Here’s the story of my mother’s living nightmare:
My parents built a house on a one acre lot when I was a little girl. The property (3690 Haggin Rd) is just outside the city limits and now in the Lake Whatcom Watershed. My dad spent five years going through the process to subdivide this lot into three lots. One lot with the existing house and two other buildable lots. My dad completed the short plat officially about a year ago. He spent those five years going from the city to the county and back again, along with many places in between, jumping through every hoop he was told to jump through. It was a full time job. He spent over 50 thousand dollars of his retirement savings to complete this project, knowing that he would recoup the money when the first lot sold. They were able to put the lots on the market over a year ago, listing them at the higher end price. After my father died in April, my mom wisely lowered the prices and quickly reached mutual acceptance with a buyer (a wonderful man, Chet Kenoyer).
During Chet’s feasibility study, the secretary at Water District 7, sent a letter to the city asking, (in error, because we had clearly been granted water service already) for “new water service”. The city wrote back, “no” (because after the 2007 lawsuit between the city and the water district, in which even the FBI was involved, they are bound to only always say “no”). This began a snowball of unfortunate events. We’ve attended meetings with the water district and their commissioners, spoken to numerous people in city hall, made phone call after phone call, only to have it land first on the desk of the city attorney and now on the agenda of the city council this coming Monday evening, August 15th. A closed doors meeting. Prior approval of water service to the lots was granted during the five year process and is documented in many ways. Water District 7’s attorney submitted a long document to the city attorney showing that every single signature along the way was written with the understanding of water services granted by the city.
Basically, my mom is caught in the crossfire of politics at its ugliest. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve stood in city offices last month only to have the people on the other side of the desk glance over both shoulders to see if any of their coworkers are listening before they lean in and lower their voices to speak to us! Everybody is afraid of everybody, it appears. They will confess “off the record” that they believe we clearly have rights to water and then refer us on to the next guy. We’ve been told over and over that Water District 7 should never have asked the question in the beginning but should have just provided us with water. It really comes down people jockeying to protect themselves and their departments from being sued and to which group is least likely to win in a lawsuit...which is my mother.
If the council votes against her it would makes her property worth little to nothing. It would mean that she lost 50k of her retirement money. It would, in essence, mean that the City of Bellingham would have stolen from one of it’s finest citizens. This is all so clearly wrong.
My mom and I need your help. Would you do us a personal favor and write a letter to the Bellingham city council members? Their email address is: email@example.com . Please send a copy to my email as well: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Even though you don’t have first hand knowledge of my mom’s stack of papers you can appeal to the council to rule favorably for her. Safe drinking water is great...but at the expense of an old lady’s future? Are the two mutually exclusive? The value of her land is her retirement money. She has no backup plan financially. If you are a longtime Whatcom County resident you have every right to weigh in on this situation.
You can imagine the incredible difficulty for my mom to go through all of this without my father. He died in April. She misses him terribly. And now to have his project torn out from under her without his first hand knowledge to help untangle the mess. This has been a nightmare.
Here is a copy of a Letter to the Editor I wrote a couple weeks ago but haven’t yet sent to the Herald. It explains it all from another angle:
We may be gaining a future of clean drinking water, but look at what we’re losing in the process.
There is a sweet old lady who has lived in the watershed long before the term was common vernacular. She is kind. The kind of old person you would hope to be someday. You probably even know her. She would give you the shirt off her back if you expressed a need for it. She has contributed good to this community her entire life.
You could chart her life by snapshots of her at the Ski to Sea parade every year. One year playing clarinet in the BHS marching band parade under Ralph Pauley; a few years later watching with a baby on her lap; later cheering her nieces and nephews as they marched and helping her aging mother find a lawn chair; still later enjoying her grandchildren all lined up on the curb in front of her as the parade goes by.
If ever there was a Mrs. I-love-Bellingham, she is it.
Her husband died just three months ago, but not before he received final approval from Whatcom County to short plat their one acre lot into three lots. It took him 5 years and over 50 thousand dollars, borrowed from his retirement savings, before he saw his little square of real estate made ready to sell. Two months after his death, mutual acceptance was reached between the widow and a solid buyer. The economy forced the price sadly low, but she stayed hopeful that it would be enough, if stretched just right, to provide for her future.
But now this dear lady is caught in a crossfire of politics at its ugliest The water access that she paid for and has page after page of approval signatures for is suddenly being withheld. Not because her documentation and proof is unsatisfactory, but because after the great lawsuit of 2007, that had nothing to do with her, each political player seems primarily concerned with lawsuits rather than honoring the commitment of water to these lots. Likely the very people she elected, the people whose wages are made of her tax dollars, do not have the guts to do right by her. It seems as if self or departmental protection is the sole priority.
She cries herself to sleep wishing her husband were here, thinking that he would know what to do.
I want to be proud of Bellingham and our clean, eco-friendly ways. The direction and the goals of our community are good. But can we not meet those goals without robbing from the people that make us possible?