Governors Point developers again denied access to Bellingham water

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 6, 2013 

BELLINGHAM - Plans to build more than 100 homes on Governors Point received another setback this week.

The state Court of Appeals on Monday, June 3, upheld a 2011 Whatcom County Superior Court decision to deny city water to the point's major landowner.

The lawsuit was sparked by a 2009 decision by Bellingham city officials to not provide water to the proposed 141-lot subdivision on 126 acres owned by the Governors Point Development Company.

The forested point is along Chuckanut Drive west of Larrabee State Park.

The decision was based in part on a statewide prohibition against urban sprawl.

"The reason the city of Bellingham turned down water is to stop leapfrog development outside the city limits," said Dean Brett, an attorney for Friends of Chuckanut, a conservation group named along with Bellingham in the development company's lawsuit.

In another move to protect the character of Governors Point, the Whatcom County Council in 2011 adjusted the allowed residential density to be more in line with rural standards - from three lots per acre to one lot per five acres.

None of this necessarily spells the end of plans for the subdivision, called Governors Pointe. According to a January 2012 ruling by the state Growth Management Hearings Board related to the Governors Point rezone, the subdivision is allowed to be built according to the denser zoning standards in place when the developer submitted the project application in 1992.

Without municipal water or some other high-capacity water alternative, the subdivision can't be built at that density. Bob Tull, one of the attorneys representing the development company, said in 2011 his client might build a desalinization plant to obtain water from Puget Sound.

Tull and Dannon Traxler, Tull's colleague at the Langabeer and Traxler law firm, declined to comment on their client's next steps, which could include an appeal to the state Supreme Court. Instead, a written statement came from Wayne Schwandt, the project manager for Governors Pointe.

"We have just received the appellate court's ruling and haven't had a chance to discuss with our team," Schwandt wrote on Monday. "All of our options for pursuing the Governors Pointe project remain available to us, and we will be deciding on a course of action in the near future."

Reach Ralph Schwartz at 360-715-2289 or ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Politics blog at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/politics or follow him on Twitter at @bhamheraldpolitics.

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