Long-planned Bellingham condominium project gets green light

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 30, 2013 

BELLINGHAM - Developers are moving ahead with a 344-unit condominium development on June Road that has been in the works for 20 years.

Public comment is now being taken for the design review of Phase 1 - 75 detached, single-family condominiums north of June Road.

According to a settlement agreement with the city approved on May 20, the two property owners - Green Valley Holdings, LLC, and Aldrich Park, LLC - must extend June Road to Aldrich Road, and add sidewalks, curbs and a bike lane on Aldrich. Also, right of way on both properties must be set aside for a city trail that would extend from the south end of the properties to Cordata Elementary School to the north.

If the Aldrich and June Road improvements aren't done by the end of the year, the developers lose all permits to develop the land. The developers' Bellingham attorney, Chet Lackey, said these conditions were the strictest he had ever seen in a development agreement.

Lackey also told the City Council on May 20 that the condominium subdivisions, first approved by Whatcom County under a different plan in 1994, would get built. The developers had invested $12 million in property purchases and construction of roads, and sewer and water lines, he said.

The council approved the settlement in a 6 to 1 vote, with Jack Weiss opposed.

He wasn't the only council member who expressed regret over green-lighting the subdivisions. The county approved the current plan in 2000 under less strict rules. The properties were in county jurisdiction until they were annexed into the city in 2008. The developers were not required to meet stricter city requirements for wetland protection or street width after annexation.

"We have inherited a very bad situation," council member Michael Lilliquist said. "We would never approve anything like this nowadays."

Public comment on the design review must be sent to Kathy Bell in the Planning and Community Development Department by 5 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 7, at kbell@cob.org. The project must meet standards laid out in a city design handbook. To download a copy, go to this cob.org webpage for the "Multifamily Residential Design Handbook" (PDF).

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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