Adelia Street protestors call in the heavy artillery
State representative Kelli Linville met with a dozen Adelia Street neighbors this week to hear their allegations the city botched the zoning for their neighborhood and should be held responsible for the potential impacts a planned multi-family project would have on their neighborhood.
“They can either stop this project or pay me off,” Jim Spencer told Linville at the March 23 meeting in an Adelia Street home. Spencer said the city has no record of when and how the zoning in the Salishan neighborhood became multi-family, and neighbors were not notified of the change. Spencer and his family bought their home in 1970 and he said “it was zoned single unit for a hundred years.” Spencer said he started seeing duplexes going into the neighborhood in the 1980s but the multi-family housing question didn’t hit close to home for him until 1993 when a fourplex development was proposed on Adelia Street. “That’s when we started fighting,” he said.
When the proposed development fizzled out after developer Doug Connelly filed for bankruptcy in 1997, “I thought the problem had gone away,” Spencer said, adding that when he inquired at city hall about the project’s future, “They told me not to worry. I guess maybe we didn’t realize what was going on.”
Last year the Oak Stone Group of Ferndale acquired the Adelia Commons property. The two fourplexes Connelly put on the property in 1996 were never completed but Connelly had approval for a 10-lot subdivision, which could accommodate up to 40 units in fourplexes, according to current zoning. The Oak Stone Group plans a virtually identical project and last month got preliminary approval from the planning commission to go ahead.
City manager Gary Tomsic acknowledged it had taken some digging but they had found evidence the zoning in the Salishan neighborhood was changed from single family/duplex to medium density residential, which allows fourplexes, in the 1979 Blaine comprehensive plan revision. “The records in 1979 and prior are a little sparse,” he said. He added the comprehensive plan process was a public one. “The record shows page after page of hearings,” he said.
Tomsic said a 1993 ordinance restored the single family/duplex zoning in the Salishan neighborhood, but only as far as Mitchell Street. Salishan streets east of Mitchell, like Adelia, remained fourplex-friendly.
At a July 26 1993 public hearing Sue Sturgill, speaking on behalf of the Blaine Neighborhood Association, said there had been a series of neighborhood meetings since 1991, from which had emerged a desire to limit the old downtown neighborhood to single and duplex homes. While the association’s original rezone request had included all of the Salishan neighborhood from I-5 to Peace Portal Drive, the planning commission had opted to keep that area open to higher density development “due to the existence of a number of multi-family units and larger tracts east of Mitchell.”
Tomsic said the city might agree with the angry Adelia Street residents that their neighborhood should have lower density zoning, but couldn’t halt the current proposal since the existing laws allow it. “We are sympathetic to the problem this area has,” he said. “This area is probably inappropriately zoned for multi-family, but the fact it is zoned for that gives the developer a vested right to move forward.” He added the city was certain to face legal action if they denied the property owner his right to develop under existing laws.
Spencer said the city should compensate the developer for the diminished use of his property and give the neighborhood back the zoning it should have kept back in 1979. “It’s an illegal vestment so the city should pay them off,” he said.
“This probably isn’t what
you want to hear but when they told you
the option was you could sue them that
probably was what it is,” Linville
said, suggesting the group speak with a
lawyer rather than legislators.
“The state can’t step in and do anything about it. Elected officials still have the authority to make a bad decision you might not like,” said Linville.