Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bellingham Herald Features Zoning Issue Again

The Bellingham Herald has discovered the Zonemaven’s blog. In today’s Herald you can find an article by Sam Taylor entitled “Blogger Wants Zoning Rules Followed.” Click here to read the article and comments.

Dean Kahn also posed a question regarding the zoning issue. Click here to read the question and the more than 70 comments. My comment follows:

"It is unfortunate that the question raised by Mr. Kahn was phrased in a way that implied that the students were the problem. The reality, I believe, is that the students’ behavior in group rentals is a symptom of a greater problem which is that of growth and the manner in which the city controls growth. Most neighborhoods are now updating their neighborhood plans, providing the city with their wishes for areas of parks, trails, high/low/medium density housing, etc. Unfortunately, the terms that the city uses to define low density, i.e., single family zoned, are totally ignored which allows the creation of rooming houses (high density) in structures which are meant to be inhabited by a single family. These de facto rooming houses change the character of neighborhoods. There is a considerable difference between the footprint of an average family with several children and the footprint of a rooming house with 6-7 adults. WWU, by virtue of its size, contributes to the bulk of the problem by asking the city to absorb 8,000 or more students each year. What would be the reaction of the city if a corporation were to come to Bellingham and say that it would employ 13,500 workers (mostly temporary) but that it could provide housing for only 3,500? That is essentially what happens here each year. The students are not stupid. I know. I invite them to my home for dinners and BBQs. I work at WWU sporting events. I am a member of the Campus Community Coalition and I attend the Let’s Talk forums. They are smart, funny and engaging. Students do the economically viable thing which is to band together to lower their costs. Nevertheless, the city has an interest in controlling growth by way of its ordinances. Ordinances similar to Bellingham’s regarding single families have been upheld in other cities. See my blog for examples ( Furthermore, the city has an interest in controlling businesses within its jurisdiction. Rooming houses are a business but the de facto rooming houses here are totally uncontrolled and uninspected. This endangers the health and welfare of all our citizens, especially our temporary residents, the students."

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