA checklist found online refers to several other documents (Storm Water Analysis and a Steep Slopes Geotechnical Report) only available at city hall.
The project applicant is the RJ Group for Samish Heights, Inc, a local development firm that is best known presently for the duplex construction in the area of the Fountain District Urban Village and a project of apartments on June Rd. in the Cordata Neighborhood. Their Facebook page describes the company as, “... a small, local development company based in beautiful Bellingham with projects spanning throughout Western Washington State. We specialize in land use planning and development and strive to make our projects environmentally conscious.”
The Notice of Application and Optional DNS process was dated October 5, 2016, however, it is unclear by looking at the city planning notice website the date on which the SEPA checklist, submitted by the RJ Group on May 12, 2016, was made public. It would serve the neighborhoods well if they were informed of such applications and SEPA checklists as soon as the submission is made. The Mayor's Neighborhood Advisory Commission (MNAC), touted by the mayor as a means of enhancing the information flow between the neighborhoods and the city, could easily serve as a venue for announcing such applications by developers. A regular agenda item on the MNAC calendar in which a representative from the Planning Department provide an update of current and planned projects would go a long way to cementing better relationships with neighborhoods who are surprised by short notice requests for comments.
As for now, the Samish Neighborhood Association and the property owners of the homes in the area of the culling operation will have to scramble to read the relevant documents online and, if time allows, visit the permit office at city hall by October 19th. The city can do better.