Former Park Directors Against Park District Proposal

Permalink +

Thu, Jan 31, 2013, 12:36 pm  //  Guest writer

Guest writers Byron Elmendorf and Paul Leuthold provide this jointly written article.  


During our over  60 years working for City parks departments with over 30 years as the Bellingham Parks and Recreation Director, we have always been supportive of funding proposals for improving parks systems.  However, the formation of Chuckanut Community Forest Park District is not a funding option we can support.

Paying off a political loan and promise is not the purpose for establishing a new independent junior taxing district such as the Park District.  This forms another layer of government within Bellingham’s Southside neighborhoods.  We already have citizen input with a City Parks Board and separate Greenway Committee.  Unfortunately they were not involved with the property purchase and loan, or meaningfully consulted on the Park District proposal. The Chuckanut property which the City has acquired at over $8.2 million is the most expensive park land ever purchased.  Yes, it is a special piece of property and the neighbors have fought for many years against any proposed housing development.  The fact that the City did not have the funds to fully fund the acquisition has resulted in the outstanding $3.2 million 5 year loan from the Greenway Endowment Fund which the community tax payers had already supported.  

We think this proposal sets poor public policy in developing special interest districts within our City.  The location of community parks based upon the ability of a neighborhood to pay versus need is not a good community goal.  The selected Southside precincts have always been supportive of past Park funding proposals.  This issue might have a negative impact on future City wide park proposals or waterfront development support. 

These are good folks supporting the Park District and they are trying to fix a complicated future problem.  They have a concern that the City might sell a portion of this property for future community housing needs to pay the debt.  Yet, City regulations would still protect the sensitive areas within the development.  An issue against development in their backyard shouldn’t be a reason for such a funding mechanism like this Municipal Park District.  

We encourage you to support your existing community-wide park system, not establish a new layer of government, by voting NO on the formation of the Chuckanut Park District.

Dan Pike  //  Thu, Jan 31, 2013, 1:16 pm

Since before the City purchased Chuckanut Ridge, many have expressed the belief that the City should not use either additional parks funds, nor place a reliance on future Greeways levies as means with which to pay off the $3.2 million balance of the loan the Council provided, from the Greenways Endowment Fund.  (To be clear, the Greenways Fund is being repaid at the same interest rate as the City would have garnered through its normal approach of investment of the funds in a mix of bonds and other investment instruments.) Another approach recently advocated is the sale of transferred development rights from the site.  Unfortunately, in nearly two decades of attempting to establish a workable TDR program, no working program has ever been established—but now it will magically happen within the next three or four years.

The only workable approaches these folks have been open to are repayment through outside funding—i.e., from non-City sources—or selling off part of the property.  Fundraising for any public purpose is extremely difficult in the current economic environment, and is likely to remain so for some time to come.  The Campaign for the Arts to help with the new museum did not meet original expectations, and is now plagued by unfulfilled pledges, years later.  Another ‘fundraising’ approach is using the Metropolitan Parks District creation to tax ourselves—those of us living in the vicinity of Chuckanut Ridge—to fund the shortfall.  Absent that, the only solution left is selling off enough of the property to pay off the balance.

I have no doubt the latter approach would work.  One developer even approached me when I was in the process of negotiating the purchase from Washington Federal, to see if I would sell him approximately the part mentioned; I declined.  I am not a big fan of backdoor deals, and I also believe this is an integral piece of the overall parcel.

The choice at this point seems pretty clear:  if you think all the property should be preserved, vote yes for the MPD.  If you are comfortable with a significant part of it being sold, and you are against ensuring preservation of the entirety of the property, vote no.

Frank James  //  Thu, Jan 31, 2013, 3:08 pm

It is not surprising that people with centralized power and control would not want to share that power or think that community control or participation democratically is not a good idea.

But why would Bellingham be so special that it could not tolerate a Park District, even one of very limited scope, when Park Districts work very, very well in 80 other places in our state?

It would seem better to listen too the community rather than tell the community what it should want.

The other issue is that development on this parcel will mean significant traffic congestion and a significant increase in the taxes everyone pays for the infra structure. I hesitate to mention the study by Eben Foder that one of our former parks directors responded to very unprofessionally, but what it showed was that the cost of this type of development to all the rest of us is very substantial, likely more than the cost of paying for the land in this case.

This Park District makes sense and the more those that live outside the district tell us that we can not have it the more community members that do will be committed to completion of this long worked toward goal.

Why not listen to the very community that has been very, very supportive of parks and Greenways for years rather than telling them what they need and what is good for them?

Vote in favor of your Park District to preserve the integrity of the Chuckanut Community Forest.

Donald Duck  //  Thu, Jan 31, 2013, 5:43 pm

Yes had the former parks directors been consulted, we could now be enjoying the dismal impacts of the proposed Fairhaven Highlands 739 unit subdivision.

John Watts  //  Thu, Jan 31, 2013, 7:03 pm

I agree with the 2 former Parks Directors, both whom served us very well. Mr James is incorrect; a former public works director responded to the deliberately misleading information providing by Mr Fodor, who was hired by CR advocates to confirm their pre-ordained rhetoric.
The CR acquisition was definitely a ‘political’ decision, aided and abetted by former Mayor Pike and a cabal of Councilmembers who allowed themselves to be pressured and even bullied by CR supporters, some of whom appear often as commenters on this forum.
There is no real problem with allowing the development of about 25 acres of this property, but CR proponents who consider any developer in pejorative terms prefer to continue to hyperventilate and grossly exaggerate their arguments. While the First Amendment does allow wide latitude for free speech, CR advocates have been guilty of grossly misrepresenting their wishes into emotional appeals designed for those ignorant and incurious enough to believe.
I thoroughly detest that type of political tactic and find it difficult to give full credence to those who engage in it. But, it does happen periodically, mostly masquerading as populism and narrow, selfish self-interest. That kind of activity simply degrades our community by diminishing the credibility of elected officials, by bending their judgement to the will of those favoring silly issues of small importance to the detriment of anything more socially important.
I posted a comment in an earlier NW Citizen article called ‘Wise Owl’ on this subject.
It is certainly legal to have a special parks district to pay for overspending on the part of a former Mayor and Council, but there are much more worthy issues and needs that demand our attention and priority.

Wendy Harris  //  Thu, Jan 31, 2013, 7:28 pm

I do not think comparisons to other parks projects reflects well on the City.

Chuckanut Ridge may be the most expensive land every purchased, but it is not the most expensive Parks project. The Cornwall overwater walkway is over $8 million dollars and this Parks Department project creates a concrete pedestrian bridge over tidelands leased from DNR. It duplicates existing transportion routes and is environmentally harmful. It was done in violation of Lummi Treaty rights, and the City has still not obtained tribal concurrence after 2.5 years of negotiation. The Parks Department is raiding Greenway funds for this, and also hired a lobbyist to obtain ear-marked federal funds. And there is more.  The project is peppered with public process violations. 

In contrast, the Chuckanut park protects an important natural resource, purchases actual land, and is being well vetted through the public process. If the park district is approved, it will be pursuant to a democratic process. 

Dudley Evenson  //  Thu, Jan 31, 2013, 9:41 pm

It is interesting to read Brian’s comments. In the 23 years we have been working to save this precious urban forest, Brian never was in favor of purchasing this forest.  I agree with this statement “These are good folks supporting the Park District and they are trying to fix a complicated future problem.  They have a concern that the City might sell a portion of this property for future community housing needs to pay the debt.”  Yes they do which is why this Park District is being proposed.

He also said something else that concerns me and many others “City regulations would still protect the sensitive areas within the development.” In other words, there would be some serious development along Chuckanut Drive that would impinge on the integrity of the property.

He said “An issue against development in their backyard shouldn’t be a reason for such a funding mechanism like this Municipal Park District.”  This is not a Nimby issue. This forest next to the Interurban Trail is used by people from all over Bellingham and is an attraction for out of town visitors to our area. (which helps keep that old economy humming).

Alex McLean  //  Thu, Jan 31, 2013, 10:43 pm

There already is “serious development” spangling Chuckanut Drive—there is a 40+ acre bollard of massive houses directly across the street from this property. I’m no fan of poorly-planned development or even excessively large houses that outstrip our human needs. That said, however, there is a compelling argument that SOME development on this property would not be the environmental apocalypse that proponents have stated it would be. Is there anything wrong with allowing a few more people, perhaps even a few hundred, to live close to Fairhaven’s amenities, close to the abundant trails and parks, and close to these other, blessedly located, houses?

I’ve been beating the drum of economic justice on this proposal for the past week—months if you include my first e-mails to Dan Remsen—and I’ve heard no response for why people like me, living in the shadows of I-5 and encroaching apartment towers, should have to pay for this minor and unequivocally constrained and environmentally ham-strung sliver of land.

Let’s start hearing a debate about infill and presume that at least ONE of these proponents understands that people are still having babies and, more than ever, people want to move to and live in urban areas and not in far-flung suburbs.

Lastly, perhaps a TDR would not work—I am happy to defer to mayor Pike’s analysis on this—but I am guessing that if proponents put a tenth as much effort toward allowing a TDR to happen as they have invested in thwarting Chuckanut Ridge’s absurdly high zoning overlay ... well, something would happen. From the era of Responsible Development Now! to this sad juncture, the one thing proponents have proven is that they can lobby hard and effectively to get their way.

Unfortunately, while I have PRECISELY ZERO gripes with protecting this forest, the proponent’s way is going to plunder my wallet for their special interest cause and, very likely, sour any future chances for Happy Valley to see an expansion of its current trail and parks allotments. Were it my money to fritter away, and if $800-$1,200 didn’t sound like a lot of money to me, I would do what I have done in the past; give it to a proper conservation organization and know that they will do nothing with it other than fixate on ecosystem protection for maximum preservation impact and minimum financial expense. Save your trees with your dimes. Quit doing what realtors try to do to me when, ever ambitiously, they claim my freeway-bound hovel is somehow magically “in Fairhaven.”

Although the forest is decent enough, this debate isn’t about an ecosystem or about providing significant additional trails or parks to the already opulently green maps of this area. This is, no matter what, an urban area with a former state highway ripping through it. Proponents need to let some of the air out of their “ecosystem” rhetoric and answer the other questions of urban infill and economic justice that this Zero Development rhapsody of theirs implies.

Wendy Harris  //  Fri, Feb 01, 2013, 12:58 am

Alex, I suggest you let the air out of your “economic justice” rhetoric. It is really offensive when a concept like economic justice is distorted to justify homes for the affluent and profits for developers.  I sincerely doubt that low income, handicapped or marginalized people will be moving into new homes at Chuckanut Ridge. Under federal law, economic justice considerations specifically apply to tribes. Economic justice is better served by protecting biodiversity, water quality and ecosystem functions necessary for native fish species and Lummi treaty rights in Bellingham Bay.

Alex McLean  //  Fri, Feb 01, 2013, 3:49 am

You are right, Wendy, it is offensive. Happy Valley is bailing out the wealthiest neighborhoods in the county for their pet project. I find it offensive that they want me to pay for their development firewall—your sacred forest—while my neighborhood, and its salmon streams, gets hammered by ever-increasing housing. I don’t care two boiled farts what Federal Law says “economic injustice” is. If it tickles you to parse it through Harvard terminology, go ahead. I’m calling it street-by-street and, since I have two eyes, I know what it looks like when I see it.

And you know very well that none of Chuckanut Ridge’s potential development has to look like the mansions across the street. City Council, with heavy pressure from the likes of you and me, could zone it LEED or co-housing or Infill Toolkit or ... what the hell, let’s shoot for the moon and demand LBC.

You are smart enough to understand a map and I’m suspecting that any casual glance at my neighborhood, especially here in the densest tracts of Happy Valley/I-5 corridor, looks radically different from theirs. I’m happy for wealthier people and aspire to be one, but I’m not going to get there by financing their pet unicorn while I live miles away from any prospect of benefiting from it.

As to your resentment over the Overwater Walkway (OWW!), implied by your effort to impugn me with racism for not knowing what “real” economic injustice is, I simply disagree with you there. I think the OWW would be really cool, with minimal impact compared to the millions of pounds of imported rip-rap that BNSF dumps along that shoreline, and it will be an extension of a proven asset to this community.

Except for a portion of the funding, it is largely out of Greenways hands: the OWW is part of the six-year TIP and Public Works is acting on it as a non-motorized element of their process. Honestly, I haven’t followed the details as closely as I should—it just seems really far away from getting built right now. But the central arguments that work on me are that Wharf Street may be vaporized as an on-street crossing (as part of the deal to get BNSF to move the tracks) and, in any case, building other routes of access to Cornwall Beach Park will be a bear: crossing the railroad, alone, is going to be a $multi-million goat-show. Trying to widen an elevated Wharf St. for sidewalks (again, it cannot have a street-level crossing) likewise will cost millions. People will therefore be expected to either drive into or backtrack along the upland trail—a long, long, way if Wharf goes away—to gain access to the meat of the park. Put in this context, your notion that it is a redundant trail only looks correct now, this minute, but will look like poor planning 20-30 years hence. Furthermore, the current waterfront plan is mulling some sort of high-speed bike lane adjacent to or above the moved tracks. (An “interim commuter bypass trail,” meanwhile, is proposed until the tracks get moved) and this smart transportation option will look really dumb going to a dead-end at a beach when it could be connected to Fairhaven or, jeepers, the densest neighborhood in Bellingham, Happy Valley. With 350,000 annual users on the existing walkway, I would not want to put a price on how valuable this route is to getting people out of their car seats and commuting into downtown or into Fairhaven. Dollar-wise, it is an expensive outlay for a trail. Still, I’m trying to ponder how many users per-dollar we will be buying for this $3.2 million phantom slice of Chuckanut Ridge that we are talking about?

Whatever the tangle is with the Lummis on the OWW, I have no doubt it can be worked out. You, and you alone, will be able to add millions to any settlement scenario by stirring up the waters as you have so successfully done so far. Beware, however, of depriving either the Lummis or this community of a mutual benefit in order to save such an environmentally compromised shoreline: it is not a pristine maritime wilderness due to that railroad, just like Chuckanut Ridge is a lot different than a forest that doesn’t have a roaring former State highway abutting it, and pumping up the costs for something the community wants seems like the same sort of tactics that, um, well ... I’ve heard that real-estate developers do that, as well.

If the inland side is not navigable for fisheries (it seems like it wouldn’t be, but I’ve heard claims to the contrary) then I’m guessing that neither of us are going to cry too hard about creating a de-facto marine preserve within that arc.

Steve Wilson  //  Fri, Feb 01, 2013, 8:18 am

  Well, I guess US Secretary of State William Seward ran up against the same kind of wall when he advocated the purchase of Alaskan territory from Russia in 1867.  Imagine the reasonable arguments presented at that time to avoid spending all that money.
  I also just finished reading The Big Burn and discovered how difficult it was to establish the US Forest Service in the early 1900’s.
  Yes, there are powerful forces working to prevent any and all land acquisition that precludes development.  It’s no surprise that we are seeing it around this initiative to create the Park District.
  There are well intentioned people opposing the creation of this district.  They have come forward advocating many creative alternatives to funding the purchase of this property.  My question to them is this…Will you work diligently and lead the effort to save this land from development if the District is not established?  If so, please state this in public, on this forum and others means of public communication.  I want your personal committment on record, especially Mr. Zaferatos, Mr. Servais and Mr. Geyer.  No wiggle room here guys…I’m asking for your promise to work for NO future development on Chuckanut Ridge for the next five years or until the debt is retired.
  I’ve committed the last eight years of my ‘spare’ time towards this goal.  I’m ready to hand off the baton if this District isn’t created now. 
  Thanks for your kind and immediate attention.

Nicholas Zaferatos  //  Fri, Feb 01, 2013, 7:57 pm

In response to your comment, Steve, where you specifically call out several previous contributors, including myself, let me start by paraphrasing a dangerous maxim, “If you’re not part of [your] solution, you’re part of the problem.”

I tend to refrain from publishing my opinions on blogs, as many authors that offer counter opinions quite often get verbally assaulted, and I hate feeling the need to rebut and further perpetuate antagonism. That’s not the intent of the publishers of open forums like NW Citizen who try to encourage collegial dialogue. It concerns me, Steve, especially in light of having known you for some 40 years and generally sharing a common persuasion on many community issues, that you now refer to me as a “Mr.” as in a “Mr. developer” kind of way,  just because my opinion doesn’t fall squarely in line with your “support without questions asked” position. (On a side note, in fact, I have been a developer, proudly devoting over 20 years in a public development management role in the service of helping Indian tribes move out of persistent poverty to achieve economic self sufficiency). To answer your very pointed challenge to me and others, no, I am not willing to assume responsibility or to devote my next 5 years, and I say this with no “wiggle room”, to working diligently on a financing solution should voters reject the measure, nor would I work to guarantee that no future development occurs on the CR property. Perhaps if I were an adjacent property owner, like you, my position might be far more emotionally charged and hardened.  I believe its squarely the duty of our elected officials to determine a ‘best’ solution on behalf of the broader public interest, and they have committed to this. So why do you ask that of us?

I have opined that exploring more equitable funding strategies that could achieve the common end for preserving this invaluable landscape in perpetuity is the right thing to do. Its really disheartening to be targeted by fellow Southsiders just because I endorse the exploration of alternative solutions.  I’m a big supporter of grass roots movements and of public service, and have devoted a fair share of my time over decades to public service – two plus terms on the planning commission, the board of adjustment, and several other appointed positions. And I have stood up plenty of times opposing what I considered to be “bad” development policies and projects, So please don’t so readily cast me as a pro developer of the “Woods” just because I don’t align with your proposed approach.

The Woods are saved, even though the proponent’s literature leads us to believe this vote is about saving the woods in peril from development. Let’s be a little more honest here. The land is in public ownership. The controversy is about best financing solutions. Don’t so quickly dismiss ideas like TDRs just because its not your preferred option. Yes, it’s a complicated approach, as Dan attests, and has some very tough political obstacles that need to be reconciled, and yes, it would take time and legal effort and money to set up an effective system of development rights exchange, and yes, it requires correcting the imbalance between ‘cheaper’ development choices in rural areas and more ‘expensive’ development choices in town. And let’s not fool ourselves, it would also likely have negative consequences such as raising the cost of housing which runs counter to our public policies encouraging affordable housing. But along with the potential pitfalls, it offers a far more reaching and equitable solution as we enter the new policy arena that emphasizes sustainable urban infill and smart growth – and, without meaning to beat a dead horse, we already purchased, at a premium cost to taxpayers, hundreds of development rights. If we don’t figure out a way to market those development rights through a system of exchanges, well, the taxpayers will have just bought a bunch of assets that will end up worthless. If TDR and PDR programs can work in so many other communities, why should they not work in a progressive community like Bellingham? It should be a city-only program, for in-city transfers, at least at the start.

Let’s not be too overly myopic here. I appreciate how much time you and other movers and shakers have invested in both the earlier oppositional movement to CR development, and in formulating and carrying out an ambitious funding plan. I understand your frustration when neighbors raise questions or suggest counter measures that might derail your preferred solution. And I honestly applaud you for so diligently helping to stop a development that should have never been permitted, as Tip aptly suggests, and bringing forth one solution that, if passed, would permanently settle this issue once and for all. Should the measure pass, I will have no qualms in contributing my share of taxes to repay the fund, because that’s the democratically right thing to do, even though I don’t use the property, nor do I use over 90% of the other great Greenways acquisitions projects. I continue to support Greenways because its programs have been widely supported by the entire community, and they are good for Bellingham. The Municipal Parks District taxing programs is one solution, but there are other solutions, too, that should not be prematurely taken off the table.

Christopher Grannis  //  Fri, Feb 01, 2013, 8:31 pm

The purpose of forming the Chuckanut Community Forest District is to repay the loan acquired to complete the purchase and secure the permanent protection of the park. The candidates for commissioners who want to preserve the forest make this very clear. They are committed to $.28 per thousand assessed valuation for only ten years.

Are community interests special interests? The Park District Proposal gives the community that has been trying for decades to preserve the hundred acre woods the opportunity to tax itself a small amount to do so. People choose to live in SW Bellingham to be close to natural areas and now they have the opportunity to finally secure the forest’s protection for less than many people spend on lattes.

Will City regulations protect the sensitive areas? The Fairhaven Highlands developer planned to remove all of the trees, all of the top soil, and blast the high parts of 60% of the property in order to put up huge multifamily buildings. The City said their regulations would protect the sensitive areas. Not many people fall for that argument.

Yes, good folks are trying to solve a problem that they were asked by the City Council to help solve. The choice is clear. Folks can vote to tax themselves to preserve this ecological treasure, or subsidize high density multifamily development that would severely compromise the Chuckanut Community Forest.

Please vote yes for the Chuckanut Community Forest District.

Delaine Clizbe  //  Fri, Feb 01, 2013, 8:41 pm

With all due respect Mr. Grannis, you paid signature gatherers from Ferndale to get this gem on the ballot.  That is not “community interest”  that is called a Political Action Committee that was put in place by the likes of “Responsible Development” and “ReSources” to ram this thing down our throats.  If you can’t be honest about that…...

Bill Geyer  //  Fri, Feb 01, 2013, 10:42 pm

The situation is not one of promising forever that no development will occur on the Chuckanut Woods site.  That precludes valuable community buildings that may be needed on this site in the future.  An all or nothing approach 60 years ago would have prevented facilities we enjoy today at our major parks – Fairhaven, Cornwall, and Bloedel-Donovan.  We cannot close off opportunities for future generations. 

I also believe any financial solution should be fully explored before a tax is levied.  This includes considering options for selling a portion of the site and/or selling the development rights to another location.  The latter tool is not presently functional due to existing deficiencies in the City code, a condition resolved by code amendments through the regular ordinance process.

However, you and others raise an important point, one I advocated during my 2007 City Council candidacy, and one I maintain today.  Chuckanut Woods’ natural resources must be protected.  Before 2011, the community’s best tool was application of City development regulations to a private sector development proposal.  Now, the citizens own Chuckanut Woods.  We paid for it with our hard earned money paid into Greenways taxes.  We are now in a much stronger position to protect the natural resources. 

It is up to our elected representatives to define the protection.  The City Council, with assistance from the Mayor, can define the exact boundaries of the protected areas.  They can define the exact areas to be sold (if any) for future development.  They can also define the exact number of development rights to sell, and when to enter the market.  In short, our City Charter empowers our elected Council members with the fiduciary duty to properly manage the asset we call Chuckanut Woods for the benefit of all residents.  They have until December 2017 to complete this task.

The Council’s actions to date lead us to the current situation.  Their constituents asked them to buy the site.  They did, with partial payment from their $3,200,000 loan from the Greenways Endowment Fund.  The sale closed, we now own the property.  Unfortunately, some south side neighbors proposed hasty formation of a new taxing district with vast powers to raise taxes to repay the loan.  This is unfortunate as the resulting election (Proposition 1) precludes the measured, informed action required by Council to repay the loan in a timely fashion.  I believe petitioning for this election was premature.  The result is the community is sidetracked into an electoral process when our resources should unify the community towards a solution we can support to the Council.  That measured process would give Council the confidence to take definitive action. 

In plain terms, here is what should occur.  The Mayor and Council should assemble a team of experienced private sector professionals in the appraisal field, real estate development, community planning, banking, site planning and environmental analysis.  The team should include community representatives committed to implementing our Comprehensive Plan.  The task should be to define areas to be protected, developed (if any), the entitlements necessary for each alternative, a strategy to take each one to market, and the prospective economic return.  That is what a professional developer does each day.  It is what I have been doing in various capacities for 35 years.  It is the informed way to achieve our common goal – to protect Chuckanut Woods while creating funds to repay City Council’s loan. 

Steve, we have known each other since my children attended your school almost 25 years ago.  I had the honor of serving as the City’s Planning and Development Director, followed by a successful private sector career since 1991.  My professional skills served many clients to build homes, offices and urban villages in Bellingham.  I built over 100 median priced homes in infill subdivisions, own and manage two wetland sites, lectured at colleges and high schools, served on company boards, and was fortunate to participate in the capital campaign for the Bellingham Food Bank. 

During this time, I had the pleasure listening to community leaders Nick Zaferatos and John Servais and many others.  They taught me (and many others) the value of open discussion to obtain new solutions.  Nick’s comments above attest to his qualities.  His integrity is well known, his professional experience of the highest caliber.  John’s fervor for transparency and quality is equally clear.  These are the skills that will bring a solution to the current financial need.  These are the skills that I will commit to bring to the issue, regardless of the results of the current election. 

Steve Wilson  //  Sat, Feb 02, 2013, 7:54 pm

Thanks for response Nick and Bill.

Nick, sorry to put you on the spot.  I, too, don’t often respond to these forums, but am thankful that NW Citizen insists on identifying writers.  It also helps me to know the commitment level of writers beyond the printed page.  This helps me gauge the likelihood of ideas moving into reality.  I felt like I asked an honest question, and I appreciate your honest reply.

In response to both of your views it’s quite clear that the financing options you are advocating include some that are quite complex and untested here in our locale.  It’s not that they couldn’t work, but in my humble opinion they are unlikely to work given our time frame and the absence of an organized plan, which seems to be the case.  And, in the event that they do work they can be folded into the deliberations of the Park commissioners to reduce the levy accordingly.

In my opinion, looking to City Council for leadership on this issue is misplaced.  Council is not a finite entity over time.  Members change, interests waver, and attention is not easy to maintain over several years.  I strongly believe Council is looking for direction from it’s citizens to resolve this debt issue.

I was not on the committee that reviewed options and prepared the levy to create a Parks District.  However, I do know these people very well and trust their judgement.  I admire their ability to take time from their busy lives, and voluntarily commit to this overwhelming task.  In my opinion the levy offers a realistic approach to the retirement of existing debt.  And, most importantly it supports a commitment to NO residential or commercial development of this mature forested wetland.  This has the support of every southside neighborhood association. 

I’m content with my decision to VOTE YES for the creation of the Park District, while I respect your choice to voice a different opinion. 

Wendy Harris  //  Sun, Feb 03, 2013, 1:22 am

Bill, was that a blog comment or a campaign speech?

Bill Geyer  //  Sun, Feb 03, 2013, 6:55 am

Thanks for the response.  Always a pleasure to discuss issues with you.  Two technical points may ease your concerns regarding TDR’s.  They may seem complicated to the general public, but they are tried and tested in many parts of the country and WA.  As to timing, the City has until late 2017 to sell them for cash, a very long time on market to secure a buyer.  Price will determine if they would sell within 1, 2, 3 or 4 years.  But there is one key deficiency today.

The accredited professional planners (AICP) in City Planning understand TDR’s very well.  The recent appointment of Mr. Greg Aucutt as the Assistant Planning Director is timely to address this issue.  (Greg shepherded the 2006 Comp Plan to completion and the recent Fairhaven Neighborhood Urban Village Plan.) Unfortunately, the problem lies at the policy level with the Council’s reluctance to adopt code language that would make TDR’s functional and marketable.  The Council borrowed the funds to purchase Chuckanut Woods, they control the value of the site, yet they have not made necessary code changes to ease the sale of TDR’s.  Do that, and Council can repay their loan to benefit all Bellingham taxpayers. 

Your other comment defined another piece to the puzzle - looking to the Council for leadership is misplaced.  Agreed.  Dan Remsen, Joe Yaver and I discussed this at length over coffee in December.  We discussed a path for community leadership showing the Council the benefits of many financial solutions other than a taxing district.  I believe that effort should begin immediately after the election.  My response to your prior posting affirms my commitment. Not to pressure Nick here, but his expertise would be valuable.  Your voice as a resident would be valuable as well.  Imagine, you and I and many supporters and opponents to Prop 1 presenting Council with a step by step approach to place TDR’s into the market to repay the loan within 2-3 years.  I think Council just might follow our lead.

Bill Geyer  //  Sun, Feb 03, 2013, 7:23 am

Yes, that was a blog comment.  I provided some personal history to illustrate the point we all have many facets of our lives.  Nick and others properly chastised the use of identity politics to marginalize someone’s opinion.  On this blog, Prop 1 supporters frequently assign the term “developer” to marginalize someone with an opposing view and to misdirect the reader from the factual argument.  Our community needs to rise above this sophomoric tactic and elevate to the facts.

The Prop 1 debate is informed by expertise in the development field - neighborhood planning, site design, environmental analysis, appraisals, entitlement procurement, code review, public and private financing, marketing, and (most importantly) sales. I am grateful for developing expertise in all these areas over the past 35 years.  As I have done in the past and will do in the future, I often share my experience with neighbors to help further a community solution.  Such is the case here.

R.C., Bob Cunningham  //  Tue, Feb 12, 2013, 10:38 am

If the revenue is “owed” to greenways? Revenue belonging to the taxpayer, and the city cannot squeeze enough additional tax revenue from the populace? Perhaps “Greenways” could simply reposses said propety? Therby placing the “Park” in the hands of the people? No district needed, the end result being that the land IS open to the public?

Update on Lincoln Street Student Housing Project

Mon, Nov 23, 2015, 5:41 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The student housing project for 648 individuals called NXNW (North by Northwest) on Lincoln Street is moving forward briskly. This is an update.

6 comments; last on Nov 27, 2015

Tax incentives proposed for Fairhaven apartments - Updated

Mon, Nov 16, 2015, 10:41 pm  //  John Servais

Council to allow three weeks for written comments on tax exemption proposal for high density buildings in quiet Fairhaven neighborhood

9 comments; last on Nov 19, 2015

Accessory Dwelling Units - There Is No Rush

Mon, Nov 16, 2015, 4:30 am  //  Dick Conoboy

There is no reason to rush an updated ordinance on ADUs when we do not even know what the current number is or where existing illegal units are…

8 comments; last on Nov 25, 2015

Bellingham Updating Accessory Dwelling Laws

Sat, Nov 14, 2015, 5:33 pm  //  Guest writer

By Shannon Maris. Detached ADUs - the 'mother in law' mini cottages - are being considered by the city of Bellingham. This impacts every home owner.

3 comments; last on Nov 19, 2015

Veterans Day and Thanking Veterans

Wed, Nov 11, 2015, 4:23 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Some personal thoughts on thanking our veterans for their service

1 comments; last on Nov 11, 2015

Whatcom Co.: Voting and Vote-Counting with Integrity

Sun, Nov 08, 2015, 9:25 pm  //  Guest writer

An overview of Whatcom County's method of processing ballots and counting votes.

2 comments; last on Nov 14, 2015

Final Election Returns: Jail Tax Rejected

Fri, Nov 06, 2015, 4:37 pm  //  John Servais

Satpal Sidhu wins council seat. Virtually all the ballots are now counted. Challenges and a few special are left.

1 comments; last on Nov 06, 2015

Thursday Voting Update

Thu, Nov 05, 2015, 9:17 pm  //  John Servais

Jail sales tax is being rejected - and the NO vote is increasing. Sidhu - Kerschner still undecided. Props 2, 3, 9 and 10 all should pass.

1 comments; last on Nov 06, 2015

Wednesday Vote Changes

Wed, Nov 04, 2015, 6:45 pm  //  John Servais

Second tally of 10,000 more ballots is in. Jail sales tax is now being rejected. Probably 15,000 or more ballots to go.

2 comments; last on Nov 05, 2015

Important Election Issues Undecided

Wed, Nov 04, 2015, 12:05 am  //  John Servais

The first returns - probably 60% of the final vote - shows contradictory propositions passing and most candidate races decided.

7 comments; last on Nov 04, 2015

Growing Veterans

Mon, Nov 02, 2015, 8:04 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Growing Veterans was created to empower military veterans to grow food, communities, and each other.

2 comments; last on Nov 04, 2015

More on Propositions 1 and 9

Sun, Nov 01, 2015, 9:31 am  //  John Servais

Where more substantial evidence is presented against proposition 9 - and why you should vote REJECTED on it.

24 comments; last on Nov 04, 2015

NWCitizen Publisher’s Voting Choices

Sat, Oct 31, 2015, 2:02 am  //  John Servais

As an independent citizen and political junkie, here is how I am voting - with brief reasons for my choices.

8 comments; last on Nov 03, 2015

NAMI Whatcom Opposes Prop 2015-1

Tue, Oct 27, 2015, 6:56 pm  //  Tip Johnson

The latest addition and the issue in review


Dwindling Information Makes Voters Susceptible to Spin

Mon, Oct 26, 2015, 11:39 pm  //  Whatcom Citizen

A perspective on the our changing news system, the consequences, and the challenges for the future. With a suggestion of the solution.

5 comments; last on Oct 28, 2015

Info Slowmo

Mon, Oct 26, 2015, 3:32 pm  //  Tip Johnson

When they feel you just don't need to know

4 comments; last on Oct 28, 2015

The Mysterious State of the Whatcom County Jail

Mon, Oct 26, 2015, 1:57 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein the operative information is $$$ECRET

3 comments; last on Oct 29, 2015

Effort to Stop Bakken Oil Trains

Sat, Oct 24, 2015, 1:26 pm  //  John Servais

Whatcom group plans meeting workshop to submit comments to Washington Dept of Ecology against Skagit/Bakken oil trains.

6 comments; last on Oct 26, 2015

Fairhaven Pharmacy Closes Today - For Real

Tue, Oct 20, 2015, 2:53 pm  //  John Servais

After 126 years in business, Fairhaven Pharmacy closes for the last time at 6 p.m. today. Historic Fairhaven Association to do Halloween photos.

1 comments; last on Oct 20, 2015

Louws Regrets Jail Mailer

Tue, Oct 20, 2015, 9:25 am  //  John Servais

County Executive - and candidate for reelection -Jack Louws has written county officials with his regrets over jail mailer.

8 comments; last on Oct 24, 2015

Let’s not squander the next 30 years

Sun, Oct 18, 2015, 11:37 am  //  John Servais

The jail sales tax proposition is a road to perdition for our county. It is a waste and has been deceptively promoted.

4 comments; last on Oct 20, 2015

Making a Jail: Bamboozle!

Fri, Oct 16, 2015, 4:52 pm  //  Tip Johnson

With a smarmy October Surprise

9 comments; last on Oct 19, 2015

Court: No Radio Towers in Point Roberts

Thu, Oct 08, 2015, 7:14 am  //  John Lesow

A Canadian radio station is trying to install huge radio towers in Point Roberts for a Canadian audience. Citizen movement has fought them.


James King Resigns as Bellingham Parks Director

Sat, Oct 03, 2015, 2:47 pm  //  John Servais

James King to return to Alaska and take job with U.S. Forest Service. Mayor will appoint a new parks director.

1 comments; last on Oct 04, 2015

Just Say No - to the Incarceration-Industrial Complex

Fri, Oct 02, 2015, 10:48 am  //  David Camp

The "... new jail just doesn't pencil out", writes a well qualified accountant. A look at the future costs of the proposed jail.

11 comments; last on Oct 09, 2015

Alternative Jail Proposal for City Center

Tue, Sep 22, 2015, 4:54 pm  //  John Servais

There is a good alternative for a decent jail - but we first must vote down the jail sales tax proposal in November.

5 comments; last on Sep 24, 2015

Wendy DeFreest is Opening a ‘Burger Joint’

Sat, Sep 19, 2015, 3:37 pm  //  John Servais

Wendy DeFreest, of Avenue Bread, will open a new "burger joint" called The Filling Station by late October in Fairhaven. It will not be a sandwich cafe.


That Louwsy Jail Deal

Tue, Sep 15, 2015, 5:26 pm  //  Tip Johnson

FEMA camp or new county seat?

13 comments; last on Oct 15, 2015

A Learning Moment - Hopefully

Sun, Sep 13, 2015, 8:42 am  //  John Servais

Beware walking RR tracks on the Fairhaven waterfront in the event of unexpected encounter with a high speed train

2 comments; last on Sep 18, 2015

Second Water Main Break on Donovan in a Year

Mon, Sep 07, 2015, 8:06 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Mains a' bursting - Avast!


Homeowner to city: Please buy me out

Wed, Aug 26, 2015, 9:17 am  //  John Servais

Padden Creek daylighting project strays far from city promises to homeowner that his property would remain intact.

4 comments; last on Sep 05, 2015

How Our Community Can Welcome Our Troops Home

Mon, Aug 24, 2015, 4:11 am  //  Guest writer

Christopher Brown guest writes how traditional communal warrior reintegration practices could help our returning combat veterans.


Black Lives Matter, Occupy WS & Whatcom Jail

Wed, Aug 19, 2015, 6:55 pm  //  Whatcom Citizen

A Whatcom Citizen writes of protest movements and how our proposed county mega jail is related to them.

15 comments; last on Sep 04, 2015

$15/hr Minimum Wage - Seriously?

Wed, Aug 19, 2015, 4:00 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Moves to set the minimum wage to $15, even if successful, are woefully insufficient. And why aren't people speaking out about abusive work scheduling?

2 comments; last on Sep 17, 2015

Local retired librarian injured by police

Mon, Aug 17, 2015, 11:17 pm  //  Guest writer

Bruce Radtke, a retired Bellingham librarian, reported to be assaulted by police for handing out leaflets

5 comments; last on Aug 27, 2015

Predictive Policing Comes to Bellingham

Sun, Aug 16, 2015, 2:39 pm  //  Guest writer

Is the tail wagging the dog? Edward Alexander guest writes on why predictive software for our police needs basic questions answered before purchase.

1 comments; last on Aug 22, 2015

Gunfight at Cornwall Park on Wednesday

Thu, Aug 13, 2015, 10:29 am  //  John Servais

Nothing in the Herald this morning, so NWCitizen is informing citizens of shootout at Cornwall Park.

1 comments; last on Aug 13, 2015

Whatcom Conservation District Elections

Sun, Aug 09, 2015, 10:52 am  //  Guest writer

Barbara Perry has been researching the secretive election processes of the Whatcom Conservation District. Really secretive. Probably fraudulent.

1 comments; last on Aug 12, 2015

Election Results - Aug 4 Primary

Tue, Aug 04, 2015, 7:09 pm  //  John Servais

9:52 - final post for tonight. A running blog about the election results on this August evening. Feel free to comment.

8 comments; last on Aug 06, 2015

The Hansen’s Giant Rental Megaplex - Part 2

Tue, Aug 04, 2015, 9:14 am  //  Dick Conoboy

While the city deals with permitting on the Hansen rental megaplexes, the council has asked for proposals from staff on design standards for historic areas.

9 comments; last on Aug 07, 2015

Whatcom Co.: 90 Million Gallons of Water a Day

Tue, Jul 21, 2015, 11:42 pm  //  Guest writer

Eric Hirst provides us all with a well researched report on Whatcom County water issues - rights, Lake Whatcom, ground water and more.

10 comments; last on Aug 12, 2015

Electromagnetic Radiation: Who’s Looking Out for You?

Tue, Jul 14, 2015, 3:13 pm  //  John Lesow

The fight to keep Point Roberts from becoming a Radio Tower Farm is not over.

3 comments; last on Jul 22, 2015

Kudos to Our Police

Mon, Jul 13, 2015, 4:38 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Bellingham police are obviously trained to de-escalate armed confrontations. This is the way it should be.

6 comments; last on Jul 14, 2015

Lois Garlick was our hero

Thu, Jul 09, 2015, 7:27 am  //  John Servais

Lois Garlick has died. For many decades, she and George served as environmental stewards and leaders in preserving wildlife and nature.

2 comments; last on Jul 10, 2015

Whatcom County Council adds ballot measure

Wed, Jul 08, 2015, 8:27 am  //  John Servais

Last minute political maneuvering by liberal council seeks to counter conservative review commission ballot proposals.

1 comments; last on Aug 12, 2015

Charter amendments approved

Tue, Jul 07, 2015, 8:13 am  //  John Servais

The Charter Review Commission made Monday evening's meeting their last - and forwarded 8 charter amendments to the County Council

3 comments; last on Jul 08, 2015

Family Home For Rent: $44,000/year

Tue, Jul 07, 2015, 4:34 am  //  Dick Conoboy

For Rent: York neighborhood, new, 7 bedroom single-family home, near WWU. Only $44,000 a year. City planning not paying attention.

6 comments; last on Jul 09, 2015

Charter Commission Tricks

Mon, Jul 06, 2015, 3:30 pm  //  John Servais

Two dirty tricks by the uber-conservative minority on the Charter Review Commission aimed to put their agenda before the council.

3 comments; last on Jul 07, 2015

Drought Tree Emergency!

Thu, Jul 02, 2015, 1:55 pm  //  David Camp

Trees are dying for lack of water! Only citizen action can save them.


Fireworks and Clay Butler

Thu, Jul 02, 2015, 6:47 am  //  Dick Conoboy

If your 4th of July holiday is much more quiet this year, you can thank Clay Bulter who passed away at the end of May.


A Tale of Three Rezones

Mon, Jun 29, 2015, 4:00 am  //  Dick Conoboy

The Samish Neighborhood Plan has been the subject of three undesired rezones in the last year. The city ignores its own guidelines to the detriment of all.


County prosecutor plays cruel games

Thu, Jun 25, 2015, 5:00 pm  //  John Servais

Updated at 6 pm. Our county justice system has spent 6 years trying to teach Luba Pekisheva that she should not defend herself. Justice denied and miscarried.

8 comments; last on Jul 22, 2015

Proposed New County Lockup - Financial Analysis

Mon, Jun 22, 2015, 4:00 pm  //  David Camp

A look at the proposal in historic financial context with projections and several questions for the proponents.

8 comments; last on Jul 10, 2015

Hansen-Iron Street Rental Megaplex Planned for York Neighborhood

Mon, Jun 01, 2015, 2:49 am  //  Dick Conoboy

Three extraordinarily large (7-bedroom) single family home rentals are proposed by developers Dave and Jon Hansen on Iron St. in the York Neighborhood.

7 comments; last on Jun 10, 2015

Chiara D’Angelo comes down from anchor chain

Mon, May 25, 2015, 7:17 pm  //  John Servais

Young Chiara spent 3 nights hanging from the anchor chain of Shell Oil's Arctic Challenger as a protest to arctic oil drilling.


Flash Mob Protests Arctic Drilling

Thu, May 21, 2015, 10:50 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein we ponder the fate of humanity


Joy Gilfilen Declares for County Executive

Mon, May 18, 2015, 10:17 pm  //  John Servais

Joy Gilfilen is challenging incumbent Jack Louws for County Executive.

4 comments; last on May 20, 2015

85 County Single Candidate Elections

Fri, May 15, 2015, 5:10 pm  //  John Servais

Running update of who is filing for office in Whatcom County. Posts during day Friday and final update Friday evening.

4 comments; last on May 17, 2015

Updated:  Ski to Sea Tries to Bully Bellingham

Wed, May 13, 2015, 4:30 pm  //  John Servais

Updated | Ski to Sea race does not need to race through sensitive Chuckanut Community Forest Park for special mountain bike leg. City did not renege.

10 comments; last on May 15, 2015

County proposes free pass for vacation rentals

Sun, Apr 26, 2015, 1:05 pm  //  Guest writer

Tani Sutley writes a second article on the increasing number of vacation rentals - and the County Council bill to let them expand dramatically.

4 comments; last on May 02, 2015


Election Info

Auditor Election page

State Results - Nov 3
Whatcom Results - Nov 3

Coal, Oil & Trains

Coal Stop

Community Wise Bham
Powder River Basin R. C.

Local Blogs & News

Bellingham Herald

Bham Business Journal
Bham Politics & Econ
Cascadia Weekly
Ferndale Record
Friends of Whatcom
Get Whatcom Planning
Latte Republic
League of Women Voters
Lynden Tribune
Noisy Waters
Northern Light
Twilight Zoning
Western Front - WWU
Whatcom Watch

Local Causes

Chuckanut C. Forest

City Club of Bellingham
Conservation NW
Futurewise - Whatcom
Lake Whatcom
Lummi Island Quarry
N. Cascades Audubon
NW Holocaust Center
RE Sources
Salish Sea Org.
Save the Granary
Transition Whatcom
WA Conservation Voters
Whatcom Peace & Justice


- Whatcom County

Port of Bellingham
Skagit County
State Results - Nov 3
US House
US Senate
US Supreme Court
US The White House
WA State
Whatcom COG

NWCitizen 1995-2007

Early Northwest Citizen

Weather & Climate

Cliff Mass Weather Blog

Climate Audit
Nat Hurricane Center
NW Radar
Two day forecast
Watts Up With That?


Adventures NW

Bellingham Wins
Edge of Sports
Entertainment NNW
Famous Internet Skiers
Recreation Northwest
Sailing Anarchy

Good Web Sites

Al-Jazeera online

Alaska Dispatch
Arab News
Asia Times
Atlantic, The
Change The Mascot
Common Dreams
Crosscut Seattle
Daily Kos
Daily Mirror
Drudge Report
Foreign Policy in Focus
Guardian Unlimited
Gulf News
Huffington Post
Innocence Project
Irish Times
James Fallows
Jerusalem Post
Joel Connelly
Juan Cole
Julia Ioffe/New Republic
Le Diplo
Media Matters
Michael Moore
Middle East Times
Nation, The
New American Century
News Trust
Online Journal
Palestine Daily
Palestine News
Paul Krugman
Personal bio info
Portland Indy Media
Progressive Review
Project Vote Smart
Sea Shepherd
Stand for the Troops
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Talking Points Memo
The Crisis Papers
The Intercept
the Oatmeal
War and Piece
Washington Votes

Quiet, Offline or Dead

Bellingham Register

Bhm Herald Politics Blog
Bob Sanders
Carl Weimer
Chuckanut Mountains
Citizen Ted
Citizens of Bellingham
Cordata & Meridian
David Hackworth
Facebook Port Reform
Intrnational Herald Tribune
Jack Petree
N. Sound Conservancy
No Leaky Buckets
Northwest Review
Protect Bellingham Parks
Sweeney Politics
The American Telegraph
Wally Wonders