COALITION OF SOUTHSIDE NEIGHBORHOODS
Edgemoor / Fairhaven / Happy Valley / South / South Hill
‘Planning together to protect our community quality of life’
December 11, 2006
Timothy Stewart, AICP, Director, Planning and Community Development
City of Bellingham
210 Lottie Street
Bellingham, WA 98225
RE: Changed Plans for Fairhaven Harbor Development
Subject: Request for a Facilitated Public Forum to Review the Fairhaven Harbor Project
Dear Planning Director Stewart:
During the last few years, many citizens living in our area of Bellingham have become increasingly concerned with the direction of the City’s ‘growth management requirement’ to create infill and density development within existing neighborhoods.
Two years ago, these concerns led to the formation of the Coalition of Southside Neighborhoods (CSN), consisting of Edgemoor, Fairhaven, Happy Valley, South and South Hill Neighborhoods. We share the same geographic location, and much of the Padden Creek Watershed and/or contribute to the watershed’s stormwater impacts. We consider Fairhaven Village to be our ‘urban village’ and the Fairhaven waterfront to be our access to Bellingham Bay.
As you may know, a few years ago, before CSN was formed, the 2004 Bellingham Community Forum on Growth Management was attended by many from our neighborhoods. They worked with City planners to make thoughtful determinations about how to manage growth. Yet, seemingly unplanned development continued apace, without taking into consideration the recommendations we consider to be essential to good planning:
(Page 73.) “establish design guidelines for areas that are particularly sensitive, for development types that are particularly controversial and for all urban village sites…”
( Page 75.) “…This recommendation suggests that the City….look at development in terms of its impact on the urban form and not on just its building design or proposed use.”
( Page 79.) “Urban village master plans….. The City is now in a position to lead by example, creating master plans for urban villages that involve the community and demonstrate how the infill design approach can apply to unique situations in Bellingham.”
( Page 80.) “Zoning updates:…ensuring individual development projects contribute to the community’s overall urban form…”
On March 22, 2005, CSN wrote a letter to the City Council, the Planning Commission, City Administration and Planning Staff. In a “Detailed Statement of Concern”, CSN requested further discussion of transportation and planning issues, as they impact Fairhaven Village.
We understand that development has an important role to play in creating a vibrant place to live and work. However, we also know if not done correctly and carefully by a Planning Department that balances the desires of citizens and neighborhoods, development has the potential to damage the existing ‘built’ and natural environments. Additionally, we must preserve enough habitat buffer area to sustain the natural stream system functions, while infilling neighborhoods.
The Bellingham Comprehensive Plan, 2006, Chapter 1: Framework Goals and Policies includes Waterfront Futures Group(WFG) Vision Statements, (p.F-12) ‘WFG Character Area 5, Fairhaven: “The vision for Fairhaven extends the pedestrian scale and character of the Fairhaven business district to the water.” This vision was adopted by Resolution 2005-04, and should have guided the proposed project.
We remain concerned that even in its latest iteration, the Fairhaven Harbor development does not match the Comprehensive Plan and WFG ‘vision for Fairhaven’, and has the potential to create adverse impacts to our urban village, waterfront, and Padden Creek. Without an Environmental Impact Statement for the project, the public has had little opportunity to consider what impacts from this development have been identified, and how they will be effectively mitigated.
Further, there has never actually been a public conversation about the complete project, and all of its potential impacts. Instead, over a two year period, the project was broken down into a multi-faceted permit process with comments and hearings limited to addressing certain portions. CSN envisions a new, open approach, in which the concerns and comments of all stakeholders are listened to and thoughtfully considered, as part of a careful decision-making process.
We believe the surrounding neighborhoods have a vital role to play in the planning process of Fairhaven Village. Therefore, before you make a determination about the Fairhaven Harbor development project, we strongly urge you take this opportunity to create a meaningful, inclusive community planning process for all projects.
We look forward to hearing from you. We are eager to get to YES!
Pam Went, CSN Representative, Edgemoor Neighborhood
Steve Wilson, President, South Neighborhood
John Hymas, President, Happy Valley Neighborhood
Donna Auer, President, South Hill Neighborhood
Vince Biciunas, President, Fairhaven Neighborhood