Questions for candidates

For the

COALITION OF SOUTHSIDE NEIGHBORHOODS’

Candidates’ Forum on July 19, 2007

http://whatcomindy.com/news/data/upimages/Bjornson_web.jpg
Candidate for City Council at Large

Louise Bjornson, incumbent
Phone: (360) 733-7756
E-mail: Dale-Louise@msn.com

1. Do you think development impact fees are adequate to protect the taxpayers from the costs of development? If yes, why? If not, why not?

The City Council responded to this concern by instituting School impact fees, Traffic impact fees, and Park impact fees, so growth is paying more of its fair share.  These fees should be reevaluated again every few years.  I believe the school district will be doing so next year.   We recently raised our Traffic impact fees substantially to help cover the cost of the impact of future development on the city’s transportation system.  Developers also pay for the streets along the frontage of their property and the interior streets in a development.  It is a balancing act to try to be fair to the existing population. 

Our Park impact fees were raised recently to more closely reflect how we as a community place a high value on our parks.

Some cities and counties still have not adopted any impact fees.

2. As a city leader, how would you ensure that neighborhoods are represented at the table in making decisions that affect them?

We have many ways that neighborhoods are represented at the table.  Our vibrant neighborhoods and our quality of life show that.  I will work to make sure it continues.

One of the things that makes Bellingham a great place is the integrity of our neighborhoods.  I have a long history of working with neighborhoods.  As a neighborhood advocate, I was appointed to the Mayor’s Neighborhood Advisory Commission during the update of the 1980 Comprehensive Plan, and later served for 5 years on the Planning Commisson before I was elected to the City Council.

I have worked to get more information to the public.  Planning Commission, City Council, and Hearing Examiner agendas, minutes, notices of public hearings, happenings in your neighborhood, information about processes, are much more available now.  Proposed changes, in regular English rather just in legaleze, are also now posted on a bright yellow sign, in case you miss a mailing.

The first time I was City Council President, I started the 15 minute public comment period at the beginning of every council meeting.  This tradition has continued, giving people another chance to share their thoughts.

I also helped write the ordinance that requires public meetings for proposals in the early stages, rather than waiting for the public hearing at the Planning Commission stage.  The result is generally better proposals, and better communication all around. 

I voted to make the Neighborhood Services Coordinator a permanent position; a key liaison for the neighborhoods.

The Mayor’s Neighborhood Advisory Commission is another important place to be at the table, getting information on what is happening in the city and is an opportunity to let the city officials know your thoughts and needs.  I am glad so many neighborhoods have active organizations.  It is important to know your neighbors, whether working on land use plans or Block Watch, or having a neighborhood picnic.  It all helps build a sense of community here in Bellingham.

3. Do you think high-density development on Chuckanut Ridge, considering its environmental significance and ecological value, is an appropriate location for city infill?

I love walking thru the Chuckanut Ridge area and have done so for many years.

If I was choosing a place for infill, I would choose adding density to downtown, the waterfront, or mixed use centers, all of which have or will have services close by.  This is what many other cities have also done.

As a City Councilmember, I voted for the Critical Areas Ordinance, the Wetland Ordinance, and the Clearing Ordinance, all of which will lessen the impact on the sensitive areas.  The EIS will give us more information. I also voted to purchase part of this property, the area around Hoags Pond, the 14 acre addition to Fairhaven Park, and many more acres around the Interurban Trail, so we will retain a North/South greenbelt buffer on both sides of the trail.  As you know, we also tried to purchase more of Chuckanut Ridge property, but it was out of our price range.

Our Greenways Program was instrumental in many of these purchases.

I worked very hard on all three Greenway Levies so we would have the finances to preserve many of the green areas we love.

We made many improvements and additions to our Parks and Trails System in this area of Bellingham recently:  Purchased Woodstock Farm, improvements to Arroyo Park, Happy Valley Park, trail crossings on Old Fairhaven Parkway, the Fairhaven Village Green, Taylor Street Dock.  

4. Would you support a change in the Fairhaven Design Review Code to establish height and bulk limits for all of Fairhaven's urban core, influence and approach areas?

I want to make sure that Fairhaven maintains the urban form and special historical character that we all know and love.  The addition of residential units above retail make it an example of a thriving urban village.  I helped write the Design Review for Fairhaven.  It was written at a time when we knew Fairhaven would be growing and I wanted to make sure that the new buildings would fit.

The strip development along Samish Way certainly would not be appropriate in Fairhaven.

Now, we finally also have design standards in our Downtown.  With more experience behind us, it is time to update the Fairhaven Design Review Code and have conversation about what height and bulk is appropriate.

Traffic flow in this area is also important.  I worked with Public Works staff to add the right hand turn lane coming north after the bridge at the intersection of Donovan and 12thStreet.  It was not part of their plan, but was definitely needed.

5. Do you think officially designating streets and intersections as LOS F is an effective strategy to accommodate transportation concurrency under the GMA?

Since many people in Bellingham do not want 4 lane roads going thru much of town, the city chose LOS F to apply to certain roads that are congested during rush hour, but operate fairly well during much of the rest of the day.  For instance, to widen Northwest Ave, would require replacing the bridge over Squalicum Parkway, and also the I-5 bridge over Northwest Ave.

In addition, I have been a staunch advocate of pedestrian, bike, and bus improvements throughout the city.

6. When the Greenways Ordinance was put on the ballot in 2006, the mayor's proposal was voted down three times until he made it clear there would be eight million dollars of Greenways money available for acquisition of Chuckanut Ridge. Without the eight million dollars the Greenways ordinance would not have been put on the ballot. Do you agree that there should be eight million dollars of Greenways money available for acquisition of Chuckanut Ridge?

Our Greenways Program is one of the best things we have done in Bellingham.  It, along with donations, grants and other $ has helped preserve and enhance green areas and corridors for people and for critters.   When development occurs, there is a certain amount of land set aside and not developed because of wetlands, steep slopes, streams, etc.   The Environmental Impact Statement will give us more information in regards to Chuckanut Ridge 

The Land Trust owns part of the Chuckanut Ridge property near the trail, and the City purchased 14 more acres to enlarge Fairhaven Park.  The city also purchased Hoags Pond and other property to make a larger buffer on both sides of the Interurban Trail.

A portion of Greenways III funds will be set aside for purchase of more land in the south part of Bellingham.   Exactly how much money will be used and in which location will be a community decision.  I worked on all three Greenway Levies so we would have this money available.

 

http://whatcomindy.com/news/data/upimages/Ham-Hayes-2.jpgCandidate for City Council at Large

Ham Hayes
Website: www.hamhayes.org
E-mail: ham@hamhayes.org
Phone: (360) 319-1936

1. Do you think development impact fees are adequate to protect the taxpayers from the costs of development? If yes, why? If not, why not?

No, only partially.  Of the allowed impact fees we are doing best with Transportation at around 50%, Parks at around 35%.  Schools are about 10% and Fire is zero. 

2. As a city leader, how would you ensure that neighborhoods are represented at the table in making decisions that affect them?

Neighborhoods have a number of ways they are represented including:

* Comp Plan requirements, including adopted City Policy

* Mayor's Neighborhood Advisory Commission

* Neighborhood Coordinator & Associations

* Neighborhood Update Process & Citizen's Academy

* Public meetings, Announcements & BTV10

* Public process, including Neighborhood Pre-Application meetings, Planning Commission, Hearing Examiner, City Council, Public Hearings & meetings, Appeals, Elected Representatives, Citizen Input via letter, e-mail, testimony.  If any neighborhood reports to the council that it is not being represented, I promise to bring that to the attention and resolution of the responsible department or organization.

3. Do you think high-density development on Chuckanut Ridge, considering its environmental significance and ecological value, is an appropriate location for city infill?

This question seems to have two parts, one about wetlands protection and the other about infill.  If there is any evidence that the wetlands protection process was faulty, then further review is called for.  The conditions of the wetlands permit should also be fulfilled, including review and possible modifications of the plan as described in the permit.  After that, if all other permitting requirements have been legally met then the development can legally proceed.  Appeal and judicial processes are available as well for redress.

4. Would you support a change in the Fairhaven Design Review Code to establish height and bulk limits for all of Fairhaven's urban core, influence and approach areas?

The question of standards for building design, including height and volume, architectural appearance and location is very important.  I support making improvements in the process for determining how and where infill is fulfilled as well as how our aesthetic values are impacted by development.  It is essential that we have an understandable and fair process that includes all stakeholders equitably. This process needs to apply city wide, not just for Fairhaven.

5. Do you think officially designating streets and intersections as LOS F is an effective strategy to accommodate transportation concurrency under the GMA?

Let’s look at this a different way.  Bellingham is seeing increased congestion as evidenced by the council’s recent LOS changes on Northwest and Lakeway Drive.  The city basically said it was too expensive to fix the problems and so they changed the standard so that there isn’t a conflict with the Comp plan that would require significant action on restricting development.  So, is the plan valid? Not valid?  Given these actions, my sense is the current strategy needs to be reviewed.

6. When the Greenways Ordinance was put on the ballot in 2006, the mayor's proposal was voted down three times until he made it clear there would be eight million dollars of Greenways money available for acquisition of Chuckanut Ridge. Without the eight million dollars the Greenways ordinance would not have been put on the ballot. Do you agree that there should be eight million dollars of Greenways money available for acquisition of Chuckanut Ridge?

It would appear that the current city council could choose a new course if it felt that was justified.  Going forward, to the best of its ability, the city needs to use the Comp  and other city plans and the advice of Parks and Greenways for guidance and criteria for acquisitions.  To improve in the future, we need to make sure that there is a clear and understandable process that is followed.

 

http://whatcomindy.com/news/data/upimages/Michael-Lilliquist.jpgCandidate for City Council at Large

Michael Lilliquist
E-mail: Michael@LilliquistforCityCouncil.org
Phone: (360) 392-8678
Website: www.LilliquistforCityCouncil.org

1. Do you think development impact fees are adequate to protect the taxpayers from the costs of development? If yes, why? If not, why not?

It is no secret that growth does not pay for itself.  New development requires roads, utilities, emergency services, schools and parks.  These “impacts” can add up to an estimated $25,000 per single-family house.  The City of Bellingham assesses impact fees to cover only a fraction of these costs.  The rest of the burden is laid upon us, the current taxpayers of Bellingham.  We are subsidizing growth.  It’s a tragic irony that our tax dollars are being used to encourage the very thing that may threaten our quality of life and the character of our city and neighborhoods.  As I see it, the problem is that our impact fee and permitting system does not preferentially encourage desirable development.

Carefully planned growth can be good.  Smart and beneficial growth probably should be subsidized.  One problem is that the current subsidy system is indiscriminate.  It does not make the distinction between intelligent growth and sprawl, between building neighborhoods and building skyscrapers, or between affordable housing and high-end homes.  Ideally, government policies and regulations should reflect the values and priorities of its citizens.  The City’s impact fees must support our priorities – lower fees for desirable development, higher fees for sprawl.  Unfortunately, the County does not apply impact fees to development that occurs just outside City limits, thus encouraging sprawl in the places that it should be most discouraged.  This is a serious issue that needs addressing through interlocal agreements with the County.

This problem – low impact fees that indiscriminately encourage all kinds of growth, rather than encouraging beneficial growth – can be addressed by raising the base rate of impact fees while providing incentives such as substantial discounts and reductions for projects that accomplish infill goals (or other goals, such as affordable housing or green building practices).  The key is to recognize that the true costs of sprawl, in terms of infrastructure and services from the city, are far greater than the true costs of infill.  A discriminating impact fee program will place development costs where they belong.

2. As a city leader, how would you ensure that neighborhoods are represented at the table in making decisions that affect them?

It is helpful to realize that steps have been taken to improve the City’s relationships with its neighborhoods. After years of growing complaints, the City has begun to move in the right direction.  The temporary Mayor’s neighborhood liaison position has been made permanent, and the Planning Department has asked each neighborhood to consider updating its own neighborhood plan, after years of resisting such efforts.  I believe that the City needs to take its commitment to the next level.  First, those neighborhoods that have taken on the challenge of updating their own neighborhood plans are charting unknown territory without enough guidance, and virtually no city staff assistance.  The City has agreed to grant each neighborhood five hours of staff time.  This is not only insufficient given the magnitude of the issues and the complexity of land use regulation, but it is also insulting that our own government should treat neighborhoods as a marginal special case, rather than as a central focus of the City’s planning efforts.

I believe our planning priorities need to be re-ordered.  The voices and ideas of our neighborhoods need to be heard and given a recognized role in the process.  Neighborhood associations, along with other public stakeholders, need to be included earlier in the planning process.  The circle of public notification may need to be enlarged.  We need to focus on building healthy neighborhoods with distinctive character, rather than isolated suburbs or shopping centers.  We need thriving urban centers with public facilities and mid-density commercial cores that serve the needs of the local population and that reduce our dependency upon cross-town car trips.  We need safe and walkable neighborhoods.  For all of these goals, the City should develop ways to include public input early and often, in part through the recognized neighborhood associations.

We have started to move in this direction. If elected to the City Council, I will support and encourage new priorities in our City’s planning process, and work to see that our written promises are translated into deeds. I believe we should create an Office of Neighborhoods, in direct communication with the City Council's office, to maintain a reliable link between Council members and neighborhoods.

3. Do you think high-density development on Chuckanut Ridge, considering its environmental significance and ecological value, is an appropriate location for city infill?

I believe there are three major problems with the proposed development of Chuckanut Ridge.

First, this property contains rare and potentially irreplaceable natural treasures.  It is not only a near-pristine home to juvenile cutthroat trout and other valuable species, but it also provides a vital corridor between the larger ecosystem of the Chuckanut Mountains and the smaller green spaces within city limits – Fairhaven Park, Connelly Creek and the Arboretum.  If we are to sacrifice this natural treasure and the recreational opportunities that it provides, we need a compelling reason.  To my mind, no compelling reason has been presented.

The second major problem with development of Chuckanut Ridge concerns transportation.  The over 700 residential units will produce a huge new load on transportation corridors that are already taxed to the limit.  At peak times, the 12th Street bridge already experiences significant delays, and these delays would be greatly worsened.  Until and unless there are satisfactory solutions to the transportation problems, I believe it would be irresponsible to allow development of this magnitude.  The current rule for transportation infrastructure “concurrency” is inadequate.  It does not actually require that transportation improvements be concurrent with development. It only requires that such provisions be completed within six years.  For a smaller project, such a lag may be inconvenient; but for a project of this scale, the lag would be intolerable.  I would argue that the City should condition any development upon true transportation “concurrency,” i.e., that transportation improvements are made simultaneous with any development, with funds provided by the developer.

The third major problem is that the Chuckanut Ridge project is not infill by any reasonable measure.  Rather, it is a textbook case of sprawl, which it is City policy to discourage.  By any reasonable definition, sprawl is building houses on green fields and forested lands that are not currently served by utilities or by roads; whereas infill is building on vacant property or redeveloping existing property within and adjacent to already built structures, along existing roads, with existing utility services nearby.  Chuckanut Ridge is sprawl, not infill.  For the City to go against its clearly established policies to prevent sprawl and encourage appropriate infill, I believe we need a compelling reason.  Again, I can find none.

Unfortunately, despite all these problems, an easy solution is not at hand.  Chuckanut Ridge is in private hands, and public acquisition may require more funds than are currently available from Greenways funds alone.  Its permits, vested under what Planning Director Tim Stewart has called “loopholes” in the code, are currently under legal appeal. The bitter irony, known to many, is that acquiring Chuckanut Ridge was part of the original motivation for the first Greenways levy, and this goal is still unfulfilled.  Allowing development on this land will represent a failure of the first magnitude for the City’s long-range planning.

4. Would you support a change in the Fairhaven Design Review Code to establish height and bulk limits for all of Fairhaven's urban core, influence and approach areas?

Actually, Fairhaven already has height and bulk rules under the existing Design Review Code.  Unfortunately, those rules have proven ineffective and have been challenged as unconstitutional and unenforceable.  Recent efforts to correct these inadequacies were the victim of widespread misunderstanding and misrepresentation, and fell afoul of procedural requirements.  The key facts to bear in mind are 1) almost all objections to the recently proposed revision concerned the procedure, not the content of the proposal, 2) most objections were based upon misunderstanding of the proposal or upon misreading of the law, and 3) the great majority of Fairhaven stakeholders – residents and merchants alike – supported the idea of moderate height limits in the commercial core area of Fairhaven.

I support a thorough revision of the Fairhaven Design Review code, in order to better accomplish and clarify the purpose of the existing Design Review process.  That purpose is “to promote the economic health of the area by reducing unnecessary adverse aesthetic and other impacts that may arise from uncoordinated site development in historic or architectural districts and other adjacent influence areas.”  I believe – and have worked with other citizens to propose – that the purpose should be amended to include the following: “It is the intention of the design review to enhance, extend, and preserve the historic look and feel of Fairhaven by encouraging development that is similar to the existing buildings of historic significance. The size and form of the buildings of the historical core of Fairhaven are important and defining elements, and therefore height and mass limits and design guidelines are an essential part of the preservation of neighborhood character and commercial success of Fairhaven.”

On the specific issue of height and bulk, I believe that certain “loopholes” should be closed, so that some form of appropriate height limit governs all commercial and residential areas of Fairhaven.  I am of the opinion that Area 5, which is currently unregulated by a specific height limit, should be brought into conformity with the adjacent areas of the commercial core (Areas 2A and 2B).  [It should be noted that Area 5 is mostly built out already.]  In this way, it would serve as a westward extension and expansion of the commercial core, and would observe the same guidelines with regard to size and appearance as the rest of the core.  Specifically, this would allow buildings up to 54 feet in height, with City Council approval, providing that sufficient parking amenities are provided on site.

As many people already know, Fairhaven Neighbors’ attempt to begin a public process to consider these changes was derailed just as it started.  Since then, the Planning Director has offered to mediate any residual disputes and to move forward on establishing a mutually agreeable basis for new and enforceable design guidelines for Fairhaven.  If successful, this model process could be adopted by other Bellingham neighborhoods, several of which are looking into establishing their own design guidelines as part of a broader campaign to preserve neighborhood character while accommodating infill and growth.  Furthermore, if elected I would support the creation of a Fairhaven Design Review Board (such as exists for the downtown design review process) comprised of both residents and merchants, to bring a new level of openness and inclusiveness to the design review process

5. Do you think officially designating streets and intersections as LOS F is an effective strategy to accommodate transportation concurrency under the GMA?

The explicit rationale for LOS (level-of-service) F is that, although traffic loads for a road or intersection should never exceed 100% of carrying capacity at peak times (known as LOS E), in certain situations it may be infeasible or prohibitively expensive to maintain the City’s adopted level of service.  Only half-jokingly, LOS F has been called LOS F-for-Failure.  At the moment, the City lists eleven areas, including the Padden Creek Bridge at 12th Street, as allowed to operate at LOS F during peak times.  In the case of the Padden Creek Bridge, the City Council decided that rebuilding or widening the bridge was financially prohibitive.

Viewed this way, LOS F is not so much a way to accommodate transportation concurrency, as much as it is a way to accommodate financial or practical realities.  However, the issue is not so simple.  Under GMA rules, new development is prohibited if it would result in a failure of adopted LOS levels, unless mitigating measures that would prevent traffic failure are put in place or are due to be put in place “concurrent” with development.  Thus, levels of service E or better are means of controlling or mitigating the harmful impacts of growth.  The case is not so clear for LOS F, however.  As I read the Transportation chapter of the Comprehensive Plan, it would seem to indicate that development may still trigger transportation concurrency requirements if traffic loads are anticipated to exceed 125% of carrying capacity at peak times (“maximum concurrency threshold” of 1.25).  In this case, LOS F still operates as a trigger for transportation concurrency, albeit a less stringent and less effective one.

The case of the Padden Creek Bridge is particularly important for the south side, because it represents the single direct arterial connecting Edgemoor and Chuckanut to the rest of Bellingham.  The alternatives are lengthy, roundabout, and rely upon residential roads.  Moreover, the proposed 739-unit Fairhaven Highlands development would add thousands of car trips, doubtless triggering transportation concurrency requirements.  As I discussed in a previous answer, I believe that the “concurrency” requirement for such a large development, particularly one with such acute and focused traffic impacts, should be enforced up front.

Stepping back from the LOS issue to take a broader view, I think it is important to realize that roads are not the solution to Bellingham’s increasing traffic problems.  Instead, the solution can be found by paying attention to the destinations along the roads.  We need to look at how our cities are laid out.  To reduce the number and distance of car rides, the most effective solution is to remove the need to travel very far for most everyday needs.  Where I live, we can walk to school, the library, grocery store, shops, banks, restaurants and services.  Often, I do not drive my car for the simple reason that I do not have to drive my car.  It is an easy choice because of the location and availability of all these destinations.

Thus, one of the best ways to reduce the percentage of trips that are made by car is by encouraging different patterns of development.  Not so long ago, separating residential and business areas was thought to represent wise planning.  We now see that the older pattern of mixed use areas and of many small, local commercial centers spread throughout a city are actually preferable for a number of social and environmental reasons.  The lesson is that community planning and traffic planning go hand in hand.

6. When the Greenways Ordinance was put on the ballot in 2006, the mayor's proposal was voted down three times until he made it clear there would be eight million dollars of Greenways money available for acquisition of Chuckanut Ridge. Without the eight million dollars the Greenways ordinance would not have been put on the ballot. Do you agree that there should be eight million dollars of Greenways money available for acquisition of Chuckanut Ridge?

The first thing to keep in mind is that Greenways III provides significant funds for acquisitions of greenways in all parts of town. Whether or not all of the money earmarked for the south side goes to Chuckanut Ridge does not encumber or limit Greenways monies for other parts of town or for development of existing Greenways properties.  Greenways is not a case of north versus south, as has been falsely portrayed at times.  The question is, to what use should the Greenways monies earmarked for the south side be put?

It is my understanding that the original intent of Greenways programs across the country is to not only provide for park development.  The purpose also includes preservation, by public purchase, of important undeveloped areas for wildlife habitat and as connective wildlife corridors. Carefully placed, unobtrusive trails are encouraged in order to connect people to these special places, but always with great care so as to not unduly disturb the flora and fauna.  In my opinion, Chuckanut Ridge is a clear example of a Greenways project.

I think the record is clear that the City Council understood – and the news media reported – that up to $8 million would be available for the acquisition of southside properties.  Given the context of the discussions and the fact that no other specific properties were discussed, I think it is clear that all parties understood that Chuckanut Ridge was the intended property for most or all of the money.  Therefore, I think it is entirely appropriate that all $8 million should be considered as available for Chuckanut Ridge.  This is not to say that all $8 million must go towards Chuckanut Ridge, but to do otherwise would first require a strong case justifying a change in course and intention.  Unless and until more valuable southside properties are identified, I believe all $8 million should be considered available for Chuckanut Ridge acquisitions.

Whether or not Bellingham finds a cooperative seller in Horizon Bank, is another question entirely.

 

 

http://whatcomindy.com/news/data/upimages/Don-Keenan.jpgCandidate for Mayor

Don Keenan
Website: www.donkeenanformayor.com
E-mail: don@donkeenanformayor.com
Phone: (360) 671-0131

1. Do you think development impact fees are adequate to protect the taxpayers from the costs of development? If yes, why? If not, why not?

No. Impact fees cannot completely protect taxpayers from the costs of growth. Impact fees are an important mechanism to reduce subsidies from existing citizens to new development and are an important source of revenue for the City's capital projects. However, Washington State law (RCW 82.02.050) states that cities that plan under the Growth Management Act "are authorized to impose impact fees on development activity as part of the financing for public facilities, provided that the financing for system improvements to serve new development must provide for a balance between impact fees and other sources of public funds and cannot rely solely on impact fees." Therefore, the impact fees (a) may only be imposed for system improvements that are reasonably related to the new development, (b) may not exceed a proportionate share of the costs of system improvements that are reasonably related to the new development and (c) must be used for system improvements that will reasonably benefit the new development.

We must periodically update valuations for land, facilities and equipment, and, as appropriate and legally permissible, re-evaluate and assess reasonable impact fees for parks, schools, and transportation. For example, years ago there were no impact fees assessed at all in Bellingham. In 1999 only about 8.5% of the transportation-related costs generated by development were covered by Transportation Impact Fees here. Since then recovery of costs has steadily increased with the latest citywide rates set at 50.2%. As Mayor, I would direct that all impact fees be reviewed annually to provide transparency and promote fairness in cost sharing.

2. As a city leader, how would you ensure that neighborhoods are represented at the table in making decisions that affect them?

As Bellingham’s Deputy Administrator I worked closely with the Mayor’s Neighborhood Advisory Commission for 7 years helping neighborhoods successfully resolve important issues such as residential parking, traffic calming, development conflicts, code enforcement, development of park and trail connections, and safe routes to school. I am committed to working with neighborhoods to preserve those aspects of our diverse and unique neighborhoods that we cherish. Strong neighborhood plans combined with a thoughtful overall long-term plan for the city will result in a livable, workable city for us and for our children. We want our future to honor what we love about Bellingham and to improve rather than harm livability here. Strong, active neighborhood associations are also an important way for citizens to organize and formally access city government. They are key to maintaining our quality of life and neighborhood character as we grow as a City.

When development does occur in a neighborhood, what works best for everyone is for developers to work with the neighborhoods in the early, conceptual stages of a project before substantial costs have been incurred to determine what the neighborhood concerns are and to respond to them. Having a transparent and inclusive process will yield quality projects that address neighborhood concerns. As Mayor, I would direct our Planning, Public Works and Parks Departments to work together on all development projects at the earliest stages to assure City coordination of resources and planning. I would make it a point to periodically attend neighborhood meetings and gatherings.

We all benefit from planning that is informed by open, thoughtful discussion with all affected parties at the table, as well as the best available planning expertise. The key is to get the results of our common vision implemented in a positive cost-effective way that honors what we value most about Bellingham.

3. Do you think high-density development on Chuckanut Ridge, considering its environmental significance and ecological value, is an appropriate location for city infill?

I believe that at the very least a significant portion of Chuckanut Ridge will not be appropriate for high-density development. Chuckanut Ridge has unique environmental and ecological value and we will need to review carefully the Environmental Impact Statement that will be prepared to determine specifically what areas should be protected. We need to do what we can to protect and preserve our City's environmental and ecological gems, while at the same time balancing the rights of property owners to develop their property to the extent permitted by law. In addition to considering the environmental and ecological impacts of developments, we need to make provisions for adequate infrastructure and levels of service as well as preservation of neighborhood character. As a community we should be able to craft a creative and workable solution to this challenging issue. The problem we as a community continue to face is: how do we avoid sprawl (and increased commute times) and protect surrounding farmland if we don’t accept reasonable development within the city limits where the infrastructure is already in place? We have to decide as a community how we are going to act on our beliefs about managing growth in a sustainable way and with integrity.

4. Would you support a change in the Fairhaven Design Review Code to establish height and bulk limits for all of Fairhaven's urban core, influence and approach areas?

Yes, I would. This seems to be a timely and appropriate exercise for Fairhaven, and it would have been helpful in conditioning recent and current development. Building heights are a highly charged issue with many concerned that “high-rise towers” will change the look and character of Bellingham. It’s time (some would say long overdue) to look at height and bulk issues in all areas of the City. Height limits should be reasonable and appropriate for the area. Accepting a reasonable amount of additional density on an acceptable scale is the only way we can avoid sprawl. It will challenge our creativity, but with good planning and design and lots of public participation I believe we can maintain Bellingham’s character, while increasing housing options, creating more walkable mixed-use neighborhoods and promoting healthy local economic development.  

As Mayor, I would direct the Planning Department to start a community dialogue involving neighbors, businesses and developers. There are always competing interests in land use matters and they must be balanced fairly. We must have the conversation and make a decision so that all interests have certainty as to what can be done with a parcel of property. 

5. Do you think officially designating streets and intersections as LOS F is an effective strategy to accommodate transportation concurrency under the GMA?

Level of Service E is the City's adopted standard, which is cost effective, but limited in its ability to accommodate system strains due to new development, road repairs, traffic accidents, weather or unusual crowding. I think that tolerating certain streets and intersections at LOS F during limited peak period times can be part of accommodating transportation concurrency, but this will not solve the fundamental problem. Intersections generally peak at rush hour in late afternoon, but are not near peak at other hours. Even if we could stop issuing building permits near congested areas in an attempt to maintain higher levels of service, traffic would continue to increase as people build further out and then drive into and out of the City. And it is not a good alternative to simply build more and bigger streets to try to maintain higher levels of service. We must develop an effective and comprehensive regional transportation plan. We need to focus not just on movement of cars from point A to point B, but planning as well for neighborhoods where people don’t need to use cars to commute from home to work and school. As Bellingham’s Deputy Administrator, I worked with the County, WTA and other municipalities to organize and follow up on the Transportation Summit. As Mayor I will make area-wide coordination of public transit a high priority.

Due to increasing traffic on arterials, we should work with the Washington State Department of Transportation to explore building Park-and-Rides at the edges of town, allowing more people to rely on public transit to get into and around Bellingham. Also, our Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee has been an invaluable resource, and our Transportation Improvement Program has included some great bicycle/pedestrian projects in recent years. As Mayor, I would make bicycle/pedestrian/street connections a high priority and work with the Parks Department to integrate these connections with our Greenways system.

We should study our most congested intersections and review the timing of lights for optimum traffic flow. We also need to ask: where are the vehicles coming from? Where are they going? If a major employer is heavily contributing to a significant increase due to employee schedules, we should work with that employer on flexible scheduling so that car trips are staggered.

6. When the Greenways Ordinance was put on the ballot in 2006, the mayor's proposal was voted down three times until he made it clear there would be eight million dollars of Greenways money available for acquisition of Chuckanut Ridge. Without the eight million dollars the Greenways ordinance would not have been put on the ballot. Do you agree that there should be eight million dollars of Greenways money available for acquisition of Chuckanut Ridge?

I am a strong advocate of parks, trails and open space. I invested a significant amount of time and effort last year to work as a coordinator for the Greenways III campaign. I’m glad so many Bellingham residents, both long-time and new, joined together to help the levy pass with 59% of the votes cast.

I find this question difficult to answer given its wording. I attended the City Council meetings (both afternoon and evening sessions) on March 6 and 13, 2006 when the final wording of the Greenways III resolution was discussed and finalized. My recollection and the minutes of those meetings differ from what is stated in this question. In any case, the final wording of the resolution the Council passed on the evening of March 13, 2006 states that the Greenways levy will have: “…approximately $6 million allocated to Southside property acquisitions; and approximately $2 million undesignated. In the event that the City is able to negotiate a reasonable purchase agreement, the City Council will give priority to allocating up to $2 million in the undesignated funds, as may be deemed necessary, for acquiring a portion of property for completing a corridor connection between Fairhaven Park to the Interurban Trail through the area north of the wetlands on the parcel commonly known as Fairhaven Highlands….”

This language, which was the basis of the ballot measure the citizens of Bellingham passed on May 16, 2006 with a 59% positive vote, allows for the possibility, but does not state that $8 million will be allocated for acquisition of Chuckanut Ridge. Based on the Greenways system in place for the past 17 years, that treasured property, along with other parcels suggested by citizens through the Parks Department’s public process, will be evaluated and brought to the Council through the normal Greenways process which includes separate independent reviews and recommendations by the Greenways Committee, the Parks and Recreation Board and the Parks Staff. The Council will then decide which properties to purchase with Greenways III levy money. As Mayor I would implement and administer the decisions made by Council on expending Greenways levy funds.



 

http://whatcomindy.com/news/data/upimages/McShane_web.jpgCandidate for Mayor

Dan McShane
Website: www.danmcshane.com
E-mail: team@danmcshane.com
Phone: (360) 303-3908


1. Do you think development impact fees are adequate to protect the taxpayers from the costs of development? If yes, why? If not, why not?

No, for two reasons: State law doesn’t allow us to collect appropriate levels of impact fees and then local governments haven’t maximized the amount of impact fees they collect. In addition, the City has applied for and received public grants for infrastructure for private development, resulting in additional but untracked subsidies.

I will make sure costs are fairly distributed to those who benefit and that grant applications are used for projects with broad benefit, such as protecting Lake Whatcom.

2. As a city leader, how would you ensure that neighborhoods are represented at the table in making decisions that affect them?

We need a new way forward in neighborhood planning. I’m inspired by the remarkable effort underway by citizen volunteers who are sitting down, rolling up their sleeves, discussing solutions and tackling their long abandoned neighborhood plans – there’s much to be done. I will invest in neighborhoods and in neighborhood planning so that we have the resources we need to do planning well. I firmly believe that how we handle growth hinges on how well the city works with our neighborhoods.

This issue is and will be a priority for me. I will work hard and I will be involved in this new way forward for neighborhood planning. You will see me at your neighborhood meetings listening to your neighborhood issues and ideas and tackling them with you to make sure we have plans that work. I will actively engage your neighborhood businesses in these discussions as they’re an important part of what makes our neighborhoods great places to live. We will work together on planning.

Sprawl is not the solution to our growth pressures. A massive expansion of city borders will not make our existing neighborhoods better places to live. Only a consistent investment of resources into our neighborhoods will get the job done. I’ll be looking for opportunities throughout the city where neighborhoods can work with property owners, residents, citizens and businesses on quality redevelopment projects that will not only  protect  the character of existing neighborhoods but will improve the neighborhoods. Under my administration planning will be funded, staff will work closely with neighborhoods, citizens and businesses and we will move forward together to find solutions that fit for each neighborhood and the City of Bellingham.

3. Do you think high-density development on Chuckanut Ridge, considering its environmental significance and ecological value, is an appropriate location for city infill?

No. But that said, it’s a vested development and if it is to be built I will make sure that all environmentally sensitive areas are protected through strict enforcement of all environmental regulations, and development standards, transportation problems and school issues are adequately addressed. As mayor I’ll make sure those standards are upheld and that we don’t simply give things away or look the other way.

4. Would you support a change in the Fairhaven Design Review Code to establish height and bulk limits for all of Fairhaven's urban core, influence and approach areas?

Any code changes should occur within the context of the neighborhood plan update and be done with the neighborhood association, residents, businesses and the help of City Planners. Codes need to be well considered and appropriate for the goals of the neighborhood. I would support the planning efforts that would be necessary to review this obviously challenging issue so that well thought out solutions can be presented to the City Council.

5. Do you think officially designating streets and intersections as LOS F is an effective strategy to accommodate transportation concurrency under the GMA?

No, that’s not the right approach.

Our transportation issues highlight some problems with our city priorities and planning: 1)  neighborhood planning has been neglected so that projects have been  evaluated on a piecemeal basis without regard for broad impacts to neighbors and the city, 2)  the placement of high density development on the perimeter of the city has lead to traffic impacts throughout our neighborhoods and 3) major road projects occurred in areas that provided little benefit for city residents, such as the Sunset Drive upgrade which serves  non city residents, while  addressing  traffic problems and safety issues within  our neighborhoods has moved at too slow of a pace. 

We need a new way forward on transportation planning. We must address impacts within the context of not only a broader neighborhood plan process but also consider the impacts on city-wide basis.  While it is understandable that growth may cause traffic problems, we need to make sure people can safely get around without cars through investments in bike routes, walking routes and mass transit routes.  We need to focus on quality redevelopment that will provide multiple transportation options rather than on sprawl that forces heavy traffic into our communities.

6. When the Greenways Ordinance was put on the ballot in 2006, the mayor's proposal was voted down three times until he made it clear there would be eight million dollars of Greenways money available for acquisition of Chuckanut Ridge. Without the eight million dollars the Greenways ordinance would not have been put on the ballot. Do you agree that there should be eight million dollars of Greenways money available for acquisition of Chuckanut Ridge?

I would have handled this much differently.

Regarding Chuckanut Ridge, it is not appropriate for the Mayor or the City Council to telegraph their intent with regards to any specific parcel or acquisition. This is not a good way to start a negotiation on a property acquisition.  For me or any other candidate to answer such a question puts the city at a disadvantage and only extends the past problem into the future. I realize that people want guarantees but on land acquisitions, you won’t get that from me - such talk reduces my ability to negotiate. I will never publicly discuss my position regarding any potential land purchase either as a candidate or as Mayor. As a business owner and a hard negotiator on several tough negotiations at the county I understand well that loose lips on land purchases increase costs and reduce options.

Here’s how I will approach this as mayor: I will work closely with the Greenways Advisory Committee. First I will make sure that that there will be equal representation by ward for the Committee so that all are fairly represented. Second, I will continue to support the Committee in a broad and inclusive public process so that all citizens’ input is heard and all ideas considered. I would note that the Greenways Committee has been doing an outstanding job in this area. Third, when it comes time to negotiate any purchase, I will lead that effort and make sure that the city fully vets all purchases so opportunities are not missed and our tax dollars are well spent. You can count on me to be a tough negotiator.

In addition, as Mayor I will work hard to communicate well with everyone so that neither I nor my staff mischaracterize anyone’s intent or concerns, so that everyone is heard and so that the community has productive discussions about their priorities. This issue should never have divided the city.

 

 

http://whatcomindy.com/news/data/upimages/Dan_Pike.JPGCandidate for Mayor

Dan Pike
Website: www.pikeformayor.com
E-mail: info@pikeformayor.com
Phone: (360) 676-4077

1. Do you think development impact fees are adequate to protect the taxpayers from the costs of development? If yes, why? If not, why not?

We need to reassess the levels for mitigation or impact fees in our community, looking for a reasonable distribution of costs between existing residents and those moving here.  Currently, Bellingham collects three kinds of impact fees:  for transportation, school, and park impacts of growth. Current assessments for the fees collect a fraction of the total incurred costs. 

While a full cost recovery is not allowed under growth management, current assessments as set are too low for the impacts we are seeing. Parks impact fees assess only about 36% of the additional costs of that residential development (set to rise to 54%); transportation fees assess about half the costs of growth; and the school impact fees are set at less than 60 % of projected growth-related costs. State law does not allow for full recovery of costs through impact fees, but given the amount of costs incurred we should examine both the levels of assessment and how we manage the impacts of growth.   Some increases are called for to help cover the costs of this growth in a manner which does not overly burden Bellingham’s existing financial resources, or require an additional burden on existing taxpayers.

2. As a city leader, how would you ensure that neighborhoods are represented at the table in making decisions that affect them?

Because a central issue for our community is growth, and because how we deal with growth will have an outsized impact on neighborhoods, it is essential that neighborhoods need to be engaged in more than one way, to ensure that neighborhood voices are heard in the decision-making processes of the City, especially when dealing with issues with a disproportionate effect on neighborhoods.  With an agenda that includes overhauling the current zoning code to make it work better for the neighborhoods, everyone will have a place at the table in the important decisions of the City.  In addition, I will work on addressing inequities among neighborhoods in terms of parks and other facilities and infrastructure, and will directly engage neighborhood representatives in that effort.  All parties involved in a decision and its effects will be listened to, heard, and respected in my administration.  Some of this will be accomplished through beefing up the existing Neighborhood Advisory Councils, while other parts will be through the solicitation of neighborhood input on an issue-specific basis.

3. Do you think high-density development on Chuckanut Ridge, considering its environmental significance and ecological value, is an appropriate location for city infill?

For many reasons—a sensitive environment, limited transportation infrastructure and capacity, to honor commitments made under Greenways III—Chuckanut Ridge is a poor candidate for high density development.  It’s clear that we should work to identify more appropriate areas of the city—and Fairhaven itself—to accommodate the growth projected for Chuckanut Ridge.  Unfortunately, due to past zoning decisions, development that makes sense is not all the development that is allowed. We need to work with the owners of the property, and the Greenways process and promise, to find a way and means to transfer this particular property to public ownership. 

In addition, we need innovative thinking and solutions to meet the challenges of correcting past mistakes and avoiding future ones.  For example, one of the actions I will undertake is a fifty year analysis of Bellingham’s needs in terms of parks and open space, industrial, commercial, and residential land.  Through these analyses we will determine these needs, and then look to fund critical acquisitions, particularly in parks and open space, and in certain other areas of potential land scarcity, and work to acquire those lands now, while the properties are less expensive than will be the case a decade or more in the future. 

One possible funding source for parks and open space would be to consider bonding some piece of the projected parks impact fees anticipated over a twenty year period, so we can preserve the land even before it needs to be developed as a park or trail.  Buying it now will help remove future ‘Chuckanut Ridges’ from development pressure, by bringing them under public ownership. As growth occurs, additional levies, the remaining mitigation funds, or some other funding could be used to fund the development part of the plan.

4. Would you support a change in the Fairhaven Design Review Code to establish height and bulk limits for all of Fairhaven's urban core, influence and approach areas?

As Mayor, I will—with the help of neighborhoods and developers—develop a design-based zoning code to replace the ad hoc system of codes built up over the past century.  The current code no longer works to address anyone’s needs: not the residents, who want assurance that their neighborhood will not be disrupted by inappropriately designed or scaled development; not the developers who find that there is no predictability in the current system, which results in increased costs of development, which in turn results in increased prices disproportionate to local incomes. 

By replacing current codes with design guidelines developed on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis, neighborhoods can determine what is critical to them, and work to accommodate the code to their community character.  At the same time, developers will be given a clear vision of what can be easily developed, with explicit timeframes.  This creates multiple ‘wins’, as neighborhoods can better determine how they grow, developers can better know what the costs of development will be, and as a city we can achieve better infill and less unnecessary expansion of the Urban Growth Area. 

For Fairhaven, this code revision would allow for specific height and bulk limits to be established as appropriate to the neighborhoods vision for growth, as well as the opportunity to determine other specific requirements to maintain the integrity and character of Fairhaven.

5. Do you think officially designating streets and intersections as LOS F is an effective strategy to accommodate transportation concurrency under the GMA?

Designating streets and intersections as LOS F is an admission of the failure of our transportation system, of our leaders, and of us as citizens for not demanding better solutions.  As a transportation professional, I understand that we need a multifaceted approach to transportation if we are top avoid systemic gridlock which serves no-one well. 

We need to provide effective means for people to move around our community, and to do so in a manner which is efficient in terms of both cost and time.  This means providing a complete transportation system, incorporating and enabling the movement of people by car, transit, bike, and on foot.  With a systemic approach, we can also choose different, more meaningful measures of the system’s effectiveness.  Rather than simply focus on how well we move cars, we can instead focus on how effective our system is at moving people. We must not, however, accept failure as an acceptable metric of concurrency.

6. When the Greenways Ordinance was put on the ballot in 2006, the mayor's proposal was voted down three times until he made it clear there would be eight million dollars of Greenways money available for acquisition of Chuckanut Ridge. Without the eight million dollars the Greenways ordinance would not have been put on the ballot. Do you agree that there should be eight million dollars of Greenways money available for acquisition of Chuckanut Ridge?

Discussion at City hall of the Greenways III levy clearly indicated that Chuckanut Ridge was an integral piece of the proposal.  Since its passage, there has been an abundance of obfuscation about, and a lack of follow through on that commitment.  Because of some decisions already made regarding the Greenways II funding, I am uncertain about whether the original commitment of levy funds for acquisition of Chuckanut Ridge property can be fully met.  Regardless, I am committed to following through on the promise of the City, and finding a way to secure the property for the enjoyment of all of Bellingham into the future.

 

 


http://whatcomindy.com/news/data/upimages/Ryan_web.jpgCandidate for Mayor

Bob Ryan
E-mail: ryan84485@comcast.net
Phone: (360) 671-1776

1. Do you think development impact fees are adequate to protect the taxpayers from the costs of development? If yes, why? If not, why not?

No.  Impact fees cover only a small portion of the cost of development.  Currently the Park Impact fees cover only 35% of the cost of development.  All other impact fees recover less.  At 35% it means that the other 65% of the cost is paid by the taxpayers.

2. As a city leader, how would you ensure that neighborhoods are represented at the table in making decisions that affect them?

Safe, Livable neighborhoods are the key to Bellinghams’ success.  Prior to my election to City Council 12 years ago I was the President of the Birchwood Neighborhood Association.  I also represented all neighborhoods on the Benchmarks For Progress taskforce created by Tim Douglas.  The City needs to listen to the neighborhoods and work with them on all growth and zoning issues.

3. Do you think high-density development on Chuckanut Ridge, considering its environmental significance and ecological value, is an appropriate location for city infill?

The Growth Management Act creates a dilemma by forcing us to infill within our city limits to prevent sprawling out into the County.  The result is that property inside the city is increasingly more expensive and scarce.  So what do people do?  They move out into the County where land is less expensive.  This defeats the purpose of the GMA.  At one time all of what is now Bellingham was forested like Chuckanut Ridge.  It is sad that few areas like that remain.  In order to comply with the GMA we need to continue to infill.

4. Would you support a change in the Fairhaven Design Review Code to establish height and bulk limits for all of Fairhaven's urban core, influence and approach areas?

Current regulations allow higher buildings in specific areas.  I would support a discussion of height and bulk limits, it is important that everyone understands what the rules are in order to ensure that views are protected. 

 

5. Do you think officially designating streets and intersections as LOS F is an effective strategy to accommodate transportation concurrency under the GMA?

No, streets are rated from A thru F based on their ability to move traffic.  Allowing some arterials to drop from LOS F to F- does nothing to improve congestion.  We need to be creative in finding solutions that make our transportation system work.

 

6. When the Greenways Ordinance was put on the ballot in 2006, the mayor's proposal was voted down three times until he made it clear there would be eight million dollars of Greenways money available for acquisition of Chuckanut Ridge. Without the eight million dollars the Greenways ordinance would not have been put on the ballot. Do you agree that there should be eight million dollars of Greenways money available for acquisition of Chuckanut Ridge?

No.  There was never any agreement by the Bellingham City Council to allocate 8 million dollars of Greenways money for the acquisition of Chuckanut Ridge.