BELLINGHAM - The city's former mayor said those now in charge of coming up with a redevelopment plan for the waterfront aren't listening to the will of the community.
"If you're an elected official, and the public overwhelmingly wants something, you should be responsive to the public," Dan Pike said on Thursday, Feb. 7, at a talk on past and present planning for the waterfront, part of the Huxley College of the Environment Speaker Series.
He had an audience of about 200 people, many of them students, on the Western Washington University campus.
A member of the current mayor's staff and the executive director of the Port of Bellingham both said after the talk that Pike paints an incomplete and sometimes inaccurate picture of the waterfront plans.
Pike gave the port and Mayor Kelli Linville's administration credit for making real progress on the plan over the past year, after Linville replaced him. But the bad news, he said, is in "where that progress seems to be taking us."
Pike criticized the likely demolition of historic waterfront buildings, the loss of park space and a proposal for what in his view is an overly expensive marina.
City special projects manager Tara Sundin and port Executive Director Rob Fix both said Pike's presentation didn't do justice to the specifics of the waterfront plan. Sundin attended the talk.
While some proposed open space has been eliminated near the log pond, on the Whatcom Waterway, there is no loss of overall park acreage, Sundin said. As for the marina, it isn't an immediate concern.
"It is in a much later phase of the plan," Fix said.
Pike's interest in historic buildings centers on the port-owned Granary, a derelict egg processing center on Roeder and Central avenues. With its distinctive look, it would be an ideal entryway to the new waterfront, he said.
Pike said the city wanted to tear the building down to build a road, and the port has already made up its mind that it can't be renovated.
Not necessarily true, Sundin said. The city is considering an alternate route into the development that keeps the Granary intact.
Far from dismissing a resurrection of the Granary, Fix said early development proposals for the building show promise.
"Two different, separate groups have plans to develop it," Fix said.
Fix and Sundin both emphasized the role the public will have in shaping the waterfront. The city Planning Commission holds its first public hearing on the waterfront draft master plan on March 21.
"He's entitled to his opinions," Sundin said of Pike, "and so is everyone else."