Monday, June 1, 2009

Hearing on Infill Tool Kit - More Diversion from the Real Problems

Have you noticed how smartly we are moving along to the preordained approval of the Infill Tool Kit? If you have not received the notice of public hearing on the Tool Kit, click on the image at left. From the beginning to its soon-to-be-ultimate finish, the Tool Kit has received tender loving care in a demonstration of the ability of the city to push through legislation that it desires in a canned process controlled by the city itself. Remember that the Tool Kit did not rise from a collective desire of the citizenry. Had one attended the Citizen Forum events on infill 21 March and 2 May, one would have discovered that when the city does not control the process, an open and frank DISCUSSION was possible and the distrust was allowed to surface.

Compare the Infill Took Kit process with that of the subject of maintaining the character of our neighborhoods through enforcement of codes, landlord licensing and dialogue with Western Washington University. In 2004, John Watts, then president of the City Council and speaking of landlord licensing announced at a public meeting on landlord licensing: WE HAVE HEARD YOU TONIGHT! (Click here to read, yet again, about that meeting) What did the city do? Nothing. In October 2007, the Council voted to create a pilot project to enforce the Bellingham Municipal Code on illegal rooming houses. (click here to read, yet again, about that vote) How many illegal rooming houses have been shut down since then? None. (I invite the Mayor to correct me if I am wrong on this point) In August 2008, JackWeiss made his six point proposal to deal with illegal rooming houses, nuisances, landlord licensing, etc. (Click here to read, yet again, about that proposal) Progress to date? Ummm. Errrrr.

To be honest, in October 2008, the Legislative Policy Analyst for the City Council prepared a draft issue paper on landlord licensing. Click on the images at left to read the executive summary. (I will send my readers a full electronic copy of the DRAFT report – contact me at zonemaven AT hotmail DOT com) The paper is a wonderful example of a fair and thorough examination of an issue and Mark Gardner is to be congratulated for his fine work. Unfortunately, the draft issue paper, dated 21 October 2008 has languished in municipal purgatory for 6 months and has only recently been forwarded for comments by the various department heads. In the meantime, the city executives, the Council and the Planning Commission have been marching in quick time and lock step to ensure the Infill Tool Kit, which will do nothing to improve the present character of our neighborhoods and may do much to destroy that character, finds its place in the municipal Hall of Fame of premature and perhaps unnecessary legislation. I will refrain here from mentioning also the distraction from the real issues confronting our neighborhoods by the folderol surrounding the WATERFRONT where, at last look, nobody lives.

In what may be a final and futile plea, I ask the Mayor and the City Council to take up the issues that have an immediate effect on our citizenry. Forget the Took Kit, prepared to deal with the influx of new residents which is not happening. Forget the Waterfront, where no voters live and whose neighborhood character is thus a non-issue. Deal with the distrust you have created by taking up NOW the unresolved and still festering issues from 2004, 2007 and 2008.

1 comment:

Zonemaven said...

The following was mistakenly left as a comment on another blog entry. The author "mrostron" asked that I repost his comments below.

"Civic leaders who should know better are not helping things any. Mr. Starcher has a record as a violator of both the spirit and letter of the single family zoned area neighborhood building codes. His debacle at Hampton Place is one example in our Sunnyland neighborhood. Now he is on the verge of getting a permit to reconfigure a building at 423 E Illinois for a boarding house business, using the cover of the federal disabilities legislation - all without any variance hearing, notice, etc. Some of us who live nearby only found out about it by chance. If local leaders won't even follow the rules, how can we expect the average citizen to or developer to comply?
What is really happening, we fear, is that the folks who hold the reins of power in tandem with local and outside developers want to see the end of the single family neighborhoods. So called "progressives" have said as much. They would prefer our city emulate Bellevue (west), while their thinking processes suggest Bellevue Hospital (east) was their a actual former residence.
On top of it all no one has any immagination. No one as even suggested, as Mr. Horowitz recently did (in the Cascadia Weekly) that we could develop the Georgia Pacific site as an automobile free zone. Frankly, I would rather emulate either Venice (Italy or California) than Bellevue or any typical Seattle neighborhood you want to name!
In the meantime, as you so accurately point out, our unique and diverse single family zoned neighborhoods are compromised and slowly destroyed while the city dithers away their time and energy on less pressing matters; but make no mistake - the wholesale makeover of the older single family neighborhoods, such as Columbia, Sunnyland, York, and Cornwall Park is their actual covert goal. But of course Edgemoor will be excepted."