Responsible Development, a federally exempt, non-profit corporation, is currently soliciting contributions for a legal action fund to stop the development of the 85 acres on Chuckanut Ridge called "Fairhaven Highlands." As many of you know already, this area has been designated as a habitat of local significance in the City of Bellingham. Unfortunately, there has not yet been an effective effort by the City to protect this or the other 27 areas identified as environmentally sensitive areas. This forest land and our predominantly single-family residence neighborhood is totally unsuited for a mega-development consisting of 8 and 10 story high rises and the increased traffic congestion it will bring. Response times for fire and emergency paramedic services will become an issue. The safety of school children who attend Fairhaven Middle School will be at risk. Providing the infrastructure for such a huge project will cost taxpayers millions of dollars. Chuckanut Drive will change from a scenic community treasure to just another traffic-clogged arterial.
Given time, the 85 acres on Chuckanut Ridge could be purchased and preserved. But time is a luxury we do not have. Recent "soil sampling" on Chuckanut Ridge by developers in mid-August resulted in the excavation of more than two dozen test holes in the wetlands, wetland buffers, and adjacent property. Many of these test holes covered a surface area of 8 feet by 4 feet at a depth of approximately 10 feet. Digging these large deep holes severed tree roots, destroyed native vegetation, and degraded wetland critical areas.
The United States Army Corps of Engineers shares our belief that the wetlands on Chuckanut Ridge are mature forested wetlands with hydrological connections between them and also have connections with Padden Creek which flows into Bellingham Bay. As such, the Army Corps of Engineers has jurisdiction over them. The City's current (and prior) Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) states that "mature forested wetlands" are automatically Category 1 wetlands, which means that they should be afforded significantly more protection and (depending on the habitat score) have buffer zones up to 200 feet in width. Currently, they have just 50 foot buffers, and the developer has plans to fill in three different wetlands just to build roads.
We are running out of time trying to reason with the City, and when the roar of chainsaws and bulldozers echo from these woods, it will already be too late. It appears that the only way to buy the time necessary for a responsible plan is to mount an effective legal challenge to the City's approval process and force compliance with their own rules and regulations. It may also be necessary to challenge the City for failing to comply with state and federal requirements.
RD has retained David Bricklin, one of Seattle's most capable land use attorneys. A Harvard graduate, Mr. Bricklin wrote the initiative that forced the state to develop growth management rules in the GMA, and has argued cases all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won. Because of the breadth of legal issues to be pursued, it is quite possible that our legal fees will approach or exceed $100,000.
We are seeking additional donors who will contribute $500 to $1000 each to ensure that the necessary legal expenses are fully funded. All donations, irrespective of amount, are welcome and tax deductible. Will you support us? Please write a check for the RD Legal Fund today!
Send your tax-deductible check to:
P.O. Box 4057
Bellingham, WA 98227