The Gristle

Due East

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

DUE EAST: Bellingham City Council continues their discussion of annexations, these in the hills and dales above Lake Whatcom.

In June, City Council received a report from a team of graduate students in the UW Masters of Urban Planning program. The students conducted a series of outreach efforts to gauge interest in annexation from residents in the eastern portions of Bellingham’s urban growth area.

As detailed in the report, researchers surveyed households in Geneva along the lake’s near south shore and Northern Heights and Hillsdale neighborhoods above the lake’s northern shore. They also surveyed residents in the more distant neighborhoods of North Yew Street, perhaps reawakening the chimera of development of the vast greenbelt that borders the city to the southeast.

“It’s interesting,” commented COB Assistant Planning Director Greg Aucutt, “that the Yew Street UGA is really the only one of these with any real development capacity. Our land supply analysis shows capacity for about 900 additional units in this Yew Street area. Not much in the Geneva or Britton Road areas.”

“Hillsdale, Tweed Twenty, and Northern Heights UGA sub-areas expressed the highest level of positive opinions towards annexation,” the researchers reported. “Some residents also stated that they felt more connected to the City of Bellingham than the county, and that they would like to have better infrastructure and infrastructure management in their neighborhood.

“Property owners in the Geneva area generally oppose annexation,” researchers reported.

“These are preliminary recommendations in terms of work that needs to be done to validate appropriate ways to bring the properties, should they desire, into the city,” COB Planning Director Rick Sepler explained to Council.

Notably (but not surprisingly), property owners were more favorable to annexation if the action was accompanied by a reduction in their service fees and utilities. That accompanying reduction is not implausible, as those areas are brought into the city limits and served by city fire and police, as well as water and sewer service. Many city residents bordering the Britton Road area pay less for their services than neighboring unincorporated areas.

“Based on assessed interest from residents in Northern Heights and Tweed Twenty, the UW team recommends that the City of Bellingham dedicate resources to a potential future annexation of these areas,” the researchers concluded in their report. “Assessment results indicate Britton Road area UGA property owners generally have a favorable view on potential annexation.”

The conversation evokes a tragically lost opportunity some years back, as city policymakers discussed merging and absorbing the Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District into Bellingham Public Works, as a means to better control costs and service infrastructure, as well as give the city more granular control over urban levels of development on the reservoir’s near shore. Mayor Dan Pike had sought to exercise more control over Whatcom County Water District 7, which was extending water service to residential developments along the north shore, an area that was technically closed to additional well withdrawals. When the mayor lost interest in pursuing that particular thread, talks between Public Works and LWWSD commissioners (who provisionally favored the idea) evaporated. Which is a shame, as the merger would address water and sewer improvements along the south shore to Sudden Valley—including the Geneva area.

The predicament of the county’s myriad water and sewer districts is difficult to resolve but easy to explain: The only way you can improve pipes and sewers and septics without raising rates is to increase the service base—in this case, through continued buildout of Lake Whatcom.

The problem is more easily resolved through a municipal utility like COB Public Works, which can more efficiently distribute utility costs across a much broader service base. Shorn of a requirement to sprawl in order to recover costs, the city might better control extension of services to additional residences in the watershed.

Annexation of these neighborhoods is a slower, more selective means to achieve those ends, as the built environment of Lake Whatcom is drawn increasingly under the control of the City of Bellingham.

The rubric of Lake Whatcom is this: 90 percent of Lake Whatcom development is in Bellingham or near Bellingham; whereas 90 percent of the lake itself is outside Bellingham—and Whatcom County has its attention to water problems spread thin.

County Council is slowly at work on the details of a stormwater service area for Lake Whatcom that would create a special purpose taxing district to generate replenishing funding for efforts to clean up and protect this drinking water reservoir for 100,000 people. The Gristle’s hunch is the county will ultimately attempt to precisely match COB’s water and sewer utility rate plus the city’s surcharge for residences in the watershed, and they’ll exempt or rebate any properties that are within COB’s utility service area. This would mean that all properties in the watershed would pay roughly the same cost for the restoration of Lake Whatcom, whether or not they receive municipal water from Bellingham. For neighborhoods like Geneva, Hillsdale and Northern Heights, annexation might essentially be a wash in terms of utility rates—what they don’t pay in the city, they will pay outside the city.

City Council’s discussion drifted afield of Lake Whatcom, as it so frequently does, but we’d recommend they refocus their priorities on what best serves the reservoir. Its restoration is a $100 million project, and these built neighborhoods are central to its success.

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Edge City

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Fixing the Fix

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Events
Today
Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Skagit Guided Adventures

10:00am

Tall Ship Tours and Sails

10:00am|Squalicum Harbor Marina

Summer Reading Bingo Challenge

10:00am|Bellingham Public Library

Bard on the Beach

2:00pm|Vanier Park

The Birds

7:30pm|Maritime Heritage Park

Fairhaven Summer Repertory Theatre

8:00pm|Firehouse Arts and Events Center

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Project Homeless Connect

9:00am|Bellingham High School

Wild Things

9:30am|Boulevard Park

NW Raspberry Festival

10:00am|Lynden

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Books and Bites

1:00pm| Blaine Library

Ferndale Farmers Market

2:00pm|1750 LaBounty Dr.

Seaside BBQ

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Burlington Summer Nights

6:00pm|Burlington Visitors Center

Family Story Night

6:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Seafarers' Summer

6:00pm|Seafarers' Memorial Park

USA dance event

7:00pm|The Majestic

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Shakespeare Northwest

7:00pm|Rexville-Blackrock Amphitheater

Festival of Musical Finale

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Concert Hall

Upfront Goes to Camp

9:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Trove Web
Tomorrow
Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Summer Reading Bingo Challenge

10:00am|Bellingham Public Library

Skagit Guided Adventures

10:00am

Tall Ship Tours and Sails

10:00am|Squalicum Harbor Marina

Bard on the Beach

2:00pm|Vanier Park

The Birds

7:30pm|Maritime Heritage Park

Fairhaven Summer Repertory Theatre

8:00pm|Firehouse Arts and Events Center

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

NW Raspberry Festival

10:00am|Lynden

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Seaside BBQ

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Shakespeare Northwest

7:00pm|Rexville-Blackrock Amphitheater

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Four routes, endless views

7:30am

Tour de Whatcom

7:30am|Whatcom County

Shipwreck Day

8:00am|Downtown Anacortes

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|Ferndale Senior Center

Ayurveda, Eat Right for Your Type

9:00am| Community Food Co-o

Ferndale Renaissance Faire

9:00am|Pioneer Park Soccer Fields

Twin Sisters Farmers Markets

9:00am|North Fork Library

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Concrete Saturday Market

9:00am|Concrete Community Center

Mount Vernon Farmers Market2333

9:00am|Riverwalk Park

NW Art Beat Studio Tour

10:00am|Skagit County

Lynden Farmers Market

10:00am|Centennial Park

Lummi Island Saturday Market

10:00am

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|H Street Plaza

Summer Book Sale

10:00am|Birch Bay Park

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Summer Seersucker Bicycle Ride

10:00am|La Conner

Mind, Body, Spirit Fair

10:00am|Center for Spiritual Living

Sand Sculpture Competition and Rollback Weekend

10:00am| Birch Bay

Correspondence Club

10:30am|Mindport Exhibits

Your Fall Gardening Starts Now

11:00am|North Fork Library

Cemetery Tours

11:00am|Lynden Cemetery

Camping at the Library

11:00am|Deming Library

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Ask a Quilter

2:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Nooksack River Walk

3:00pm|Horseshoe Bend Trailhead

Artist Talk with Judy Talley and Elizabeth Sandvig

4:00pm| i.e. gallery

SpeakEasy 25

4:00pm|Alluvial Farms

Feast and Frolic in the Field

5:30pm|Viva Farms

Seaside BBQ

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Heart of Anacortes Summer Concert Series

6:00pm|Heart of Anacortes

Andrew Rivers

7:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Salsa Night

9:00pm|Cafe Rumba

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Village Books Support Vertical
Sunday
Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Skagit Guided Adventures

10:00am

Tall Ship Tours and Sails

10:00am|Squalicum Harbor Marina

Bard on the Beach

2:00pm|Vanier Park

Fairhaven Summer Repertory Theatre

8:00pm|Firehouse Arts and Events Center

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Ferndale Renaissance Faire

9:00am|Pioneer Park Soccer Fields

Sand Sculpture Competition and Rollback Weekend

10:00am| Birch Bay

NW Art Beat Studio Tour

10:00am|Skagit County

Summer Book Sale

10:00am|Birch Bay Park

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Seaside BBQ

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Sedro-Woolley Community Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #43

Vietnam Veterans Car Show

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Birchwood Farmers Market

10:00am|Park Manor Shopping Center

Bellingham Handmade Market

11:00am|Goods Nursery and Produce

Langar in Lynden

11:00am| Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

Forest Immersion Walk

11:30am|Zylstra Lake

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Skagit History Cruise

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Nonfiction & Memoir Writing Group

3:00pm|Village Books

Deobrat Mishra

4:30pm|Turtle Haven Sanctuary

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