The Big Picture on Chuckanut RidgePermalink +
Sun, Feb 03, 2013, 3:05 pm // Guest writer
Guest writer Nicholas Zaferatos is a 40 year resident of the south side, a former Bellingham Planning Commission member, and is professor of urban planning at Huxley College.
Big Picture Thinking. Ok, one more shot at TDRs (Transfer of Development Rights) as several of us have referenced this technique as an available financing tool that could replace the tax bailout scheme now before property owners. For the record, I have not come out publicly opposing the measure. But I do oppose, on general principle, the continuing demands placed on taxpayers to “bail out” bad public policy that freely handed development rights to property owners of “critical areas” and “natural resources” lands in Bellingham and in the County. I question continued taxpayer buyouts and bailouts of land purchases that, under local and state laws, should never be developed. Our increased monthly water bill doesn’t just pay for the infrastructure to deliver drinking water to our homes. It also pays to purchase watershed lands because the government has been politically unwilling to downzone lands in the watershed. Its easier, in such cases, to just have the taxpayer pay for past public policy mistakes.
Yes, we planners do tend to spend an inordinate amount of time imaging more equitable avenues for addressing current and complex problems. And while it is largely theoretical ground we stand on, theories are not fantasies, but foundations upon which to introduce new ideas based on what has worked elsewhere; they remain theoretical only because they haven’t yet been attempted or proven in our locale.
If we’re going to correct the wrongs of past zoning mistakes, in some cases that means playing hardball in how we regulate properties (yes, we can legally downzone and reduce development rights, just as we can up zone and grant more development rights). In some cases, the public’s purchase of development rights makes for the best solution, but there are other tools available that can allow the private marketplace to discourage development on some sites and encourage development elsewhere, where appropriate. The City Council demonstrated this to perfection when it established a tax incentive district scheme that encouraged investment in new housing downtown. That was a very successful example of government intervention in the workings of private markets for positive public outcomes. The result: more people living downtown and an emerging thriving downtown economy.
The TDR model has been kicked around for a while because it offers a vehicle for reallocating where development ought to, and ought not to, go, without additional public tax subsidy. But a TDR program doesn’t work on its own accord. It can only work if we really get serious about “managing” growth. We’re off to a good start, having generally defined an urban design pattern throughout the city where more growth should occur. The comprehensive plan’s urban design element lays out the concept as “urban villages” and designates future city expansion in urban growth areas, “UGAs”. The design concept is progressive, and if you do some research, you’ll find that our model is “spot on” as it incorporates most of the emerging principles of new urbanism, smart growth, transit oriented development, and sustainable design, each supporting sensible urban development.
There are, however, several key pieces missing for fully implementing the concept, which should be done in concert with neighborhood associations. But we do have some excellent experiences as well. Old Town and Samish Way urban villages now seek to transform outdated and underutilized urban sites for redevelopment into new, sustaining urban neighborhoods. The neighborhood associations in these areas supported the concept, the city invested in detailed master planning studies, and our first urban villages were adopted by the City Council.
This urban design process needs to vigorously proceed for each of the other 22 or so sites designated as “urban villages”, along with each of the designed UGA areas. If we just upzone these areas without detailed master planning, we’ll only get piecemeal and fragmented development which won’t constitute vibrant new neighborhoods. These sites should be carefully planned as contained neighborhoods – complete with the provision of neighborhood elementary schools (yes, we also need to change our school district’s current habit of closing little schools and building suburban monstrosities that kids can’t walk to) as well as other essential elements that sustainable neighborhoods require – like dependable transit services, public utilities, a branch library, urban parks, and centralized neighborhood commercial services (I once advocated at the Food Coop’s annual meeting for instead of building the new store out at Cordata, we should build a series of neighborhood-scale food coops in each future urban villages, but that didn’t happen).
As difficult as this urban development path may seem, the next step is really the hardest: we need to establish “development priority areas”. This prescribes a phasing that specifies which of these urban infill sites should be first developed, and which should be developed at a future time. Public investment for infrastructure is necessary for each development site, as it is not feasible to serve all sites at once. This also serves to limit building supply to designated districts. As market pressures increase, there comes a demand for increased development rights – that’s where the TDR bank comes in. In time, the system can be extended to transfer development rights from areas outside the city – such as watershed lands and agricultural resource lands. The model is theoretical, I agree. It calls for a commitment to regional planning, which we don’t now have. But it’s a path towards sustainable development.
Is this heavy handed central government planning? Yup. And that’s what makes planning most challenging. It challenges and limits individual property rights by designating when (timing) and where (location) development should occur. By its very definition – that’s what Growth Management means. That’s how we protect important resource lands and conservation resources – by transferring development rights out of those areas and into our well planned and designated priority development urban areas.
Bellingham has, in my opinion and experience, one of the state’s most dedicated and talented staff of professional planners. We need to urge Mayor Linville and the Council to commit the necessary resources to a phased program for speeding up our commitment to designing our urban villages and UGAs, as sustainable planning, by allowing our planners to do what they do best – planning our future, rather than spending much of their time mitigating the negative effects caused by past zoning mistakes.
In the short term, the municipal park district proposal is perhaps the easiest and simplest way to solve this short term financing gap and, if passed, it certainly would take pressure off the City Council by making the problem go away. But it would still remain a piecemeal approach to solving our longer term community problem. There are “100 Acre Woods” all around us. They are called Lake Whatcom watershed, they are called Agricultural Whatcom, they are called Marine Shorelines, they are called Blanchard Mountain, they are called Galbraith Mountain, they are called Urban Greenbelts, to name only a few of our remaining gems. We need to connect the dots between protecting natural resources and, at the same time, encouraging a progressive form of development that revitalizes our urban community, builds sustainable neighborhoods, and protects valuable assets in a way that doesn’t continually burden the taxpayers of the community.
Fri, May 24, 2013, 12:18 am // Guest writerMarian Beddill provides a general guide for the public, with a look at the history of water rights in Washington state.
1 comments; last on May 24, 2013
Wed, May 22, 2013, 10:12 am // Guest writerBy Guest Writer Nicole Brown. This is a call to action for county citizens as the county tries to ram through the slaughterhouse rezones.
5 comments; last on May 24, 2013
Mon, May 20, 2013, 11:48 am // Dick ConoboyYou can give your money, normally dished out to fireworks manufacturers and distributors, to organizations that help our disabled veterans. Change the way we celebrate Independence Day.
Fri, May 17, 2013, 4:44 pm // John ServaisTuesday morning and nothing in today's Bellingham Herald. Nor online. We provide the basics to fill in this latest omission by our "daily" newspaper.
9 comments; last on May 23, 2013
Thu, May 16, 2013, 11:55 am // Wendy HarrisThe public process on the revised waterfront plans is an empty charade
1 comments; last on May 17, 2013
Wed, May 15, 2013, 10:23 pm // Wendy HarrisThe political censor police are listening to you
5 comments; last on May 16, 2013
Mon, May 13, 2013, 2:50 am // Dick ConoboySome very important issues with respect to the University Ridge private dormitory project in the Puget Neighborhood will not be considered in the approval process.
6 comments; last on May 17, 2013
Fri, May 10, 2013, 9:22 am // Wendy HarrisThe City Planning Commission Advocates "Free Market Capitalism" Approach to Waterfront Planning.
1 comments; last on May 12, 2013
Thu, May 09, 2013, 11:07 pm // Wendy HarrisA recent letter by the Parks Department fails to contain reassurance that the geese will be safe from extermination this year.
Wed, May 08, 2013, 8:53 am // Dick ConoboyAmbling University Development has proposed building private, off-campus dormitory buildings in the Puget Neighborhood. Their revised proposal was submitted on 29 April.
Mon, May 06, 2013, 1:40 am // Guest writerPaul deArmond is remembered by his sister Claire. He was a Republican-at-Large.
2 comments; last on May 08, 2013
Sun, May 05, 2013, 2:45 pm // John ServaisHelp fund a scientific study looking for links between diesel locomotives, coal trains and unhealthy air.
Sat, May 04, 2013, 12:09 pm // Guest writerWendy Scherrer reminds all who support modest sized grade schools to try and attend the meeting Wed, May 8, in the evening.
3 comments; last on May 10, 2013
Fri, May 03, 2013, 10:16 pm // Wendy HarrisThe Humane Society is bringing herding dogs to control Silver Lake geese, but it is not an optimal situation for success.
Wed, May 01, 2013, 10:31 pm // Wendy HarrisThe County Parks Department has allocated funding for playground equipment, but has not allocated funding for wildlife management planning.
1 comments; last on May 03, 2013
Sun, Apr 28, 2013, 9:30 pm // John ServaisNew York Times columnist, Paul Krugman, has a masterful short article that explains why austerity is not working.
3 comments; last on May 23, 2013
Wed, Apr 24, 2013, 6:05 pm // Wendy HarrisThe only urgency underscored by the Silver Lake geese is the urgency of enacting a comprehensive wildlife strategy.
4 comments; last on Apr 29, 2013
Wed, Apr 24, 2013, 10:58 am // John ServaisThe Gristle in today's Cascadia Weekly is devoted to a tribute to Paul de Armond. Tim Johnson gets it right.
Mon, Apr 22, 2013, 5:52 am // Riley SweeneyRiley attends Tea Party training and runs afoul of Rep. Overstreet
1 comments; last on Apr 22, 2013
Sun, Apr 21, 2013, 12:59 pm // John ServaisWell known political writer has died.
5 comments; last on Apr 23, 2013
Sat, Apr 20, 2013, 10:52 am // Wendy HarrisThere will be no due process for the Canada geese, or the public, before the County Parks Department lethally removes the geese from Silver Lake
4 comments; last on Apr 24, 2013
Sat, Apr 13, 2013, 8:19 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein we see how the Ds do the work the Rs can't get away with
7 comments; last on Apr 17, 2013
Sat, Apr 13, 2013, 2:47 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein the people who call capping a clean-up say toxics safe enough for day care.
1 comments; last on Apr 25, 2013
Wed, Apr 10, 2013, 10:24 pm // Wendy HarrisThe Waterfront District Sub-Area Plan needs policies that favor adaptive reuse and preservation of historic waterfront structures
Mon, Apr 08, 2013, 11:56 am // Tip JohnsonWherein we complain about the City and Port stealing from the public
6 comments; last on Apr 13, 2013
Sat, Apr 06, 2013, 2:59 pm // Dick ConoboyDangerous fireworks likely to continue being sold in Bellingham for this 4th of July
1 comments; last on Apr 06, 2013
Sat, Apr 06, 2013, 1:06 pm // Wendy HarrisThe city's proposed new Economic Development Chapter is based on an outdated economic theory
1 comments; last on Apr 06, 2013
Fri, Apr 05, 2013, 3:59 pm // Wendy HarrisNew slaughterhouse proposal "wishes away" current agricultural zoning restrictions.
10 comments; last on Apr 21, 2013
Thu, Apr 04, 2013, 11:48 am // Dick ConoboyIt seems that for Apple products, you do not really own that hard drive... as a journalist recently discovered.
2 comments; last on Apr 13, 2013
Mon, Apr 01, 2013, 3:00 pm // Wendy HarrisGovernment agencies responsible for the GPT project have completed review of the scoping comments.
Tue, Mar 26, 2013, 9:36 pm // Wendy HarrisA beneficial reuse provision in the Waterfront District Sub-Area Plan would allow construction materials that are contaminated with bioaccumulative toxins.
Tue, Mar 26, 2013, 8:59 pm // Wendy HarrisThe City Planning Department has included a technical document in the waterfront proposal without disclosing important impacts.
1 comments; last on Mar 30, 2013
Sun, Mar 24, 2013, 3:01 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein the Cattlemen define 'small scale' as an unlimited number of facilities of up to 50 million live pounds per year.
3 comments; last on Mar 26, 2013
Sat, Mar 23, 2013, 10:53 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein the rate base gets a soaking while officials keep big-bubble toking
7 comments; last on Apr 08, 2013
Tue, Mar 19, 2013, 9:05 am // John ServaisThe Bellingham Herald article today is wrong. There is no hearing tomorrow, March 20
Sun, Mar 17, 2013, 8:42 pm // John ServaisWendy Harris writes about the proposed $8 million concrete bridge along the Bellingham waterfront - using Greenways funds to build.
3 comments; last on Mar 20, 2013
Tue, Mar 12, 2013, 10:50 am // Dick ConoboySeveral complaints to the city seem to have occasioned a postponement of a height variance hearing until a complete development proposal is submitted.
1 comments; last on Mar 12, 2013
Mon, Mar 11, 2013, 6:37 am // Guest writerGuest writer Shane Roth writes in favor of the reconveyance of Lake Whatcom land back to the county.
1 comments; last on Mar 11, 2013
Fri, Mar 08, 2013, 12:54 am // Guest writerDelaine Clizbe guest writes. Whatcom County has 7,100 acres of park land, with 1,900 acres actually developed. Yet we keep adding land, and not developing our parks.
16 comments; last on Mar 12, 2013
Wed, Mar 06, 2013, 10:05 am // Dick ConoboyYou are not likely to escape the coming transfer of $billions from your pocket to the health insurance industry. You will get little, if anything, in return.
4 comments; last on Apr 05, 2013
Tue, Mar 05, 2013, 3:20 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein it's even worse when the legislation is about sausage
Sun, Mar 03, 2013, 4:17 pm // Dick ConoboyDo we need to recreate the sounds and sights of the battlefield when doing so brings pain and suffering to our combat veterans?
Sat, Mar 02, 2013, 8:03 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein the ironies of life are explored and the necessities of life are contemplated
2 comments; last on Mar 12, 2013
Fri, Mar 01, 2013, 4:19 pm // Wendy HarrisA variance request pending before the City could create a loophole for developers seeking to avoid compliance with development standards.
5 comments; last on Mar 07, 2013
Tue, Feb 26, 2013, 6:39 am // Riley SweeneyRiley details upcoming merger between PeaceHealth and a much more conservative entity
1 comments; last on Feb 26, 2013
Mon, Feb 25, 2013, 6:54 pm // Dick ConoboyThere is a private sector development proposal to house approximately 600 students in the Puget Neighborhood on 11 acres to the east of Nevada St.
5 comments; last on Feb 27, 2013
Mon, Feb 25, 2013, 5:51 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein artists have to eat, too!
Fri, Feb 22, 2013, 3:01 pm // John ServaisRiley Sweeney has posted a great video clip of Sen. Doug Ericksen flouting rules and legal procedures at a Senate hearing in Olympia.
Fri, Feb 22, 2013, 2:47 pm // John ServaisThe election created a new park district with taxing power - but with NO control over Chuckanut Ridge - the 100 acre woods.
1 comments; last on Feb 23, 2013
Tue, Feb 19, 2013, 9:40 pm // Wendy HarrisAn "Updated Preferred Alternative" reduces the number of waterfront jobs and expands the boundary of the waterfront district.
Fri, Feb 15, 2013, 12:20 am // Tip JohnsonWherein the Slaughterhouse Ken and Barbie show present Slaughterville, their new vision for Whatcom County
9 comments; last on Feb 19, 2013
Wed, Feb 13, 2013, 3:42 pm // John ServaisThe Park District vote is close and we will not know final results until late ballots are counted.
6 comments; last on Feb 19, 2013
Wed, Feb 13, 2013, 2:59 pm // Wendy HarrisParticipate in the public process by commenting on the new Economic Development chapter to the city comprehensive plan
1 comments; last on Feb 15, 2013
Sat, Feb 09, 2013, 12:14 am // John ServaisThe proponents have avoided the issues on the Park District as the close of voting nears this weekend.
2 comments; last on Feb 12, 2013
Wed, Feb 06, 2013, 10:42 pm // John ServaisWhen is a vote No the most positive and common sense action? Check the park district opponents website to learn why.
15 comments; last on Feb 10, 2013
Tue, Feb 05, 2013, 12:59 pm // John ServaisThis Park District proposal has several ironic twists and facets - some involving the advocates.
10 comments; last on Feb 07, 2013
Sun, Feb 03, 2013, 3:05 pm // Guest writerNicholas Zaferatos explains why he is concerned about the park district and looks at the long and short term views if the issue.
11 comments; last on Feb 06, 2013
Sat, Feb 02, 2013, 11:18 am // John ServaisThe Chuckanut Park District ballot issue has another 10 days to run. A few notes about NWCitizen and this issue.
11 comments; last on Feb 05, 2013
Fri, Feb 01, 2013, 3:16 pm // Guest writerDr. Gibb explains some history to the issue in a brief article.
8 comments; last on Feb 03, 2013
Thu, Jan 31, 2013, 12:36 pm // Guest writerPaul Leuthold and Byron Elmendorf explain why to vote NO on the Chuckanut Park District ballot measure.
19 comments; last on Feb 12, 2013
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