Record of Proceeding of the Bellingham, WA Planning and Development Commission, 03/20/97

PUBLIC HEARING THURSDAY 07:00 P.M. MARCH 20, 1997
COUNCIL CHAMBERS

CALL TO ORDER: The regular session of the Planning Commission was called to order by Nick Zaferatos, Chairperson.

ROLL CALL:

Commission Members: Carol Salisbury, Fred Wagner, Judith Wiseman, Mary Passmore, Nick Zaferatos, Travis Holland, Michael Kohl

Commission Members Absent: [None]

Planning Staff Members
Patricia Decker, Director
Chris Spens, Senior Planner
Greg Aucutt, Senior Planner
Jackie Lynch, Planner
Kathy Bell, Planner
Susan Larssen, Recording Secretary

PUBLIC HEARINGS(S)

Consideration of the Draft Neighborhood Plan for the Western Washington University Neighborhood Plan Update. (JL)

STAFF PRESENTATION

Jackie Lynch presented a brief overview of the changes which have taken place on WWU campus and those proposed for WWU’s expansion. These changes include additional parking, on and off campus, general information of expansion to Knox and Myrtle, closure of High Street, planned street improvements on campus, maintenance of existing WWU properties, discussion of the proposed extension of 21st Street to Old Fairhaven Parkway, impact of WWU construction next to private residences, traffic and a new 21st Street – Highland Drive connector.

APPLICANT STATEMENT

Rick Benner, Mgr. Facilities and Master Plan, Western Washington University. Mr. Benner’s primary emphasis was the assurance that WWU’s Growth Boundary issues will involve only willing sellers. He spoke briefly on this issue and turned the discussion over to Vince Verhaldios.

Vince Verhaldios, 111 So. Jackson St. 98104 Seattle. Speaking on behalf of WWU, as their technical advisor and preparer of the Environmental Impact Report, Mr. Verhaldios stated there has been considerable effort to address and mitigate the impact of WWU’s expansion. He discussed the issues of campus boundary changes based on a 10 year estimation of growth. WWU believes the boundary changes proposed will have the least impact. Impacts of traffic, parking and future development will be mitigated. Mr. Verhaldios also commented on the impact of traffic circulation and campus growth with the accompanying congestion, demands for transit uses, etc. WWU is proposing Bill McDonald Parkway as the primary campus artery. Bicycle enhancement is also proposed throughout the campus. He discussed briefly their traffic management plan, which will address parking demands, encourage transit access to campus and alternate transportation means. He stressed WWU’s actions to address issues include early consideration of progress and responsive mitigation to SEPA and GMA, creation of a better plan with less adverse impact, coordination with the CPTED and neighborhoods with active public outreach., obtain public insights and seek consensus with participation, and maintain consistency between the City, WTA and agencies at WWU on plans, policies and implementation. Additionally he assured their collaboration on decision making and concurrence of improvements.

COMMISSION DISCUSSION

Judith Wiseman asked how many parking spaces are being proposed in the new parking garages.

Nick Zaferatos asked for clarification on WWU’s statement of “only willing buyers” and “guaranteed purchase to home owners ” and also asked WWU to comment on condemnation of property to assure their proposed expansion.

Rick Benner answered that WWU would only purchase from willing sellers. There is no intent to go through adverse condemnation with property owners, though it is an option they can legally exercise.

Mary Passmore asked what was the intention of WWU. Will this area be integrated into the existing neighborhood or become part of the main campus.

Robert Bruce, 1112 Ferndale. WWU does not have a specific use for this property at the time. The proposed land acquisition is based on projected growth demands requiring expansion.

Vince Verhaldios added that this area is potential expansion and development. However, long term expansion plans are not decided. This is in the interest of better planning.

PUBLIC HEARING OPENED

Parking Off Campus Issues

Charles Davis, 1118 36th Avenue, Seattle. Owner of property on north boundary, that he rents to students. He suggests a residential parking area subsidized by WWU. He wants more information available describing WWU’s intention to provide ample parking to students.

Ken McCord, 1309 H Street. Questioned the future installation and number of parking spaces.

Elmer Ruse, 921 High Street. Asked what is to become of parking allowed on the corner of Indian and High Street. Will it be eliminated? The elimination of this parking will only push more parking into already overburdened residential area parking.

Hugh Beattie, 2104 McKenzie Avenue. Recommends building more than a two story parking structure behind Arnerson Hall. Wants to see more focus on bus passes.

Marty Minkhoff, 2011 Young Street, WTA. WWU has been a partner with WTA for years in the involvement of this plan. WWU is the single biggest user of WTA. High Street is a critical link for WTA in service to the campus. There are ongoing discussion for long range needs for transit and parking supply on campus. He expects the demand for WTA services to increase.

Claudia Hollod, 927 Key Street. She is a resident of Sehome neighborhood and is concerned about increasing student population without increasing the amount of parking. She would like to see WWU take the responsibility of parking and transportation without paving over the campus. Extending 21st Street through to Old Fairhaven Parkway is not a viable option to relieve the parking. This will only shift the problem to another area, but will not solve the problem. Suggests more accommodations, bus runs and bus service to Viking Union. WWU should also impose a transportation fee, bike racks, increased patrolling, carpool lots and improved transit. She stated that at one time no cars were allowed to under class levels, freshmen and sophomores, only juniors and seniors.

Sheila Richardson, 505 W. Bakerview, Space 14A. Commented that the included map does not indicate the functions of the buildings shown. Night parking near the PAC is also a big problem and inadequate.

Jim Cozad, 1606 Diamond Loop. Asked why are we talking about the future when we have not addressed the present.

Gary Goodil, 416 B, Buchanan Towers. A student on campus who is concerned with the elimination of lot 16 and the installation of campus information center in it’s place. There is not enough parking for those students living in Buchanan Towers and Birnham Woods. The elimination of lot 16 will only make this worse.

Joanne Tullis, 316 Seapines. Concerned with the increase of traffic on Fairhaven Parkway. With development of Chuckanut Ridge this will increase. With the university expansion, even more. The sea of parking will shift to Happy Valley. She suggests parking under buildings as an alternative to street level parking.

James Klindenst, 904 Indian Street. Asked about which, if any roads, will be widened.

Jean Pollock, 1611 17th Street, Fairhaven. Asked how many students own cars? What is the growth projection of Bellingham in the next 20 years. There needs to be a strong incentive for students not to bring there cars to WWU and Bellingham. Evening buses are needed. We need a carpool bus lane from Bellingham to Seattle. Suggested adding vans when the buses stop running. There needs to be more bus runs that make it more convenient.

Jackie Lynch said that WWU should be able to get this information.

Staff reported that the population increase projection was 29,000 in the next 20 years.

Campus Expansion to the South, to Knox Avenue

John Servais, 1609 Mill Avenue. He is a resident of Happy Valley. Both the process and it’s impact need to be addressed. WWU has been very secretive on their process and sharing information with the public. The information has not been made available until three months ago. WWU did not take reasonable steps to inform their neighbors in Happy Valley of this expansion. The letters WWU referred to as being received from the neighbors did not reflect their current proposal, but one that involved only the purchase of two homes abutting the boundary. The expansion that is being proposed is much more extensive. This process is not appropriate. The City has made an exception for WWU with regard to the Neighborhood meeting process. Why have there been no neighborhood meetings?

Regarding the expansion, the master plan does not show any specified uses for the Knox Avenue area. Is this going to be for a football stadium? How far is WWU going down into the Valley. WWU has not yet used the areas they bought up in 1980 along Bill McDonald Parkway. Previous WWU’s estimates for student growth have not materialized. What is the need for this expansion? Happy Valley deserves to be treated as a residential area. We are not a transient area and do not need to be saved. The 21st Street expansion will dump an incredible amount of traffic into their neighborhood. It will split the neighborhood. What is also missing is a traffic study to justify this connection. Happy Valley residents would be willing to backoff if there was justification for this connection. They have not seen this yet. We want a comprehensive investigation into the traffic impact on Bill McDonald Parkway. Too much emphasis is being placed on cars rather than pedestrians. The visitors center is being proposed in the wrong location. This is with the assumption that 21st Street will be the primary entrance. If WWU can show they need to expand, Happy Valley residents are more than willing to cooperate.

John Seaman, 3012 Wilson Avenue. Two words in master plan refer to his neighborhood as undesirable and under maintained . As a resident of Happy Valley he disagrees with this comment. WWU wants to buy up this area because the price will only increase. The under maintained property is owned by WWU, not a resident. The expansion of WWU into their neighborhood would remove property from the City’s tax base. He suggests underground garages with playing fields on top. Homeowners maintain their property and pay taxes.

Betty Meyer, 2112 Knox Avenue. Agrees with most of the statements made. WWU has not kept them informed about their plans. She never received any notification from City or WWU about the notices. WWU is a good neighbor but has excluded us from their process. She lives in a family maintained residence 106 years old. The thirteen blocks of proposed expansion has no specified use. If this is only speculative land purchase they need to be told. She wants to be informed what is going on in her neighborhood.

Wendy Scherer, 1905 Larrabee Avenue. She worked on the 1980 Neighborhood Plans. To preserve the rural, low income neighborhood, they traded off higher density to the north. This expansion area contains the largest population of lower income residents and is most affected by the expansion because it is already high density. The thirteen block area is a natural because it is a low income area. This expansion is not being proposed into a higher priced area more closely abutting the current boundary. Why is that? A 300 foot radius is insufficient notification area for a proposed expansion of this magnitude. This expansion has numerous levels of impact. One is stormwater and the filling of wetlands. Wetlands cannot be replaced. These areas are essential. Stormwater retention is an important issue for the hillside expansion. Housing and parking is a big impact factor. As a resident of Happy Valley she does not want to see parking expanded down into her residential area. She suggests a limit on parking and that WWU deal with cars and their impact in a more constructive way. The pedestrian method needs to be encouraged at WWU rather than cars. She would like to see work on a master plan that has vision and predictability.

Joe Deeny, 2104 Wilson Avenue. Lives at the foot of 21st Street. His home would be eliminated with this expansion and he has never even heard about the expansion plan. This process has not been as public as it should have been. Why spend 33 million to purchase property with no stated intent. The 21st Street extension would consume their house, increase traffic and pose danger to school children crossing 21st Street.

Elizabeth Smith, 933 Otis Street. Representative of the Associate Students of WWU. She use to live in Happy Valley and left that area because of the traffic to and from WWU. This expansion has to happen to accommodate all the students in the system and all the students that hope to get into WWU. Washington is one of the worst states in providing access to higher education.

Jim Spike, 1409 22nd Street. Concerned about the elimination of the wetlands surrounding the expansion. Development in the Happy Valley is out of their control because of the zoning. Duplexes are being built with 4 bedrooms each. There will be 140 bedrooms across the street from him, in a residential neighborhood. This is more than just an issue of WWU expansion.

Eva Cords, 1029 22nd Street. She only heard about this expansion from the City notice. She is being asked to get rid of her property and wait 50 years to know what they will do with her land.

Wendy Borgeson, 2202 Mill Avenue. Concerned about the appropriation of funds spent on higher education. The vision for Bellingham is affordable housing. Because wages are low and housing costs are high, there is a limited amount of lower cost housing. What is available is located in Happy Valley. There is a limited land base in this area. There is no place to go even if they get a fair market value for their property. Is WWU asking to expand for academic reasons or to accommodate more students. WWU should provide a bicycle path on their periphery.

Charles Rahman, 609 Ridgeway Drive. The proposed boundary change to the south will be a repeat of what happened to him during WWU’s last expansion along 21st Street. The neighborhood went to shambles and he could not sell his property. He is against the boundary change. Also, a 1976 ordinance allowed WWU to close High Street part time. This plan would only allow High Street to be used durin inclement weather.

Hugh Beattie, 2104 McKenzie Avenue. WWU has room to grow and it should be up. A new visitors center for 10 million dollars is unnecessary. We should cut their capital budget.

PUBLIC HEARING CONTINUED UNTIL APRIL 3, 1997.

COMMISSION DISCUSSION

Postponed to April 3, 1997 hearing.


This is a digital copy of an original document located at Bellingham’s City Hall. The City of Bellingham specifically disclaims any responsibility or liability for the contents of this document. The City of Bellingham does not verify the correctness, accuracy, or validity of the information appearing in this document.


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