Perspective: Greenways could buy Padden Creek property

• Topics: Bellingham, Environment,

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.

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

Tip Johnson

May 04, 2018

The proposed development immediately abuts the minimum required setback from Padden Creek - one half the recommended setback.  There is evidence that sloughing from these very lots changed the course of Padden Creek to the opposite side of the flat floodplain on the valley floor.  The prior streambed as depicted on older data sets is still visible on the ground directly below the subject properties.  So redirected, the creek is now working on undermining the opposite banks.  It is only a matter of time before sloughing there pushes the creek back toward the prior location, leaving the proposed development completely within the minimum required setback.  That’s planning!!???

It is remarkable the lengths the city has gone to to favor this development proposal, literally disadvantaging every other property nearby to benefit this one.  Other properties have been required to add covenants to their property guaranteeing no development on much more stable sites, farther from the creek.  Changing addresses to qualify the proposal for special exceptions will adversely affect property owners who will not receive notice of opportunities based on record of their address of longstanding.  For instance, after a year the Post Office will discard mail to the old address that could be a time sensitive notice of heirship from a distant relative.  Correspondence from anyone they fail to advise of the change will get dumped.  After 100 years it is suddenly urgent to change the addresses?  And only a coincidence that it is crucial to making the proposal possible?



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