Thursday, July 9, 2009

Update on Shenanigans at 423 E. Illinois - Approval Appealed

On June 9th I wrote a blog entry entitled How to Destroy a Neighborhood – One…House…at…a….Time. (Click here to read that entry). The lead example I provided, 423 E. Illinois is now the subject of an appeal. I have learned that a local homeowner has challenged the approval by the Planning Director of the building plans and other aspects of the development of the property. The case will be heard by the Hearing Examiner on July 15th at 6pm. (Click here for details.)

These appeals are costly to the individual homeowner who wishes to challenge the city government. In this case the price tag is over $1,000 just to file the appeal. Attorney fees are additional. Of course, any costs for a developer or builder merely get added to the sale price of the property and are footed by the purchaser. Advantage → builder.

The approval of the permit is an especially dangerous precedent as the structure, although touted as a single family home, is no more than a mini-dormitory with 6 rooms which is reportedly destined to house protected groups such as recovering alcoholics. According to Bellingham Municipal Code, the use of a single family home must be allowed for such protected groups –all well and good. In this case, however, the home is being designed and built specifically as a structure to house such groups. Further use as a single family home is essentially precluded by the design unless your picture of a single family home resembles the Bates Motel.

Even if you do not live in Sunnyland, you may wish to attend this hearing as the decision will have a notable impact on all neighborhoods in the future.


Anonymous said...

Hey Dick, since this is a new use doesn't a group home or rehabilitation facility require some different treatment as regards construction/reconstruction? I know that when we discussed grandfathering non-conforming uses in the Lettered Streets that the law has a financial threshold that protects the neighbors from redevelopment out of scale with the pre-existing structure. Is there some sort of concomitant rule in this case since it is clearly designed and will be operated as a 'facility' and cannot meet any definition of a single family, detached structure? Mike McAuley

Zonemaven said...

Thanks for the comment.

What I know is that the remodel, as the construction is being called, is being recognized by the Planning Director as being simply a single family home which will occupy a non-conforming foundation. I assume that the appeal will contest not only the building plans but the calculations that were made to be able to call it a remodel rather than new construction. There may be other factors to the appeal of which I am not aware. My suggestion is that you attend the appeal hearing which, unfortunately, I will be unable to attend. I will publish an account of the hearing from those in the neighborhood who will have been in attendance. I assume the examiner will not make a decision that evening but later in the month.