BELLINGHAM - The city's former mayor is breaking a self-imposed silence to criticize the plans for waterfront redevelopment coming together under Mayor Kelli Linville and Port of Bellingham leadership.
Dan Pike, an alumnus of Western Washington University's Huxley College of the Environment, will give a talk titled "Bellingham's Waterfront: Where We're Going, Where We Should Be Going, and How My Huxley Education Helps Me Understand the Difference," Thursday, Feb. 7, at the university. He promises not to pull any punches.
"I would definitely say it's going to be fairly critical," Pike said. He suspects the port, which holds the waterfront properties most ripe for development, would allow that development to happen to the detriment of downtown. Mayor Linville, he said, chose being agreeable to the port over representing the city's interests.
"The city and the port have now agreed to a land transfer where we gave the port everything they wanted, and we got almost nothing of core interest to the city," Pike said.
Pike was mayor from 2007 to 2011, when he was defeated by Linville. He is now president of the consulting firm Sustainable Solutions. The firm is not working on the redevelopment or any other project in Bellingham, Pike said.
While in office, Pike disagreed with the port's redevelopment plan at the time, putting any agreement between the city and the port on hold. He said the plan was so aggressive it would draw businesses out of downtown. He also publicly accused the port of dragging its feet on cleanup of the waterfront sites.
Pike's take on how the city's negotiations with the port under Linville have gone wrong will make up part of the Huxley Speaker Series talk, which is free and open to the public.
"I took a year off speaking out on things because I did want to give the mayor a chance," Pike said. "That year is up, and I'm not seeing a lot that's happening."
Linville said progress is being made on the waterfront, in contrast to the gridlock during Pike's term. The former mayor's combativeness was a major reason there was essentially no progress on the redevelopment for four years, she said.
"My style is not to shoot my mouth off. My style is to get things done," Linville said.
The city and the port completed the land swap late in 2012 so the city could focus on cleanup and the creation of parks, while the port could focus on economic development. They also unveiled the long-delayed waterfront master plan in November 2012.
Linville said Pike's concerns are misplaced. She actively supports the downtown, giving as an example her backing of the work now under way on a downtown plan that is on a par with the waterfront plan. She wants to be sure that waterfront development occurs initially as an extension of Old Town and downtown.
Rather than slighting the downtown, the plan allows for some of the $60 million set aside for street and utility construction and improvements to be spent in downtown and Old Town.
"We've broadened where we think waterfront redevelopment will be," Linville said.
The mayor expects some of the ideas in the plan will be built before the end of the year - most notably a walkway along the breakwater of the old treatment lagoon for the former Georgia-Pacific mill.
If nothing else, Pike's upcoming talk underscores the contrast between the current and former mayors.
"One of my first goals when I was elected was to cooperate," Linville said.
Pike was less interested in building bridges than he was in defending his position on the other side of an issue.
"You can't just look and say people are not getting along," Pike said. "You have to say, 'Why aren't people getting along?' I viewed my job as protecting the interests of the community - not because I like to get in fights with people."
ATTEND THE TALK
What: Ex-mayor Dan Pike's critique of waterfront redevelopment plans.
When: 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7.
Where: Academic Instructional Center West, Room 204, Western Washington University.
More information: Huxley College of the Environment, 360-650-3520.