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Bellingham Herald Errors With "Homes Per Acre"Numbers
Well, most people we've talked to want to give credit to theHerald for actually trying to cover an issue in depth. On Sunday, Oct20, a special section focused on growth problems in our county. Thefront page had photos of different neighborhoods of Bellingham andshowed the "homes per acre" for each, plus the proposed density ofhomes per acre for the proposed Chuckanut Ridge development on theSouthside.
The numbers absolutely did not make sense. How could the Birchwoodneighborhood, known for its spacious backyards and quite streets,have a density the same as apartment complexes? Why it looked likethe Chuckanut Ridge development would be more open and spacious thanmost of Bellingham.
Where did the numbers come from? We called the reporter.She could not say for sure. Different plans and studies. One from1980. She said the Chuckanut Ridge Developer told her of some andsuggested she include the Happy Valley numbers, which he said had thehighest density in the city. He suggested the 21st Street studenthousing section to her. So, she included a "portion" of Happy Valley- 21st Street - but labeled it "Happy Valley" because it is in thatneighborhood.
Why label it "Happy Valley" when it is only the student housingon 21st street? Well, she told us that the density varied a lotand so they tried to include representative examples. We were toldthe Herald did not intend to mislead readers by mislabeling thephotos.
So - we checked with the Bellingham Planning Office. They providedus with a table of neighborhood home densities. Dated the end of1992.
homes per acre
Official Planning Dept
homes per acre
Now, these official figures are almost 4 years old. But, thingshaven't changed that much. They reflect average neighborhooddensities.
We don't blame the developer for suggesting his numbers to theHerald - he is just a very smart guy who is trying to get hisdevelopment approved. If he can work with a Herald reporter to helpshape a special supplement in the Herald showing his project in agood light, more power to him. Since his development will have thedensity of apartment complexes, and will destroy a pristine woodland,he needs all the help he can get. Now, he can come back at us withlow density numbers for the "South" neighborhood where hisdevelopment is located. The problem with that is it will not reflectthe density of his development and that is what the concern is allabout.
There are no official numbers for Chuckanut Ridge as it is notbuilt yet. The planned density is easy enough to figure. The presentplan by the developer calls for 1,464 homes on 51.5 acres for adensity of 28.5 homes per acre. The developer got the figure of14.5 by including the 44.5 acres of swamp that he cannot build in. Ifwe calculate home densities in this way for Bellingham then ourofficial density numbers become even lower. For instance, HappyValley would drop from 4.5 to 3.9 homes per acre. So, whether we take14.5 or 28.5, this still leaves the Chuckanut Ridge development at 4to 10 times the density as any neighborhood in Bellingham. The Heraldwould have us believe the development density is much less than mostBellingham neighborhoods.
Come on Herald, you can do better. We in Bellingham dependon the Herald for our basic community information. While we applaudthe Herald for taking an in depth look at a local issue, there is noexcuse for such gross errors. The Herald has the habit of believingthe "facts" given it by large corporations, developers and governmentagencies. This habit led the Herald to be wrong about the Port ofBellingham information for over a year until the Kap scandal broke in1991. We are not suggesting the Herald purposely prints wronginformation. It is rather that they are easily duped. So comon, EvanMiller, tell your reporters to check the facts before runningstories.
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