Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ward 4 Candidate Gray Comments - Snapp Redux Coming Soon

Candidate Gray responds on 7/26

Thank you for taking the time to express your concerns regarding this thorny issue, and for your service to our community in the various capacities in which you generously volunteer your time.

I understand and share your concerns. I am personally affected in my own neighborhood by the very issue you address. Indeed the home I purchased, and now occupy, was previously rented to seven college students. When my wife and I purchased the home, the neighbors were very relieved to see an actual family moving into the home.

In a related issue, while the general idea of accessory dwelling units might not have been a bad one in principle, there is no doubt that it is being abused and the city needs to do something about it. Single family zoning means just that, and it is unacceptable for the exception to become the rule, as it is apparently doing in some areas of our city.

To start to get to solutions, as you are calling for, first, I support a full legal review of our enforcement options. I share your skepticism regarding the claims of constitutionality and enforceability, but I also recognize that there are issues of privacy and "a man's home is his castle" that we have to examine carefully in order to develop an enforcement policy that will comply with the state and federal constitutions and laws.

In addition, we need to strengthen our neighborhoods by empowering residents and by updating the neighborhood plans, as many local neighborhoods are currently doing. Parking is a key issue in this regard and parking regulation can be an effective enforcement tool as well, if used properly.

I'm new to the local political process, and thus am still in the learning phase on this and many other issues. I look forward to receiving more input from you to assist me in developing effective solutions to the many problems we face.

Thank you again for sharing your concerns, and for your willingness to address challenging issues to keep our city in its finest form.


Damon J. Gray
Candidate for Bellingham City Council, Ward 4

My reply

Luckily you never had to experience living next door to the group of 7 who previously occupied your home. I would encourage you to talk further with your neighbors about their experience.

As for ADUs, I think they are a bad idea all around and just another way to circumvent the zoning/density issue. Worse yet, they encourage abuse by allowing owners to eventually move into the ADU and invite renters into the main house. Eventually, the owner can move elsewhere and rent the ADU as well as the main house. Who is checking to see if the owner is on the premises? Given the track record of the city on dealing with no more than 3 unrelated people in a single family home, I do not feel reassured at the prospect of effective enforcement on ADUs.

As for the legal review, I said it before and it now bears repeating, “Why do you want to review a process that has never been tested?” The only definitive test is a judicial review, i.e, through the courts. Do we have any more reason now than we did before to think that further review will produce a better code? If such a review is necessary, where have the great municipal legal minds been for the last umpteen years? How much longer are we going to drag this out without getting to the nitty-gritty of enforcement?

Neighborhood plans will only empower the residents when they hold meaning. Until single family residential zoning is a consequential term, all the verbiage of the plans with regard to density is moot. Parking problems are symptomatic and a diversion from the zoning issue.

No comments: