Election View: Petree focuses on lake restoration, public safety, infill growth

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDSeptember 28, 2013 

Born and raised in Bellingham, I am running for the Ward 4 Bellingham City Council seat because I want to ensure current and future generations have access to clean water, fresh air, a good job, and the family friendly neighborhoods I have enjoyed so much throughout my own life as a "Bellinghamster."

Lake Whatcom will always be on my priority list. Runoff into the lake has been a problem for too long. I will focus on restoration projects to help reduce our pollution into the lake and I will work co-operatively with the council to make sound decisions about how to best protect and preserve our drinking water source now and for the future.

In recent years Bellingham has neglected to maintain levels of service for its public safety departments. We're asking our police and firefighters to do more and more with less and less. Public safety must be a priority obligation for government. Years ago we identified the need for additional police and did nothing. We imperil both ourselves and those women and men who serve and protect us when we do not fund public services adequately.

Local business provides the jobs and revenue needed to maintain quality of life in Bellingham. When business does well here, it lifts us all economically. Bellingham must attract companies that will put the citizens of Bellingham to work.

An important strategy to bolstering future economic development is to allow land already planned for city growth to be used in an efficient manner. Much of the land we have set aside for future jobs is outside the city and unavailable without annexation. We must provide land in a timely manner to avoid stunting economic development and harming those willing to invest in our community.

Waterfront redevelopment is our chance to create a beautiful job space with abundant public waterfront access. I will work to ensure that the cleanup remains at the "unrestricted" level on both port and city property, as currently planned for. Unrestricted level cleanup helps ensure public and environmental health as well as flexibility as we plan the future of the waterfront.

In a similar vein, we must look for places to increase wildlife habitat where possible. The log pond, Cornwall beach, and the hard shore along the railway all offer tremendous habitat opportunity.

I have strong concerns about industrial gentrification; the displacing of living wage jobs by structures like office buildings and meeting centers that can, and should, be located in nearby downtown or old town areas. "Downtown waterfront" zoning should be restricted to areas around the granary building with a reasonable amount of land available to create a welcoming public space with limited mixed uses compatible with nearby marine trades and industrial water uses. Parks can be configured to provide buffers between uses and to potentially increase public access to the water.

The ASB pond should be examined for its highest and best use. If the highest and best use is as a marina, we should consider purposing that marina for use by industry and our fishing fleet to reduce pressure to gentrify the marine trades area adjacent to the ASB. The existing marina could then be expanded to accommodate recreational boating because it is close to amenities like restaurants, salons, hotels, and general retail.

I understand the importance of balancing infill with the preservation of neighborhood character and believe density is a community choice. Goal 4 of the Growth Management Act states, "Encourage the availability of affordable housing to all economic segments of the population of this state, promote a variety of residential densities and housing types, and encourage preservation of existing housing stock." Bellingham should work to infill empty lots with new housing that maintains and enhances the character of a neighborhood while working to preserve our existing housing stock and striving to increase availability of affordable housing for all.

I work locally as a freelance journalist and community consultant, writing on a diverse set of topics from business and grant applications to biomass cogeneration and small scale farming. I have also worked as a bicycle designer, product manager, and manufacturing plant manager. My wife Jana owns and operates her own business in the downtown Bellingham area.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Clayton Petree is one of two challengers for Bellingham City Council, Ward 4, which is open with Stan Snapp not seeking re-election. Vote-by-mail ballots will be mailed Oct. 19 and the general election is Nov. 5.

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