The CIty Council has just reported, on Channel 10, a decision made in executive session to purchase the Chuckanut Ridge development. This promises to end a debate that has been ongoing since 1981, finally preserving the only property that can expand Fairhaven Park to meet the City's own standard for the area's planned population, the only property that can bridge the park to prior Interurban Trail acquisitions, and the only property that in combination can form a regionally significant gateway to the Chuckanuts. This is vision on a scale with Stanley Park in Vancouver. Kudos to decisionmakers.
Needless to say, I approve, but with reservations. This is the best possible outcome and the highest and best use for a property that has been subject to divisive controversy for over two decades.
When saving important lands from development, arriving on an agreed price is always difficult. The public never wants to spend more than necessary, yet when competing against development, spending more than the developers is inevitable. Perhaps it costs more, but at least the potential is not squandered. We are spending a lot, but I believe time will show the wisdom of today's action. That said, there are still important points to ponder.
The City had a recent appraisal that showed a value of $8.7M. A previous, publicly sponsored appraisal came up with something over $3M. That's a big difference for property on which nothing has changed. Yes, prices went up. But they also came back down. Furthermore, the DEIS for the proposed project showed it was essentially undevelopeable at even half the zoned density. That's what we really need to look at.
The City, through bad public policy and bad (possibly illegal at the time) public procedure, zoned this property at a level of development that eventually proved unsupportable. The City created vast phantom value on this land - value that expanded to $26M before collapsing under the weight of the real-estate bubble to the $8.2M - $8.3M we will now spend. The City refused to follow its own guidelines, giving the project every advantage - even at the risk of public health and environmental protections.
1) Follow zoning procedures for notification, advertisment, and review.
2) Assure consistency with area policies, goals, and objectives.
3) Enforce current regulations for public health and the environment.
4) Don't rush into vesting of private entitlements. Let projects prove their completeness and compliance.
5) Listen to the public, or, “Excuse us, but we live here.” That's what representation means.
Finally, don't be such a weanie. Do some forensic analysis to discover why we spent so much more than should have been necessary. We know someone consolidated this property and pulled a fast one through the Council to get the “magical zoning” first described by former chief City Planner, Chris Spens.
6) When an error in zoning has been made, do not hesitate to reexamine it. That's your job.
What to do ?
7) The City should now issue a subpoena to the State of Delaware to discover the principals of the West Eden Land Development Corporation who assembled and sold this land, with basic entitlements, to the chain of intractable developers who claimed, “We bought density.”
We might find several parties willing to volunrarily contribute generously toward this important public preservation project!
At the end of the day, we have the opportunity to learn from our mistakes, or not. What will it be?
BTW, it's time to vote the primary. Hint: Everyone should do it once!