Years ago, the Greenways Advisory Committee of Bellingham considered buying two lots on Padden Creek adjacent to the Interurban Trail. The thinking at the time ran that there was no need to buy the properties as no one could ever build on them. Then, Bellingham Planning and Community Development created the “Infill Took Kit” with broad variances to allow marginal land to serve housing needs. Now these two properties are being considered for development.
But leaving development questions aside, these two lots fill every criteria for purchase by Greenways. They are on a salmon stream we are restoring for salmon - and the salmon are coming back. Over 50% of these two lots are stream and wetland; they are needed for their side-of-stream vegetation and tree cover for the salmon. A well-used trail touches the property on the opposite side of the creek. Years ago, the city acquired many of the lots along this creek through purchases and swaps with landowners.
These two lots are the only pieces not included in this stream protection.
The Greenways committee has a strategic plan for property acquisition. This property is probably not in that plan. But this is an opportunity for the committee to quickly reconsider and hopefully offer the property owner a purchase price that would equal his net profit were he to develop it out. I’ve checked with a couple developers and the suggested dollar amount seems to be about $115,000. The city could negotiate - and maybe pay a bit more. Numbers talk and a value can be calculated. For our community this would be a bargain.
Mayor Linville and the City Council are the final decision makers. The Greenways Advisory Committee is just that - advisory. If the mayor were to get behind this purchase, action could be quick. The council needs to be convinced, of course, but the criteria all points to this acquisition enhancing the green trail along a salmon steam within the city limits of Bellingham.
From the perspective of the salmon swimming up Padden Creek each year to spawn, it is critical that the stream be in a green corridor, with a proper setback of all development. If we are going to spend our money day-lighting and improving streams for salmon, let’s not create a chain with a weak link. A chain is only as strong…
This is not a report, but a perspective on an issue that could become divisive and have sad results. The property owner simply wants to do something with his property and it is his American right to seek the maximum return on his assets. We should not expect the owner to sacrifice for the common good. We residents of Bellingham have voted to tax ourselves for Greenways in order to buy precious properties for our trails, streams, and forested preserves. We should pay the owner a fair price and make him whole. We, and the salmon, will reap benefits long into the future.