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.
Sat, Oct 03, 2015, 3:47 pm // John ServaisJames 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
Fri, Oct 02, 2015, 11:48 am // David CampThe "... new jail just doesn't pencil out", writes a well qualified accountant. A look at the future costs of the proposed jail.
6 comments; last on Oct 03, 2015
Tue, Sep 22, 2015, 5:54 pm // John ServaisThere 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
Sat, Sep 19, 2015, 4:37 pm // John ServaisWendy 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.
Tue, Sep 15, 2015, 6:26 pm // Tip JohnsonFEMA camp or new county seat?
12 comments; last on Sep 24, 2015
Sun, Sep 13, 2015, 9:42 am // John ServaisBeware 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
Mon, Sep 07, 2015, 9:06 pm // Tip JohnsonMains a' bursting - Avast!
Wed, Aug 26, 2015, 10:17 am // John ServaisPadden Creek daylighting project strays far from city promises to homeowner that his property would remain intact.
4 comments; last on Sep 05, 2015
Mon, Aug 24, 2015, 5:11 am // Guest writerChristopher Brown guest writes how traditional communal warrior reintegration practices could help our returning combat veterans.
Wed, Aug 19, 2015, 7:55 pm // Whatcom CitizenA Whatcom Citizen writes of protest movements and how our proposed county mega jail is related to them.
15 comments; last on Sep 04, 2015
Wed, Aug 19, 2015, 5:00 am // Dick ConoboyMoves 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
Tue, Aug 18, 2015, 12:17 am // Guest writerBruce Radtke, a retired Bellingham librarian, reported to be assaulted by police for handing out leaflets
5 comments; last on Aug 27, 2015
Sun, Aug 16, 2015, 3:39 pm // Guest writerIs 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
Thu, Aug 13, 2015, 11:29 am // John ServaisNothing in the Herald this morning, so NWCitizen is informing citizens of shootout at Cornwall Park.
1 comments; last on Aug 13, 2015
Sun, Aug 09, 2015, 11:52 am // Guest writerBarbara Perry has been researching the secretive election processes of the Whatcom Conservation District. Really secretive. Probably fraudulent.
1 comments; last on Aug 12, 2015
Tue, Aug 04, 2015, 8:09 pm // John Servais9:52 - 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
Tue, Aug 04, 2015, 10:14 am // Dick ConoboyWhile 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
Wed, Jul 22, 2015, 12:42 am // Guest writerEric 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
Tue, Jul 14, 2015, 4:13 pm // John LesowThe fight to keep Point Roberts from becoming a Radio Tower Farm is not over.
3 comments; last on Jul 22, 2015
Mon, Jul 13, 2015, 5:38 am // Dick ConoboyBellingham police are obviously trained to de-escalate armed confrontations. This is the way it should be.
6 comments; last on Jul 14, 2015
Thu, Jul 09, 2015, 8:27 am // John ServaisLois 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
Wed, Jul 08, 2015, 9:27 am // John ServaisLast minute political maneuvering by liberal council seeks to counter conservative review commission ballot proposals.
1 comments; last on Aug 12, 2015
Tue, Jul 07, 2015, 9:13 am // John ServaisThe 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
Tue, Jul 07, 2015, 5:34 am // Dick ConoboyFor 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
Mon, Jul 06, 2015, 4:30 pm // John ServaisTwo 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
Thu, Jul 02, 2015, 2:55 pm // David CampTrees are dying for lack of water! Only citizen action can save them.
Thu, Jul 02, 2015, 7:47 am // Dick ConoboyIf your 4th of July holiday is much more quiet this year, you can thank Clay Bulter who passed away at the end of May.
Mon, Jun 29, 2015, 5:00 am // Dick ConoboyThe 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.
Thu, Jun 25, 2015, 6:00 pm // John ServaisUpdated 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
Mon, Jun 22, 2015, 5:00 pm // David CampA look at the proposal in historic financial context with projections and several questions for the proponents.
8 comments; last on Jul 10, 2015
Mon, Jun 01, 2015, 3:49 am // Dick ConoboyThree 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
Mon, May 25, 2015, 8:17 pm // John ServaisYoung Chiara spent 3 nights hanging from the anchor chain of Shell Oil's Arctic Challenger as a protest to arctic oil drilling.
Thu, May 21, 2015, 11:50 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein we ponder the fate of humanity
Mon, May 18, 2015, 11:17 pm // John ServaisJoy Gilfilen is challenging incumbent Jack Louws for County Executive.
4 comments; last on May 20, 2015
Fri, May 15, 2015, 6:10 pm // John ServaisRunning 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
Wed, May 13, 2015, 5:30 pm // John ServaisUpdated | 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
Sun, Apr 26, 2015, 2:05 pm // Guest writerTani 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
Thu, Apr 09, 2015, 5:03 am // Dick ConoboyThe Puget Neighborhood is about to become a bit more crowded but less than originally planned. 600+ students to be housed south of Fred Meyer.
6 comments; last on Apr 12, 2015
Sat, Apr 04, 2015, 1:15 pm // John ServaisThe port's latest bone-headed deal calls for the good citizens of Whatcom County to consider the options...unless we're enjoying our Groundhog Day.
3 comments; last on Apr 07, 2015
Thu, Apr 02, 2015, 8:30 pm // Tip JohnsonThe difference between a threat and a promise
5 comments; last on Apr 03, 2015
Wed, Apr 01, 2015, 12:20 am // John ServaisPort of Bellingham today sold out our public waterfront to a foreign shell company formed 6 days ago. Sold it cheap and with a screwy arrangement.
32 comments; last on Apr 05, 2015
Sat, Mar 21, 2015, 11:16 am // Guest writerKamalla Kaur worked with David Mason on his biographical materials and offers this tribute to his illustrious life.
2 comments; last on Mar 23, 2015
Fri, Mar 13, 2015, 5:00 am // Dick ConoboyThe Whatcom County Council has sent discussion on changing the meth ordinance back to the Public Works, Health and Safety Committee
Thu, Mar 12, 2015, 1:06 pm // John ServaisAdd your thoughts and remembrances. Robyn du Pre` was a stalwart and true environmental advocate for Bellingham and Whatcom County. She died this week.
9 comments; last on Mar 23, 2015
Thu, Feb 26, 2015, 10:39 am // Riley SweeneyRiley shares some insight into the national political parties
5 comments; last on Mar 09, 2015
Wed, Feb 25, 2015, 6:31 am // Dick ConoboyIn a hearing, possibly on 3 March, the Whatcom County Council will consider an ordinance changing the rules for contaminated meth use sites.
1 comments; last on Feb 27, 2015
Mon, Feb 09, 2015, 6:00 am // Dick ConoboyNot all rent-to-own propositions are an unwise method to buy a home but some are schemes to rip off the unsuspecting tenant.
Mon, Feb 02, 2015, 9:34 am // Guest writerNo ballot mailed to you. You must request a ballot for voting in the Whatcom Conservation District election. Deadline to apply is Feb 9. By Barbara Perry
Thu, Jan 29, 2015, 10:56 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein Bellingham's billion dollar boondoggle is revisited
5 comments; last on Aug 14, 2015
Tue, Jan 27, 2015, 9:55 am // Terry WechslerThe Lummi requested on Jan. 5, 2015, that the federal government, through the Army Corps of Engineers, honor Art. V of the Treaty of Point Elliott and deny…
1 comments; last on Feb 04, 2015
Sun, Jan 25, 2015, 12:32 pm // Guest writerAdventures of George Pickett in the Pacific Northwest Wilderness
5 comments; last on Jan 28, 2015
Sat, Jan 24, 2015, 3:15 pm // Terry WechslerThe fourth area refinery crude by rail infrastructure project to receive permits without benefit of environmental review is being appealed, and provides an opportunity to make precedent.
Fri, Jan 23, 2015, 12:13 am // John ServaisThe second annual award for Citizen Journalism will be to The Political Junkie himself who runs the Sweeney Politics blog, Riley Sweeney.
2 comments; last on Jan 24, 2015
Tue, Jan 20, 2015, 3:07 am // Guest writerGuest article by Sandra Alfers. Water and sewer connections drive unwanted annexation. Trickle Creek homeowners are muzzled by a "no protest zone."
1 comments; last on Jan 20, 2015
Sun, Jan 18, 2015, 10:14 pm // Guest writerEllen Murphy gives us a poem for this Martin Luther King day of remembrance.
2 comments; last on Jan 21, 2015
Sun, Jan 18, 2015, 9:15 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein the ridiculous is ridiculed
5 comments; last on Jan 21, 2015
Thu, Jan 08, 2015, 2:54 pm // Guest writerTani Sutley guest writes about the vacation rentals situation and presents goals for the county council to consider for improving our rural neighborhoods.
1 comments; last on Jan 10, 2015
Wed, Dec 31, 2014, 1:16 am // Guest writerDuuhhh! Try doing without it. Marian Beddill provides an overview of our rural Whatcom County water situation and the efforts to find fair solutions.
3 comments; last on Jan 08, 2015
Wed, Dec 24, 2014, 1:23 pm // Riley SweeneyThe Herald gave us their top 10 stories, Riley gives you his top 5
Thu, Dec 18, 2014, 5:04 pm // John ServaisOne part of the environmental study for the proposed Cherry Point mega coal terminal has been completed and released. It deals with ship collisions - they call it…
2 comments; last on Dec 22, 2014
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