Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Resolution - Needless and Heedless

Councilman Jack Weiss’s Resolution Supporting and Enhancing the Implementation of Bellingham’s Comprehensive Plan Infill Strategy unfortunately was passed by the council last night. (Click here to read the resolution) The only high point was Terry Bornemann’s successful challenge to one of the WHEREAS paragraphs which originally read, “WHEREAS, infill in existing urban areas includes, but is not limited to, the master planning and development of Urban Centers through incentive and regulatory structures, and the modification of development codes to allow for additional housing types in appropriate parts of existing developed neighborhoods. These types include detached accessory dwelling unit, cottage housing, townhouses and carriage housing, among other techniques...” Mr. Bornemann was able to convince the council to eliminate the last sentence of the paragraph which identified the “types” of housing.

The reason for which the city needed this resolution in the first place is problematic, especially since Planning Academy II is scheduled to start on 30 April. Everyone already gave an imprimatur to the Academy which supposedly should be allowed to do its work unencumbered by resolutions by the city council. When challenged by Terry Bornemann regarding the specificity of “housing types” Jack Weiss was visibly at a loss for words to support “detached accessory dwelling unit, cottage housing, townhouses and carriage housing, among other techniques…” (If you don’t believe me, review the video on the City of Bellingham website by clicking here or view the proceedings on BV10) Terry Bornemann reminded Mr. Weiss that the city had already gone many rounds on the ADU question (which was firmly shot down) and for the council to come back in this resolution in support of such an idea did not make sense, not to mention the prejudicial nature of such declarations prior to the work of the Academy.

In a statement during the comments period, I reiterated my opposition to the resolution – essentially a repeat of my blog entry of 13 April entitled The Weiss Resolution. Click here to read it.

I see very little difference between town houses, cottages, carriage houses and accessory dwelling units. In fact, these types can all be placed under the rubric of ADUs. Once areas are rezoned to accept these modes of housing, there will be no return to normal. At left are several photos taken of townhome-type units in the Samish neighborhood at 9:30am on 15 April. (Click on the photo to enlarge for full effect) These small, detached homes tend to be turned into rentals where cars collect (one wonders if the garages are used for autos or to provide additional bedrooms). Thus begins the inevitable deterioration as renters drive out live-in homeowners and more rentals are created in their place. By then, the developer has his money and the citizens are left with the mess.

One might also ask the reason for which this resolution was so hastily prepared and offered for public scrutiny only days before the 14 April council meeting. Mr. Weiss submitted the resolution on 8 April. It was reviewed by the legal eagles on the same day and initialed by the mayor on 9 April. The resolution did not appear on the city's website until 10 April, barely two business days before the council meeting. In fact, over twenty of the items to be considered by the council's committees were not initialed by the mayor until the week of the 7th of April. One of these agenda items contained an attachment of 504 pages. How is the citizenry to read and digest all that data in the space of a few days? If the city wants participatory government, it has to do better than this.

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