City Moves Forward With ASB Interim Trail Before Waterfront Plan Approval

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I am glad that I reviewed the city's public notice website tonight. The city just submitted a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit and scheduled a public hearing on July 16, 2012 before the Shoreline Committee, (a sub-committee of the COB Planning Commission), for development of the ASB interim trail. That is the trail that the mayor is promoting on her lunch hour tours scheduled for this month. A few months ago, the city council approved the funding for this project to move forward.

So what is so unusual about this? The Waterfront District Sub-Area Plan, and related documents and regulations, have not yet been finalized. The waterfront plan is scheduled to go before the city council in August, during which time there will be a public hearing. At least in theory, the public process is still open, and the waterfront plans are subject to change.

It is never OK to prefund and preapprove projects that are still subject to public process and final approval. The city council and the mayor have made a mockery of the public process. Why would citizens participate in a public hearing for the draft waterfront plan when waterfront projects are already moving forward? And there is no need to rush on this project. The port has no plans to develop the marina for at least two decades.

The ASB interim trail reflects the city's concession to the port's desire for a luxury marina. The ASB is currently used for industrial stormwater treatment, and having to replace stormwater infrastructure is a large and unnecessary public expense. Nor is an asphalt trail on the perimeter of a contaminated industrial site what the public had in mind when it requested shoreline parks and restoration. The consultant's report on habitat impacts overlooks important considerations that could harm aquatic species. Clearly, this is an issue that still needs public discussion. However, that is an option that the city has now taken off the table.

It is important for people to understand that what is happening here is not normal or appropriate. Master planning should precede project development. The city’s actions show disregard for the public and the public process.

About Wendy Harris

Citizen Journalist • Member since Mar 31, 2008

Comments by Readers

Tip Johnson

Jul 06, 2013

To repeat myself:

The City and Port have conspired ‘under color of law’ to criminally defraud, steal and wreck hundreds of millions worth of publicly-owned, integrated water supply, treatment and discharge system assets.

This existing infrastructure could support living wage jobs, protect the nearshore habitat, save the public millions in costs of storing combined sewer overflows, help prevent further expansion costs at Post Point Wastewater Treatment Plant and serve as a central stormwater treatment facility for Bellingham’s most urbanized area.

Treatment capacity squandered to build a marina will eventually have to be replaced by Bellingham’s sewer system ratepayers at much higher future costs. The combined direct, hidden and lost opportunity costs of this fraud amount to more than two billion dollars.

Not one official from the Port or City will insist on an honest environmental review that would evaluate these concealed costs or the utility of the publicly owned assets they intend to destroy. Requests from both citizens and the DOE have been ignored. 

It is not acceptable for public officials to steal hundreds of millions of dollars from citizens nor to intentionally conceal a scheme that will cost them hundreds of millions more.  We may have to send a few of these thieves to jail in order to turn this waterfront plan around.

United States Code
Section 1001. Statements or entries generally (a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully - (1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact; (2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or (3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry; shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.