Saturday, August 9, 2008

Chuckanut Ridge: Land Supply Implications

Maybe it's my 'Eudora Syndrome' or similar condition that allows me to remember enough to write a column like this one.
Or maybe, the devil makes me do it, I don't know!
But some may find it interesting, and maybe even begin to understand some of the many competing interests and contradictions that had to be considered during the Land Supply analysis that was undertaken to help update the City's Comprehensive Plan.

The several recipients -you know who you are- who received the e-mail I sent on: Wed, 22 Feb 2006, may recall its contents, which were on the subject of 'Brief Summary of Land Supply' Recommendations:

Just for reference here is a brief analysis in tabular form that shows the impacts on our current land supply needs for four scenarios of build out for Chuckanut Ridge:

[Sorry, I haven't learned to make a table format work here.
But, if readers want to make their own, here are the 4 COLUMNS to work with, condensed as sequenced below]

Total Residential Units for CR;
1478; 739; 370; 0

Total Population Accommodated by CR;
3100; 1550; 775; 0

Total Population Shortfall for Land Supply;
3577; 5127; 5900; 6676

Total Add'l Acres Needed to Meet Demand;
1158 to 1545; 1292 to 1847; 1319 to 1958; 1347 to 2069

Deed restrictions on the property mean that the maximum density is 739, which is the current scenario being used.
If a density of 370 is used, this results in needing to have additional land to accommodate 15% more people than under the current scenario.
Reducing CR density to zero means 30% more people must be accommodated than the current scenario.

The last column [Total Additional Acres to meet demand] includes residential, parks and industrial with reductions for CAO and infrastructure.

Note that the current analysis scenario uses the set [column] comprised of 739, 1550, 5127 and 1292 to 1847.


While the City's overall estimated needed Land Supply numbers may have changed somewhat since Feb 22, 2006, the above analysis subset remains essentially unchanged.
What it means is that without a reasonable level of build-out on Chuckanut Ridge -now being called 'Fairhaven Highlands- the City will need considerable more additional space for its projected new population growth than any estimate that assumes build out of CR.
This information does not advocate for CR build-out, but it does spell out the Land Supply impact for NOT expecting building- out CR.
That would amount to between 1292 and 1847 additional acres needed for the City's UGA.

So, those who advocate for both no additional Land Supply AND no build out on Chuckanut Ridge may need a remedial course in simple arithmetic.
That's because CR is already within the City Limits and has been zoned for its allowed density since Mt St Helens erupted in 1980!
Failing to support what is clearly such a major in-fill development, these people will need to actively support any or all of the following; the creation of new Urban Centers, Waterfront Redevelopment, High-rises in the downtown, substantial Neighborhood in-fill, including ADUs, to even come close to satisfying the City's GMA planning.
And, it's not that any or all of those things are good, bad or indifferent.
I'm simply saying that satisfying everyone's no-change 'druthers' is a virtual impossibility, with one notable exception - a zero population increase scenario actually happens.
Think that will be likely?
Kinda like trying to squeeze Cinderella's slipper on her ugly step-sister's foot, except that was make believe and this exercise isn't!

The point of my original e-mail was to simply point out to those wanting the City to acquire all of Chuckanut Ridge for a park, what the Land Supply trade-off would be if that were to happen.
Can you spell S-P-R-A-W-L?

I don't believe this underlying arithmetic has changed much since it was first reported.
Of course, a few people's attitudes may not have changed much either.
What was that old song?
You know, something like 'when an irresistible force .... meets an immovable object...'

The property in question has been euphemistically called 'The Hundred Acre Wood' by those seeking to keep it in its current undeveloped state. Actually, it's more like 85 acres, since about 15 acres were dedicated -years ago- to the Whatcom Land Trust as wetlands. Since then, these 15 acres were transferred to the City at nominal cost - likely with Pooh Bear's full approval!

Without attempting a lot of detail, the remaining 85 acres contains only about 40 or so acres that are actually suitable for building, with remainder likely to become some version of dedicated open space - at no charge to the City.
So, any development on this site will need to fit within that allowable footprint, and not infringe on areas protected by our Critical Areas Ordinance, at least without minor off-setting mitigation.
Of course, anticipated traffic impacts must be mitigated too, in whatever form(s) that may take.
The point is, this site is inherently heavily burdened for any full development scenario, with the great preponderance of costs to be borne by the developer.
The irony is, these very substantial costs of development must be met by enough development to cover their payment! That situation seems to create its own limitations, but we'll have to wait and see.
[Does anyone actually believe this build-out would cost the City upwards of $12 million, as one 'consultant' -hired by opponents- claimed?
I certainly don't!]

It will be interesting to follow what happens over time, as firmer CR development proposals come forward.
More excitement and entertainment, and some of it not so subdued?