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Chuckanut Community Forest Park Update
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
As the holiday season winds down, our campaign will be winding up. Candidates are registering for the commissioner positions this week, yard signs and mailers are being designed, and mailing lists are being refined for reaching out to district voters. As these come together there will be a need to mobilize a lot of volunteers to doorbell and to call voters. We need for EVERYONE to be talking up the district. Talk to your neighbors and friends, talk it up on Facebook, send folks to the website (ChuckanutCommunityForest.com), post a yard sign, and get the word out.
And, of course, all these things will require money. We need to raise at least $5000 to pay for two mailers to all district voters and for yard signs. Donate at the website, by mail, or call for pick up.
For quite a few years now we have all dreamed that this forest could be preserved in all it's beauty for generations to come. This is probably the only way to finally make it happen for the whole forest. We need some volunteers, we need some donations, and we really need for the people who support this to be active in promoting it. Please check the website for how to help. And make sure to VOTE YES For the Forest. This is the final sprint to the finish. Let's do it. Thank you all, the CCFD Steering Committee
We Need Your Help!
Chuckanut Community Forest: A Solution is at Hand!
Ballot Measure Informational Meeting
Monday, June 25, 7 pm
Fairhaven Park Pavilion
On August 15, 2011, Bellingham City Council voted unanimously to purchase an 82 acre parcel located on Bellingham’s southside for parks and open space. Known locally as “Chuckanut Ridge” or the “Hundred Acre Wood,” the forested property is now christened the Chuckanut Community Forest. The community has cherished these woods for many years, but until recently, the City was unable to negotiate a purchase of the property at a reasonable price. All that changed with the failure of Horizon Bank, when its assets were transferred to Washington Federal.
Recognizing an important opportunity, the City of Bellingham acted swiftly and was able to negotiate a purchase of the property from Washington Federal for just one third of the original asking price. In order to close the deal, and finally end twenty years of community struggle to preserve this land, Bellingham City Council voted to purchase the land using a combination of Greenways III southside acquisition monies, Southside Park Impact Fees, and a $3,232,201 inter-fund loan from the Greenways III maintenance endowment fund.
Since it approved this financing plan, the City’s intent has been to sell a portion of the land to repay the loan if it is not repaid by 2017, when Greenways III sunsets. Now, the Mayor has brought forward a plan to re-zone most of the property, with 25 acres remaining zoned for Multi-family Residential development—leaving open the possibility that more than 300 units could be built on the southern portion of the property.
Fortunately, a group of area residents has organized and found a solution to the funding dilemma. The Chuckanut Community Forest District is an innovative approach, enabled in Washington State law, that allows southside residents to create a new park district and levy a small property tax to repay this loan and secure this stunning property—forever!
The Chuckanut Community Forest Steering Committee is launching a petition drive to put this issue on the ballot and let Southside voters decide if they will pay an average of $84 per year for ten years to forever save the 100 Acre Wood. Come to an informational meeting to learn more about the petition drive and how you can help!
Can’t make it? Contact email@example.com to plug in!
Donations are needed for the campaign! Please send your gift to: Chuckanut Community Forest, c/o 2203 22nd Street, Bellingham, WA 98225
A website is coming soon. In the meantime, please Like us on Facebook for updates: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Chuckanut-Community-Forest/275523269202406
Come Celebrate With Us!
About Responsible Development
The proposed Fairhaven Highlands development will transpose Bellingham's landscape and destroy mature forest land and wildlife that should be protected for future generations. One of the principle purposes of Responsible Development is to prevent this foolish project. For an in depth analysis of the issues surrounding this topic, please read the Citizens' Environmental Impact Statement found HERE.
3-D Illustration of the Revised Fairhaven Highlands Project
Responsible Development is a tax-exempt, Articles of Incorporation of local volunteers who are working to ensure responsible and appropriate development in our city and urban growth areas. RD strives to prevent or minimize the adverse environmental impacts of large developments which are not being adequately protected by existing land-use policies, planning, and related city ordinances. RD has recently expanded its Board membership and now consists of a nine-memberBoard of Directors, many active volunteers, and hundreds of other supporters throughout the city.
RD originally formed as a neighborhood group in 1988 when the first plans to develop Chuckanut Ridge were unveiled. Chuckanut Ridge (known to locals as the 100 Acre Wood) is an area rich in forested wetlands and biological diversity with multiple opportunities for recreation, education, research, and aesthetic appreciation. RD’s original focus– and still a primary concern– is the preservation of Chuckanut Ridge. RD opposes the construction of Fairhaven Highlands on the 85 acre site as an irresponsible and inappropriate development for the area. The scope of RD has gradually become much broader than Chuckanut Ridge because, in fact, the underlying issues that allow poorly conceived developments like Fairhaven Highland to become possible must be addressed in order to prevent them from recurring here and elsewhere all over our region. Accordingly, RD has expanded the scope of its focus to the entire bio-region and has embraced four core growth issues: adequate impact fees, concurrent infrastructure development, a building permit allocation process, and the preservation of critical areas and habitats throughout our region.
The mission of Responsible Development is to preserve the high quality of life that defines Bellingham. We believe in taking proactive steps to ensure responsible development within our community as our population grows. Being reactive, rather than proactive, not only makes irresponsible development possible, but encourages more. Included in the mission are active efforts to support neighborhood planning; to incorporate public input into the planning for growth; to ensure that significant recreational lands, natural corridors, and wildlife habitat areas are preserved; to acquire and maintain public parks, trails, and natural open-space throughout our city; and to require accountability from our city officials.
Within the past year, RD has broadened the scope of its mission. The geographic reach has expanded to include the entire bio-region from the Canadian border to the end of the Chuckanut Mountains in the south, from the crest of the Cascades to the Pacific Ocean. We have also embraced the following four core growth issues in an effort to prevent or minimize irresponsible development throughout our city and county.
We believe that by focusing on developing the tools to preserve our quality of life in all areas of our bio-region that we will best serve the larger community.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Why Is Chuckanut Ridge So Important?
Chuckanut Ridge, also known as the 100-Acre Wood, is a unique ecosystem composed of mature forests interlaced with Category I wetlands and streams which are rich in wildlife habitat and provide an essential breeding ground for numerous species of wildlife (including the federally threatened Chinook salmon.) Located between Chuckanut Drive, Fairhaven Park, and the Interurban Trail, Chuckanut Ridge serves as the primary wildlife corridor between Whatcom and Skagit counties (Bellingham to Bow) and provides corridors to other natural areas in other parts of our city. It provides unique opportunities for recreation, education, research, and aesthetic appreciation. It was identified in the 1995 'Bellingham Wildlife and Habitat Assessment' as a high-priority conservation site and was the driving force behind the 1997 Beyond Greenways levy, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters who identified Chuckanut Ridge as one of several large parcels of land across the city worthy of preservation and as a priority for public acquisition. To the dismay of residents, city officials failed to acquire it, and in 2004, it was sold to Horizon Bank and developer, David Edelstein, who together formed Greenbriar Northwest Associates. In early 2005, they proposed to build Fairhaven Highlands, the largest residential development in the history of the city, on this ecologically critical and sensitive site. Chuckanut Ridge is the last undeveloped place of its kind in the city. 'Infill' could be more appropriately located in the urban areas in our city, rather than bulldozing and chopping this irreplaceable forest to bits. If we passively sit by and allow this land and its wildlife to be decimated, what happens at Chuckanut Ridge will set a precedent for irresponsible development in other sensitive habitats throughout the entire city.
Why Does RD Oppose Fairhaven Highlands?
Fairhaven Highlands is a classic example of irresponsible development because it is
(a) totally inappropriate for this ecologically sensitive site,
RD opposes the overwhelmingly negative environmental impacts of building a huge residential development on this particular site and the devastating precedent that the Fairhaven Highlands development would set for other developments proposed throughout our city.
Washington State's Growth Management Act (GMA) mandates that cities and counties approach land-use planning in ways that protect sensitive 'critical areas', including fish and wildlife conservation areas and buffers for them. Chuckanut Ridge is a prime example of what the GMA intended to accomplish regarding habitat preservation. The GMA also requires that infrastructure be in place or be built concurrently with new development and that developments which would cause traffic congestion to exceed the city's adopted Level of Service must be denied. These requirements are seemingly being ignored or sidestepped by city officials and planners, setting a terrible precedent for future development, not only for the South neighborhood, which has formally opposed this development, but to other neighborhoods faced with similar inappropriate projects across the city.
Are you just anti-growth? What are some examples of appropriate and responsible development that RD supports?
RD has been actively networking with citizens, neighborhoods, and community groups throughout the City and County to promote many ways to achieve responsible development, including:
We believe that by all working together, we can promote responsible development in our city and preserve Bellingham's unique quality of life for all our residents.
Click here for additional information sheet regarding frequently asked questions. Frequently Asked Questions Information Sheet
Cathy McKenzie, Anne Botwin and Frank James
The 100-Acre Wood Habitat - A CASE FOR PRESERVATION
100 Acre Woods Slide Show
No one who has ever seen the 100-Acre Wood would think of it as being “infill.” This beautiful parcel of land, also known as Chuckanut Ridge, is located between Chuckanut Drive, Fairhaven Park, and the Interurban Trail. The mature second growth forest and Class I wetlands found here are rich in wildlife habitat and support a great diversity of mammals, birds, and amphibians. The deep forest provides essential breeding grounds for wildlife and also forms major connections with wildlife corridors throughout the city of Bellingham, including Padden Creek and Chuckanut Bay in the south and northward through the Connelly Creek Nature Area to Sehome Hill. It is here that David Edelstein and Horizon Bank propose to build Fairhaven Highlands, a huge residential development designed to house 739 families.
ECOLOGICAL STUDIES BY PROFESSIONALS
Respected local wildlife biologist, Ann Eissinger, was commissioned by the City of Bellingham to write the “Bellingham Wildlife and Habitat Assessment.” Her report states: “Due to the variety of habitat available and its location [as a corridor to other areas in the city], the Hundred Acre Wood supports a great diversity of species. Animals known to breed in the area include red fox, coyote, deer, river otter, muskrat, mink, pileated woodpecker, great blue heron, barred owl, belted kingfisher and other forest-associated species that hunt and/or breed here.” She also lists many diverse amphibians which live and breed in this area, and concludes: “Due to its centralization and intactness, this block should be targeted for conservation.” To date, however, her report has been ignored.
Dr. John McLaughlin, Research Professor at WWU’s Huxley College of the Environment, has carefully detailed the environmental impacts of developing the 100-Acre Wood in a report entitled “SEPA Requires an EIS for Fairhaven Highlands.” He states: “Most wildlife and their habitats would be killed or displaced and replaced with impervious surfaces… Wetland animals and their habitat would be impacted or destroyed by erosion, sedimentation, and hydrologic changes….” He also states that destruction of this forest and its wetlands would adversely impact migration routes for more than 100 migratory bird species along the Pacific Flyway and would permanently and adversely impact migration routes for both up-migrating adult salmon and down-migrating smolts, including the federally threatened Chinook salmon and candidate Coho salmon which spawn in the streams downslope from the property. Amazingly, no new Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has yet been called for by the City.
THE GROWTH MANAGEMENT ACT PROTECTS SENSITIVE HABITAT
Washington State’s Growth Management Act (GMA) attempts to protect biodiversity, including the protection of critical areas, such as wetlands, fish and wildlife conservation areas, and buffers for them. The GMA requires counties and cities to take a comprehensive, coordinated, pro-active approach to land-use planning that will protect sensitive habitat. Biologists know that cutting up land into small areas of fragmented habitat leads to a decline of genetic diversity and the elimination of species. The pristine 100- Acre Wood is a prime example of what the GMA intended to accomplish regarding habitat preservation.
PROBLEMS AND COSTS OF DEVELOPMENT
To develop Chuckanut Ridge and the 100-Acre Wood, massive earthmoving and explosives will be needed to blast away 33 vertical feet of bedrock to build on this site. Rainwater absorption would be dramatically decreased, increasing the risk of floods. The sandstone ridges are prone to fracture and are known to cause landslides in the area. Steep slopes (some exceeding 60%) have a high risk of erosion when cleared, and the interlaced wetlands and creeks do not lend themselves to building roads, utilities, and densely packed housing, With only one access road for the development, traffic will snarl on Chuckanut Drive, create a potential hazard for school children, and overwhelm the unreinforced 12th Street Bridge. Even worse, most of the cost for providing the infrastructure for this development will be paid for by current taxpayers, not the developers. Traffic congestion and pollution (from an estimated 5,000-7,000 additional car trips per day), overcrowded schools, the need for bridge and road improvements, more police security and fire protection, etc. all lead to higher taxes for citizens. This trend has already begun in Bellingham. In terms of the public interest, the math is simple: Buying the 100-Acre Wood at its current fair market value would actually be cheaper than subsidizing the infrastructure needed to support this development (projected at $24 million or more.) We could preserve this unique forest habitat and its wildlife, reduce traffic congestion, preserve our air quality, and protect this forested hillside for the whole community to enjoy OR we could build Fairhaven Highlands with its 8 and 10 story buildings. Which would you rather have?
Hiking trails and greenspace are highly valued by Bellingham citizens as contributing to our unique quality of life, as reflected in the self-imposed taxes of three consecutive Greenways levies. The GMA attempts to protect sensitive habitat and biodiversity. Students and professors at WWU want to preserve Chuckanut Ridge for on-going ecological studies. The 100-Acre Wood is also a place to restore serenity and calm in a hectic world and serves as the scenic, forested backdrop of the southern entrance to our beautiful city. Any opportunity to conserve rather than develop such a unique urban habitat is too rare and important to ignore. People need habitat too. For the good of our city and its citizens, we must do all we can to acquire and protect this pristine, ecologically sensitive land from massive and irresponsible development. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.
–– Adapted from an article by Gerry Wilbour