Effort to protect Chuckanut Ridge and repay loan moving ahead

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDDecember 11, 2013 

Chuckanut Ridge

In February 2013, voters in southwest Bellingham created the Chuckanut Community Forest Park District, shown here on Feb. 4, 2013 and elected five commissioners to raise property taxes within the district to repay a $3.2 million loan, plus interest, from the city Greenways endowment fund. According to a draft conservation easement, the 82-acre property could be used for nature-oriented, recreational or educational purposes.

PHILIP A. DWYER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

BELLINGHAM - Efforts to help pay for the city of Bellingham's purchase of Chuckanut Ridge and protect its 82 acres from future development will take another step with a Monday, Dec. 16, public hearing.

That hearing is being held jointly by the Bellingham City Council and the commissioners for the Chuckanut Community Forest District.

Its focus will be a proposed conservation easement and agreement between the two organizations that form the backbone of longstanding efforts to protect what also has been referred to over the years as the Hundred Acre Wood, Fairhaven Highlands and Chuckanut Community Forest.

Links to those documents are available at chuckanutcommunityforest.com.

The hearing is 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers at City Hall, 210 Lottie St.

In February 2012, voters in southwest Bellingham created the district and elected five commissioners to raise property taxes within the district to repay a $3.2 million loan, plus interest, from the city Greenways endowment fund. That money helped pay the $8.2 million price tag for the city's purchase of the 82-acre property.

The new levy goes into effect in 2014. Property owners in the district will pay 28 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The owner of a $300,000 home, for example, will pay $84 a year.

The draft conservation easement lays out that the property could be used for nature-oriented, recreational or educational purposes.

Under the draft agreement between the city and the Chuckanut park district, the city would keep control and ownership of the property, and commissioners would dissolve the park district once the loan has been repaid.

"The intent was to craft agreements which would be consistent with what was intended by the voters and consistent with state law. It took a while to work out some of the details," said Bob Carmichael, attorney for the Chuckanut Community Forest District.

Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com.

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