Fairhaven’s Hundred Acre Wood Wildlife Habitat or 1,464 Unit Planned Community

To celebrate the 24th year of publishing Whatcom Watch, we will be printing excerpts from 20 years ago. David M. Laws has been generous enough to volunteer to review the Whatcom Watch for 20 years ago to find suitable material to reprint. The excerpts below are from the April 1996 issue of Whatcom Watch.

Editor’s Note: In 1996, the Madrona Development Corporation of Se­attle proposed the Chuckanut Ridge Planned Development. The 1,464 units would have been built on 101 acres bounded on the south by Chu­kanut Drive, on the north by Old Fairhaven Parkway, on the east by the Interurban Trail and on the west by Fairhaven Park. The property is also known as 100-AcreWoods, One-Hundred AcreWood, Hundred-Acre Wood and Fairhaven Highlands. Starting in 1997, when voters first approved the Beyond Greenway levy, the city wanted to buy the property and protect it. In 2004, Greenbriar Northwest Associates and Horizon Bank acquired the land and the next year proposed building a 739 unit housing development known as the Fairhaven Highlands on approxi­mately 85 acres. The owners wanted $20.7 million for the land, so pur­chase by the city was not feasible at that time. After Horizon Bank failed in 2010, its assets became the property of Washington Federal and the property was foreclosed in order to acquire it from Greenbriar NW. The Bellingham City Council at the 9/28/2011 meeting voted to spend $8,230,000 to purchase the Chucka­nut Ridge/Fairhaven Highlands prop. Now instead of being developed the area will become public park/recre­ational property. To finance the pur­chase, $4.5 million of the money will come from the Greenway III levy, $500,000 will come from southside park impact fees and the balance of approximately $3.23 million plus closing costs will come from a Greenways Endowment Fund loan.

by Erika Wittmann and Coby Hoff­man

Picture it: dusk, 1998, and Phase I (122 multi-family units) of the Chuckanut Ridge Planned De­velopment (total of 1,464 units in 2013) is complete. Headlights stream into the complex. Garage doors open and close. Residents squeeze in a quick jog before sun­down. Kids continue to zip around on bikes until parents drag them home. It’s a happy scene, if we can forget what existed before the bulldozers arrived.

Now let’s return to the present. A unique wood lies between the In­terurban Trail and Fairhaven Park. Here within the Bellingham city limits is a beautiful second-growth forest that one would expect to find in remote country areas. High quality wetlands comprise almost half the area, second growth forest and steep slopes fill the rest. It is an area of rich biological diversity with abundant wildlife. Seberal species of owls hunt here; deer, raccoons, foxes, possums, coyotes, mice, moles and other species make this place their home. The peace and tranquility one feels here are almost unknown in an urban area.

[…]

A 1,464 unit planned residential community is proposed for this 101 acre site within the South Neighborhood of Bellingham …. Included will be a mix of multi-family dwellings … typi­cally two to five stories in height. A community center is planned for construction “in the second development phase, or when there is community need.” A new arterial road would run from the intersection of Viewcrest Road and Chuckanut Drive ….

Impacts of the Proposal

…Large quantities of earth would be moved … exposing soils to po­tential erosion …existing wetlands would become almost completely filled in … there would be four times more runoff … views of some forested hillsides would be altered to views of rooflines … viability of the wildlife currently living on the site [will be lost] ….

The hundreds of people that can be seen daily biking, walking, jog­ging, and generally watching their kids play along the InterurbanTrail will all be affected by the collector arterial road which would be “a pre-requisite to the development” … An at-grade crossing [would create] a potential safety problem …. Some off-site wetlands may be impacted …increased background traffic would result in more than 1½ times the volume now travel­ling on the Old Fairhaven Park­way …. Chuckanut Ridge would also increase demand for police services. The completed develop­ment would require the addition of seven firefighters and a new Farihaven fire station, including a ladder truck.

Will the city be able to o.k. the new fire station, staff, and truck? One-time costs alone for facilities and personnel total over $432,000; each year Chuckanut Ridge’s new fire station will cost the city over $356,000 in operation costs alone. A new elementary school is neces­sary to alleviate crowding.

With the population equal to almost two cities the size of Blaine, and 600 children later, what will be the eventual destruction rate of the existing and “planned preserved” wetlands on the site?

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