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Decades have been spent to protect these 82 wooded acres. Is that finally ending?

A view of the 82-acre Chuckanut Ridge from Feb. 4, 2013. The Washington State Supreme Court won’t review a lawsuit that claimed the park district created to help buy the land, now known as the Chuckanut Community Forest, and the tax for it were illegal.
A view of the 82-acre Chuckanut Ridge from Feb. 4, 2013. The Washington State Supreme Court won’t review a lawsuit that claimed the park district created to help buy the land, now known as the Chuckanut Community Forest, and the tax for it were illegal. The Bellingham Herald file

A lawsuit that sought to dissolve the Chuckanut Community Forest Park District and related property tax has ended now that the state Supreme Court won’t take up the case.

The state’s high court on Wednesday declined to review a Court of Appeals decision on Oct. 30 that ruled against those who filed the lawsuit.

“We’re all really happy because for the last several years, while this lawsuit has been pending, there’s been a cloud over the district and also the Hundred Acre Wood,” said attorney Robert Carmichael, who represented the park district.

The Hundred Acre Wood is the community’s fond name for what is now known as the Chuckanut Community Forest.

“That cloud has been lifted,” Carmichael said.

Park district officials said they have spent at least $104,500 defending against the lawsuit.

In July 2014, a few property owners in the district filed the lawsuit, alleging they were unfairly taxed and that the park district, created by voters in February 2013, was formed illegally.

Voters in what was roughly southwest Bellingham formed the park district to tax property owners.

The money is being used to repay the $3.2 million loan from the city Greenways endowment fund that helped pay the $8.2 million price tag for Bellingham’s 2011 purchase of the 82-acre property that has been known as Chuckanut Ridge, Hundred Acre Wood and Fairhaven Highlands.

Many area residents had long opposed efforts to build hundreds of homes on the site and worked for decades to block development or to convince city officials that it should be acquired as public park or open space.

John and Mary Ferlin of Ferlin Family Living Trust, J & M’s LLC, Brooks Manufacturing Co. and Roosevelt Land Co. filed the lawsuit.

They argued, in part, that levying a tax for a public park on a small segment of the city was illegal.

They sued the Chuckanut Community Forest Park District, Whatcom County and Bellingham.

The lawsuit also argued that the district was improperly formed to serve as a financing tool to repay the loan and not for parks purposes.

The property is southeast of Fairhaven Park and 16th Street and west of 24th Street and the Interurban Trail.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea

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