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Bellingham co-op’s parking expansion faces opposition

The yew tree above the parking lot at the downtown Community Food Co-op in Bellingham on Monday, July 20.The co-op plans to remove the tree to expand its parking lot and is facing opposition from people who've signed an online petition.
The yew tree above the parking lot at the downtown Community Food Co-op in Bellingham on Monday, July 20.The co-op plans to remove the tree to expand its parking lot and is facing opposition from people who've signed an online petition. The Bellingham Herald

A petition against the downtown Community Food Co-op’s plan to expand its parking lot has gained more than 200 signatures online.

The petition was created in opposition to the removal of a yew tree from the lot’s grounds, as well the project’s potential price tag and layout.

However, Co-op Outreach Manager Adrienne Renz said there are a number of discrepancies with the petition’s claims. The co-op has tried to reach out to the petitioners, who haven’t returned the co-op’s emails or made attempts to sit down with co-op officials to discuss their concerns.

The petition states a yew tree planned to be removed from the lot to make way for more parking is of an ancient and endangered species and should be preserved.

But Renz said the tree has been examined and has been found to be neither endangered nor particularly old. In addition, 20 new trees and shrubs are planned to be planted when the parking lot renovations are made.

“We’re also hoping to make that spot safer. We’ve got people who jump out of the tree and do illegal activities in the tree,” Renz said.

Petitioner Robert Arthur, who lives in Stanwood, claims the project will be too costly and doesn’t add as many spaces as the co-op claims. He also questions the overall expansion.

“I’ve never gone to that parking lot and had it be full,” Arthur said.

Renz said the design adds more than 30 new public parking spaces, with staff parking likely to relocate across Holly Street. The cost is still being finalized as part of the downtown storefront’s overall renovations.

While Renz said there has been feedback that the co-op should be promoting alternative transportation instead of renovating its lot, a survey of 619 shoppers revealed that 76 percent drive to the store due to factors like physical ability, having children with them and the amount of groceries they plan to purchase.

Information about the co-op’s expansion and parking lot renovation can be found on the company’s website, communityfoodcoop.com. For other questions, contact the co-op at 360-734-8158.

“People are more than welcome to call and ask questions and give suggestions,” Renz said. “This is part of us needing to address shopping at the co-op and making sure that our local business stays strong.”

Libby Keller can be reached at 360-715-2242 or libby.keller@bellinghamherald.com.

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