BELLINGHAM - A compromise for development of a four-acre vacant property on Sunset Drive in Sunnyland neighborhood is nearing approval by the City Council, even though the property owners say they won't build under those requirements.
Officials in the city planning department thought they had found middle ground between the Sunnyland Neighborhood Association and the owners of the large lot next to St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church. The proposed rezone that planners presented to the council on Monday, Aug. 4, called for 35 homes - the higher-density housing desired by owners David Edelstein and Greg Hinton. The rezone also allowed only single-family homes, as requested by the neighborhood association, to preserve Sunnyland's character.
City staff's previous proposal was to rezone the property for multi-family housing - an idea met with strong opposition from neighbors at a July 21 public hearing.
The balance struck by city staff could not hold. The property owners expressed their disapproval in a July 30 letter to council and at Monday's meeting. The neighborhood, the developers and the city have been unable to negotiate a compromise on how to develop the four acres in seven years of discussions.
Bill Geyer, a consultant to the property owners, said at Monday's meeting that the council should accept neither the most recent neighborhood proposal for 28 homes, nor the city staff's compromise.
"You really will not see anything built on the site," Geyer said. "It will not happen."
The problem, Geyer said, was with the planning department mandating use of the city's "infill toolkit," which places design standards on single-family homes. Ordinarily, single-family neighborhoods in Bellingham have no design rules.
Geyer said the restrictions, which require two-story homes ranging from 720 to 1,750 square feet, would not appeal to Bellingham's growing market of retirees and less-independent homeowners.
Council members did not take Geyer's statement as a threat.
"If it doesn't work for them," council President Cathy Lehman said of the developers, "they can ask for another solution, or they can sell the property."
Council members voted 7-0 to ask staff to prepare the proposal with 35 homes and design standards so it could come to a vote at the council's meeting on Monday, Aug. 11.
The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 210 Lottie St. The council's planning committee is scheduled to consider the rezone at 1:40 p.m. in City Hall, but only five minutes are allotted for that meeting.