The Big Picture on Chuckanut RidgePermalink +
Sun, Feb 03, 2013, 4:05 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.
Thu, Jul 24, 2014, 11:40 am // Riley SweeneyNorthwest Citizen has conducted a phone poll of likely voters, with some surprising results!
9 comments; last on Jul 29, 2014
Thu, Jul 24, 2014, 7:52 am // Dick ConoboyIn contravention of the Bellingham Municipal Code, the City Council will consider on 4 August a last minute docketing request that ignores the Planning Commission and Samish Neighborhood.
Wed, Jul 23, 2014, 10:47 pm // Guest writerGuest writer Mike Rostron explains how Bellingham city planners played loose and illegal with planning processes.
Tue, Jul 22, 2014, 7:22 pm // John ServaisSunnlyland residents win one - after a seven year effort. Planning Department failed them and all of us.
2 comments; last on Jul 23, 2014
Mon, Jul 21, 2014, 5:30 am // Guest writerLandlords are so caught up opposing a licensing and inspection ordinance, they cannot see the upside for them in ridding the city of bad rentals.
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Fri, Jul 18, 2014, 1:24 pm // Guest writerJudith Green explains how the Bellingham Planning Department is trying to cram their plan onto a neighborhood.
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Sun, Jul 13, 2014, 2:26 pm // Terry WechslerYears after BP completed its north dock, the Army Corps of Engineers released a draft EIS and it's really really stupid.
Tue, Jul 08, 2014, 8:20 am // Dick ConoboyThe city council "persuades" the city administration to withdraw a request for an intrusive police threat warning system
2 comments; last on Jul 08, 2014
Mon, Jul 07, 2014, 6:54 am // Terry WechslerIt is time we stop allowing corporations to externalize the costs associated with their risky business practices, and demand more from our regulators who hold the keys to…
3 comments; last on Jul 13, 2014
Mon, Jul 07, 2014, 5:04 am // Guest writerGuest writer Sandy Robson breaks the story of officials from Washington treated to a coal-promoting junket to Wyoming.
2 comments; last on Jul 13, 2014
Fri, Jul 04, 2014, 5:00 am // Guest writerFerndale's most famous landmark is frequently commented on and is often in the news. Here is their side of the story.
4 comments; last on Jul 07, 2014
Wed, Jul 02, 2014, 5:14 pm // Terry WechslerOn the anniversary of the Lac-Megantic disaster, communities throughout North America rally in solidarity to remember and protest wholly inadequate government response to crude-by-rail's risks.
4 comments; last on Jul 12, 2014
Fri, Jun 27, 2014, 9:01 pm // Guest writerIn the Weekly, Tim Johnson left out three words in quoting Craig Cole - and his story misleads readers. Guest article by Sandy Robson.
11 comments; last on Jul 01, 2014
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5 comments; last on Jul 03, 2014
Tue, Jun 17, 2014, 10:18 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein the failings of a bad policy framework are revealed
1 comments; last on Jun 19, 2014
Tue, Jun 17, 2014, 7:53 am // Dick ConoboyThe possession and use of consumer fireworks are no longer permitted within the city limits.
1 comments; last on Jun 19, 2014
Wed, Jun 11, 2014, 11:39 am // John ServaisWyoming Senators and coal honchos were in Whatcom County June 10 - to hold a news conference with select reporters.
7 comments; last on Jun 20, 2014
Tue, Jun 10, 2014, 11:20 am // John ServaisBellingham Hearing Examiner, Dawn Sturwold, retires in three weeks. Successor selection is hidden from all of us.
3 comments; last on Jun 11, 2014
Fri, Jun 06, 2014, 2:07 pm // Terry WechslerPart 2: Following Ken Oplinger to California, and Home Again
4 comments; last on Jun 19, 2014
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2 comments; last on Jun 02, 2014
Wed, May 28, 2014, 3:15 pm // Guest writerA perspective by guest writer Ellen Murphy reflects on the Whatcom Watch and the threatened law suit by Craig Cole.
22 comments; last on Jun 01, 2014
Tue, May 27, 2014, 1:23 am // Wendy HarrisWhy was so little consideration given to the concept of developing the waterfront for eco-tourism?
5 comments; last on Jun 11, 2014
Mon, May 26, 2014, 7:51 pm // Wendy HarrisCity park improvements have implications on the local and global scale.
2 comments; last on May 29, 2014
Thu, May 22, 2014, 12:10 am // Guest writerWyoming is ready to try and legally force us to limit our environmental scoping for the Cherry Point coal terminal
4 comments; last on Jun 17, 2014
Sun, May 18, 2014, 11:57 pm // Wendy HarrisReckless rezones and far-fetched explanations result in more slaughterhouses and meat packing plants
3 comments; last on May 20, 2014
Sat, May 17, 2014, 2:34 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley takes a closer look at the Charter Review Commission candidates
2 comments; last on May 21, 2014
Tue, May 13, 2014, 5:04 pm // Wendy HarrisBellingham's annual water quality report indicates that city hall's propoganda machine is going strong
1 comments; last on May 14, 2014
Sun, May 11, 2014, 2:20 pm // Terry WechslerPart 1: Introduction to the Bellingham Basin’s Potential for Fracking, Earthquakes, and Earthquakes Due to Fracking
3 comments; last on May 14, 2014
Fri, May 09, 2014, 10:02 am // John ServaisThe Political Junkie for Whatcom County - that would be Riley Sweeney - has Overstreet not running for reelection in the 42nd.
1 comments; last on May 13, 2014
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6 comments; last on Jun 21, 2014
Tue, May 06, 2014, 5:52 pm // Riley SweeneyThe value of a Precinct Committee Officer . . .
1 comments; last on May 07, 2014
Mon, May 05, 2014, 3:34 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein the gyrations of the bid for widespread county slaughter are exposed.
2 comments; last on May 07, 2014
Thu, May 01, 2014, 10:21 pm // Guest writerMove to Amend is a national movement to amend the U.S. Constitution and define persons as people and speech as not money.
7 comments; last on Jun 02, 2014
Wed, Apr 30, 2014, 8:20 am // John ServaisRiley posted this morning that Seth Fleetwood has decided to challenge Doug Ericksen for state senate in the 42nd District.
1 comments; last on Apr 30, 2014
Mon, Apr 28, 2014, 6:28 am // Dick ConoboyEvery Bellingham Planning Commission member has ties to development or development-related businesses.
4 comments; last on Apr 30, 2014
Mon, Apr 21, 2014, 1:59 pm // Terry WechslerA closer look at Whatcom County's industrial "stewards of the environment."
3 comments; last on Jun 25, 2014
Mon, Apr 21, 2014, 11:43 am // Wendy HarrisThe public needs to support city council and request that a waterfront habitat assessment include terrestrial species and habitat connectivity.
Sat, Apr 19, 2014, 2:57 pm // Terry Wechsleror How Not to Plan for Future Generations' Water Needs
12 comments; last on Jun 30, 2014
Thu, Apr 17, 2014, 10:40 am // Riley SweeneyA simple explanation of the Charter Review and analysis of District only voting
Wed, Apr 09, 2014, 9:07 am // Riley SweeneyCity pushes for Alabama Street improvements, residents speak out
3 comments; last on Apr 14, 2014
Sun, Apr 06, 2014, 4:29 pm // Guest writerBy Christopher Grannis: Wherein despite every effort and expense, citizens cannot make the City follow the law or work for neighborhoods
2 comments; last on Apr 07, 2014
Sun, Apr 06, 2014, 12:52 pm // Terry WechslerWhy commenting on the EIS for Comp Plan revisions for Cherry Point means demanding an EIS in the first place.
5 comments; last on Jun 25, 2014
Wed, Apr 02, 2014, 6:00 am // Dick ConoboyAmbling University Development Group pulls out. University Ridge will not be built.
12 comments; last on Apr 06, 2014
Tue, Apr 01, 2014, 1:27 pm // Wendy HarrisPlease help us protect county wildlife by ensuring that the scope of the EIS review is adequate. A sample scoping letter is included.
Mon, Mar 31, 2014, 2:23 am // Wendy HarrisThe public has a week to comment on the scope of issues reviewed under the EIS.
Fri, Mar 28, 2014, 1:32 am // Wendy HarrisOn March 26, 2014 the city and county provided their update and assessment on the status of Lake Whatcom. This is mine.
2 comments; last on Apr 01, 2014
Wed, Mar 19, 2014, 10:32 am // Riley SweeneyRiley digs into the county's plan to buy the county morgue
3 comments; last on Mar 24, 2014
Mon, Mar 17, 2014, 12:52 am // Wendy HarrisThe public is not provided with a proposed plan or adequate information prior to the annual "state of the lake" meeting
4 comments; last on Mar 18, 2014
Sat, Mar 15, 2014, 1:11 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein there's a crackdown on growing plants, and plans to let slaughter run free
2 comments; last on Mar 16, 2014
Fri, Mar 14, 2014, 10:47 am // John ServaisFukushima radiation has been found 20 miles from Whatcom County farmland along the Fraser River in British Columbia.
1 comments; last on Mar 17, 2014
Wed, Mar 12, 2014, 8:28 am // Dick ConoboyThe infamous American Legislative Exchange Council plans to send its spawn to cities and counties throughout the U.S.
1 comments; last on Mar 24, 2014
Tue, Mar 11, 2014, 11:24 am // Riley SweeneyRiley catches State Rep. Vincent Buys for soliciting funds during session
Mon, Mar 10, 2014, 10:51 am // Riley SweeneyRiley digs into an unusual hiring decision at the County Planning Dept
1 comments; last on Mar 10, 2014
Sun, Mar 02, 2014, 3:22 pm // John ServaisThe editor of the Whatcom Watch, Richard Jehn, has resigned effective today. Chalk up a victory for Craig Cole and Pacific International Terminals.
8 comments; last on Mar 05, 2014
Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 9:29 pm // John ServaisThe full text of Craig Cole's threatening letter of libel against the Whatcom Watch. And the emptiness of the threat.
16 comments; last on Mar 20, 2014
Mon, Feb 24, 2014, 4:33 pm // Wendy HarrisWe were led to believe the city would review waterfront wildlife and habitat connectivity. It turns out that the city intends to focus only on nearshore fish.
Sat, Feb 22, 2014, 1:16 am // Wendy HarrisAccepting the Paul deArmond award of citizen journalism on Feb 7, Wendh Harris gave this speech. We think it deserves its own post.
Wed, Feb 19, 2014, 5:48 pm // John ServaisCraig Cole, the local contact for the proposed Cherry Point coal port has threatened the Whatcom Watch with a libel lawsuit.
6 comments; last on Mar 20, 2014
Mon, Feb 17, 2014, 8:26 am // Riley SweeneyRiley digs through court data and discovers the real impact of privatization and legalization
Sun, Feb 09, 2014, 10:35 pm // Wendy HarrisThe mayor wants to amend a city law to increase flexibility for a GMA provision that should be used rarely, if ever at all.
3 comments; last on Feb 11, 2014
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