BELLINGHAM - Developers of a 164-unit student housing complex in a residential part of the Puget neighborhood have asked if they can exceed the height limit. Neighbors have taken the opportunity to express concerns that go well beyond building height.
A March 20 meeting before the city's hearing examiner to consider the developer's request has been canceled and will be rescheduled at a later date.
Two of the four apartment buildings need to be 58 feet tall to fully develop the 11-acre property while keeping more open space and staying clear of wetlands, according to the height-variance application submitted on Feb. 8. The height limit in the neighborhood is 35 feet.
Bellingham-based Ronald T. Jepson and Associates, the local agent for the developer, said the project at 4413 Consolidation Ave. will have minimal impact on the neighborhood and in fact will improve the view of neighbors living to the east, higher up the hill, because trees will be removed for construction.
The downhill neighbors in the vicinity of Nevada Street have sent most of the critical comments to the city's department of Planning and Community Development. Their concerns range from added traffic on inadequate roads and increased storm runoff to excessive partying among the hundreds of new college-age neighbors and their friends.
The project site and the surrounding area are zoned for apartments, but the neighborhood primarily has single-family homes.
"The developers, in spite of their claim of minimal impact, will go to any extremes to squeeze as many irresponsible or at least indifferent residents, along with their cars, into the so called university 'village' as possible," wrote Gene Marx of Salmonberry Lane, in a Feb. 28 letter to the planning department.
Some neighbors said their neighborhood will be degraded by an out-of-touch developer from Georgia, Ambling University Development Group.
"The proposed project has caused a tremendous amount of fear, anger and anxiety in my neighborhood," wrote Mindy Frost of Nevada Street on Feb. 28.
"I respectfully request you consider community members' concerns as priority over a company from the east coast whose only purpose is to make money at our expense," Frost wrote.
Ron Jepson, the developer's local representative, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
The hearing examiner will rule on the height request after Wednesday's hearing. The developer must apply for at least four other permits and undergo an environmental review before construction. The city will take more public comment as the other applications are considered.
The status of the hearing examiner's meeting was corrected March 19.