Sunday, August 17, 2008

City Releases Draft Bellingham Infill Toolkit - What Is the Point?

On August 15th the city released the draft “Tool Kit”, recently sprung from the loins of Planning Academy II. You can read this document by clicking here. Beware of the photos of pristine homes as they will bear little resemblance to reality. In the event you want to see what happens when you have no zoning enforcement, check out the photos (click here) on my blog entry on the Planning Academy which I wrote in June.

I had already stated my concerns regarding the Planning Academy last May (click here to read the entire blog entry) where I said in part: “Once all these cutesy little infill tools are rubber stamped by the Academy (which I believe is the agenda for the city government), they will be codified at which time the demand to make them real will outweigh the desire for the neighborhoods to keep them at bay. The more Tim Stewart says that the neighborhoods will control this infill, the less confidence I have in the outcome. He stated during the first planning session that the city is good at setting policy but not implementing policy, which, in my book, includes enforcement. That should tell you something. Remember, these are the same folks who have not enforced current codes for decades. Can we believe they will have the political will to enforce future codes having to do with carriage houses, cottages and town homes any more than they enforce single family zoning codes? And just what is in this “tool box” to roll back the years of neglect and chaotic infill by illegal rooming house-ification? If you build on bad policy you get bad policy.”

Here is an example of an attempt to create small homes on small lots without any enforcement follow-on. "I am a homeowner in the Magnolia Hills subdivision, and live on Wildflower Court – a cul-de-sac. When we moved into our single family–zoned neighborhood four years ago from our previous residence in North Bellingham, there was only one rental property on the far end of neighboring Wildflower Way, occupied by a number of unrelated individuals. Judging by their ages, they were students. Today, four years later, there are six group dwellings of a similar nature in this small residential subdivision.

Our once quiet cul-de-sac must now be one of the busiest in all of Bellingham because of the 24/7 coming and going of a multitude of cars, vans and trucks belonging to these young renters. There are many children living on our cul-de-sac and parents are justifiably concerned when few of the rooming houses’ occupants observe speed limits. When we do attempt to remind them of these limits, more often than not we get the one-fingered salute in response.

And because of the failure by City authorities to enforce its own Municipal Code, the quality of life on our once-quiet cul-de-sac has significantly deteriorated in a short four years. "


Anonymous said...

random side note which adds nothing to the conversation; I was one of those renters living in the house on the far end of Wildflower Way! And let me just say that the houses in that neighborhood were definitely built on the cheap, there were so many things wrong with our house I don't even know where to start.

Anonymous said...

I too live in this neighborhood and have watched as the renters influence the character. The homes are only as cheap as one lets them get. We recently improved our property and had it positively appraised in our sideways market. The trick is to stop using towels or blankets as drapes.

L. Miller said...

To Anonymous "random side note":

You're excusing your behavior (or the behavior of your illegal roomates) based on how the house is built? Interesting concept that you would live in a house that you consider sub-standard and use that as an excuse to show disrespect to your neighbors.

Perhaps the house was in such bad shape because you rented from a landlord that engages in an illegal practice and has no interest in keeping the property up as long as he/she can collect the outrages rents received from this illegal behavior. Or perhaps the house was in such bad shape due to being inhabited by many more peope than it was designed to hold.

I too am a Magnolia Hills resident who bought and moved in as the neighborhood was being built. There were no houses for the first few years and the neighborhood was great, inhabited by owners and renters who took pride in the place they lived. Now the neighborhood is a nightmare. We just received our new shipment of this years students across the street and it took them only two weeks to have the police called on them. Oh Joy!