Dave Ivie has spent the last 40 years just across the street from the neighborhood farm where goats and chickens roam.
“It’s nice, quiet and peaceful,” he said from his sunny front porch Wednesday afternoon.
But that quiet could soon be broken. A 576-student dorm two miles from the Western Washington University campus is being proposed for the middle of Ivie's neighborhood. The four 6-story buildings would bring raised height limits, 450 cars, and everything else that goes with college life.
“They're gonna like partying. It's just the way it is,” said Ivie.
City officials say they are well aware of those concerns and they’re placing conditions on any dorm development, including on-site management, shuttle service to a nearby transit center, and the requirement that the building only be used by students and not for low-income housing.
Assistant City Attorney Alan Marriner says Bellingham’s Planning Department did recommend the project be approved, but only with strict covenants.
“To the extent to which staff has recommended approval with those conditions, I feel good about the project,” he said.
There are also questions as to whether Western even needs that many more rooms. The school says it already has adequate dorm space on campus. Enrollment has only grown by about 1,000 students over the past 10 years, and Western doesn't intend to grow its nearly 15,000 member student body by very much for the foreseeable future.
Dave Ivie wonders what happens if the students don't fill the buildings?
“We're skeptical about everything related to this project,” he said.
City planners, however, don't think there will be any problem filling the rooms. In fact, two additional proposals for similar projects are in the works, according to Kurt Nabberfeld, a senior planner with the city.
“The research by developers appears to indicate there is a need for this sort of thing,” he said. “That’s fine if they want to build it,” said Ivie, “but it doesn’t belong in this neighborhood.”
A spokesman for Western stresses the proposed dorms are the work of a private developer and there are no ties to the university. A hearing examiner will decide the fate of the project. Because the land in question is already permitted for multi-family homes it does not need the approval of the city council or mayor.