BELLINGHAM - Developers will not immediately sue the city over planning for a new urban village on King Mountain.
Instead, they'll wait and see the plan city leaders approve, developer Ralph Black said.
City Council has scheduled a public hearing for 7 p.m. Monday, July 2, on the draft King Mountain urban village plan, which will guide development of homes, businesses, streets, park, plazas and more.
The project would be east of the Meridian Street Walmart and south of Van Wyck Road.
Alliance Properties 2000 LLC, which owns 133 acres there, objects to requirements city planners want inserted into their draft urban village plan. City staff say the changes are required to ensure a workable urban village comes to fruition; Black, an owner of Alliance, says the changes would inhibit building by tying developers'' hands.
Examples include requiring a minimum number of homes and putting limits on the number of houses that could be built before other types of buildings would be required.
The Planning Commission recommend approving the developers' plan without staff's proposed changes. City planners now recommend rejecting the plan.
"We believe that approval of the proposal as submitted is the worst option available to the Council," planning Director Jeff Thomas wrote in a June 22 memo to council. The draft lacks detail and would cause uncertainty for the developer, city staff and the public on various issues, including what could be built, when and who would build infrastructure and when open spaces would be dedicated, he wrote.
The dispute is also over who gets the final say.
In 2009, when the council voted to annex King Mountain land, the parties inked a deal requiring them to jointly plan an urban village. Under the deal, Alliance would submit a draft plan, and the city would have 18 months to review and decide on it.
Black said under the deal the city can't approve a plan Alliance disagrees with; city attorneys say the council retains its legislative authority to put conditions on the plan, and the agreement couldn't legally have signed away that right.
In June, Black said developers might sue to get a judge's interpretation. He said he wouldn't attend the July 2 council hearing until they have a clear understanding of each party's rights.
Since then, city attorneys essentially said there's no need to sue because the city hasn't taken any action violating the agreement, and there's nothing to say the council won't approve a plan Alliance likes.
Based on that, Black now plans to attend the meeting.
Moving forward, Alliance has clearly stated its position on the agreement's wording, he said.
"If you do something different, we're going to have to talk, and the talking is going to have to be in front of a judge," he said.
Council member Jack Weiss, who in 2009 voted against annexing land and signing the deal with Alliance, said he hasn't seen the draft plan yet.
But the council will "make a determination of whether or not we believe this plan meets the intent of what was promised to us before," he said. "If it doesn't, my understanding is we have the right to go and condition it, just like we would with any other rezone."
ATTEND THE HEARING
What: Bellingham City Council public hearing on the draft King Mountain urban village plan.
When: 7 p.m. Monday, July 2
Where: City Council Chambers, 210 Lottie St.
More information: Go to this cob.org webpage, click on the "July 2" agenda, and then click on "AB19611."