Future unclear for proposed 38-lot development on Mud Bay
February 17, 2023 at 3:18 p.m.
The future of the proposed 38-lot development off Chuckanut Drive remains unclear as neighborhood activists build legal defenses for the habitat and the city seeks more information.
The development, a 38-lot property across approximately 37.7 acres known as the Woods at Viewcrest, abuts the Mud Bay Cliffs and sits above the North Chuckanut Bay estuary. It’s been in the works for almost a year now, with early neighborhood discussions taking place late February 2022.
The initial development applications were submitted to the City of Bellingham planners in March 2022, though much has changed since the first application. Since then, city planners have gone back and forth with developers, requested additional information and seen several different plans from AVT Consulting, a Bellingham-based consultation and planning group.
The city requested additional information from AVT Consulting on Dec. 21 last year, and the group has until April 5 to answer their questions and provide updated development plans.
Until then, the project remains in a waiting game.
Neighbor concerns about the environment persist, though. The area around the proposed development contains a major estuary and several wetlands where salmon, trout and great blue herons live and feed.
“We have a major concern about maintaining the aquatic habitat in Mud Bay,” explained Larry Horowitz, a member of the Protect Mud Bay Cliffs group, which formed last year to minimize the adverse environmental impacts of the development. “It’d be nice to have more housing, but at what cost? Are you willing to destroy this truly productive estuary, where the salmon and trout flow through and feed in, just for 38 houses?”
Horowitz presented updates about the project to more than 70 attendees at the Edgemoor Neighborhood Association meeting on Thursday night, where participants had the chance to ask questions and learn more about the project. During the meeting, Horowitz outlined the proposed location for the property, concerns with cliff instability and impacts on the waters below the development.
Other neighbors echoed Horowitz’s concerns, citing endangered salmon populations, the Great Blue Heron colony that the city has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect, a steep stormwater pipe and old-growth trees.
“Not only are there all the geologic issues and other issues,” said Michael Feerer, the executive director of the Whatcom Million Trees Project, during the meeting, “but there’s a significant grove of mature trees that are providing substantial habitat and have a direct interrelationship with what’s going on down in the bay.”
Project proposals indicate development of the site would require removal of “many large, established trees,” though some “would likely be retained.”
Horowitz said the group is currently focusing on environmental protections for the region, as some environmental laws could help protect the area from development.
“Environmental law prevents certain developments from happening,” he said Friday. “There’s all kinds of concerns about building on this particular parcel of land.”
In July, Ali Taysi, founder of AVT Consulting, said the owners of the property are working to protect the environment for local wildlife while also supporting the community.
Taysi wrote in a July email that the developers prioritized conservation along sensitive areas of the property.
“While it is understandable for the community to have concerns about protecting the Bay, these concerns are unfounded,” he said. “The design intent is to avoid impacts to the Bay, and redesign of the project has occurred throughout the planning phase, and in response to City and public comments, in order to [ensure] the Bay and adjacent steep slopes will be protected.”
In the coming months, the proposal will be heard by a hearing examiner for the city who will make the final determination of approval for the project.