Monday, August 27, 2007

Farr/Buchanan in Ward 3

At the moment, Larry Farr is the sole candidate for the Ward 3 council seat to have responded to my emails. He has spoken to me on several occasions at Samish Neighborhood meetings and appears interested and engaged. I have had no response from Barry Buchanan on this issue. Perhaps he would like to respond now.

I received the following from Candidate Farr on 7/25/2007. He is responding to the concerns of a resident of the Samish Neighborhood whose questions appear below in light green italics. Mr. Farr's comments are in blue italics.

“Currently there is a code on the books to protect the integrity of the single family neighborhood from group/rooming houses, put there by the city council. The city administration now claims it is unenforceable and refuses to do anything. My neighborhood (R1 zoned, single family residential) is being destroyed with rooming houses and a clean and safe house. Property values are dropping (who will knowing moved their family next to a rooming/group house), long term neighbors are putting their homes up for sale to get away. When you have a group of folks moving into a neighborhood who have no interest, loyalty or ownership in a neighborhood, its apparent what happens. In many cases animal house

Question is: What will you do as a city administrator to protect the integrity of the single family zoned neighborhood?

Thank you for allowing me to better explain the question. I will await your response. Good luck on your campaign.”

(Note Mr. Farr’s response begins here.)

"In response, the quick answer is, that we must protect the integrity of the single family zoned neighborhoods unless the neighborhoods provide input into where this should/could be changed. This is your neighborhood and you purchased your property in an area zoned for single family residents – the only way this should change is if you provide input into this change. Without your approval as a neighborhood, the residential zoning should not be changed.

Now the longer answer… that goes after your situation.

Each neighborhood is currently zoned for a specific purpose and density. Your neighborhood was zoned R1 residential for the reason of (and I am just guessing at this point) when it was laid out the specific lot size minimums and maximums were established and put into law that this would be a residential area for the current and future use. Any changes or exceptions to the current code would require, (as established by the code itself), that a conditional use permit be sought and obtained by due process. The conditional use permit process includes having neighborhood input to seek the desires of the neighbors who live in the area and are impacted by the change.

(Here is the code statement showing the process)

Changes in the boundaries, general use type (also called the "zone" in BMC 20.00), use qualifier or density of each "Area" shall be considered through the rezone procedure in BMC 21.10. Changes in permitted uses and/or density rules that modify the general use type, use qualifier or density shall be considered a rezone, regardless of the topic category in which they appear in the BMC 20.00. All other amendments to BMC 20.00 shall be considered through the development regulation amendment procedure in BMC 21.10.

Now back to your question, As a member of the city council, when you came to me to tell me that your neighbors were running a business out of the home, and they were in violation of the city code and zoning regulations, then I would follow up with city staff

- to see if there was a conditional use permit in place,

- how was this process determined

- and if the neighborhood were informed

Secondly, if there were no permit in place, I would seek out the mayors office, as they are the management side of our government, and hound them to take action against the violation. Seeking a position on the Council, (as I am), if elected, will be a part of the legislative body of government and my role is to represent you in the establishment of the policy, procedure, and laws that protect and serve the citizens. I would not have the power to do the “enforcement”, but have the authority to establish the rules by which we provide for the citizens. If the staff is not compliant to the regulations, then this needs to be addressed, and basically my tenacious personality would be a part of bringing this issue before the bodies that do have the power to enforce this. This is my role as your elected representative.

I did find a case that is similar to yours… on the records you can read the opinions of a case that went through the state supreme courts if you cut and paste the following web address into your computer.

… you need to know that as an administrator for the city, I represent you and the other neighbors. And I would/will do everything in my authority to maintain the zoning codes as established. With the understanding that as a community we are growing, but the changes do not just “happen” without the input of those who live in the neighborhoods and your voice must be heard.

Hope that answers a bit for you, if not, then fire me back another question.



My comments:

We should not confuse enforcement of the single family zoning code with compliance with the Fair Housing Act, a federal statute which speaks to housing for the disabled and includes those recovering from substance abuse. As unnerving and irritating as it may be, such group homes may appear on your block without warning and there is precious little you can do. See for additional information. Nor is the issue that of in-home businesses, which the city seems to be able to enforce occasionally, as far as I have been able to determine. A complaint I registered with the city regarding such a business in a home on my street was promptly and effectively acted upon and the business was shut down. The issue remains non-enforcement of the single family zoning code. I “hounded” the last mayor on the subject and was told that my only recourse was a civil suit (on my dime, of course) based on some poorly written covenants on the properties on my street. Most homes in Bellingham have no such covenants, so those deprived homeowners are effectively left with no recourse. So much for city hall's enforcing the laws for those properties not under covenant. A latter day version of semi-apocryphal "Let them eat cake."

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