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  Bellingham Herald  May 4, 2009

Bellingham's 428-home Cordata project could have park, trails, new connector road

By Jared Paben

BELLINGHAM - A developer who has redesigned his 428-home project in north Bellingham wants to put a 3.5-acre park, bus pullouts, three miles of trails and a community center into the plan.

Ted Mischaikov's project, called Cordata Country, would keep the same number of housing units as previously approved for the land, but it would change the project's configuration and would use many different types of homes, like cottage houses and row houses. It would be the first time many of these new-to-Bellingham home types, which the city wants to encourage, would be built on a large scale here.

The changes also would include altering which streets get built near the project, which matters to existing Guide Meridian/Cordata neighborhood residents because they badly want access to Aldrich Road and another access point to Meridian Street.

"We laid this out according to the wetlands and the creeks and the type of people who will be living here compared to the existing development," Mischaikov said. That includes putting a 55-and-older community at the south end of the project to mesh well with the nearby existing one.

Bellingham officials still must approve the changes. The city's planning director, Tim Stewart, will determine whether the changes are small enough to consider them alterations to an existing project. If not, it would be considered a new project and Mischaikov would have to reapply for approval - a process he said he won't do, building the originally approved project instead.

Mischaikov is proposing to change a project originally created by national homebuilding company D.R. Horton, which sold him and a group of investors the 72 undeveloped acres at the north end of Cordata Parkway last fall for $5 million. D.R. Horton had bought the land in 2005 for $12.3 million.

Mischaikov disliked the company's plan, because he felt it didn't fit in Bellingham. He held two meeting with neighbors asking them what kind of changes they'd like to see, before unveiling these proposed changes:

? Moving homes from east of the proposed Cordata Parkway extension to the west, and installing a 3.5-acre park east of the parkway. Mischaikov says he'll ask the city to give him a break on fees he'd pay to build parks equal to the value of the park.

? Building nearly three miles of trails. In many cases, they would follow streams and be used to access the front doors of houses. That would be a change from current D.R. Horton developments in the area, which have houses facing away from the wetlands and open spaces and fences blocking them off, he said. He hopes the city will give him a break on parks impact fees based on the value of those trails.

? Building many more small-footprint homes, like cottage houses and row houses. By doing that, he's able to keep the same number of homes but reduce the amount of developed space.

? Pulling development away from wetlands and two seasonal streams.

? Building a 2,500-square-foot community center.

? Building bus pull outs along the new stretch of Cordata Parkway, which would have a center median.

? Nixing construction of Kline Road between Aldrich Road and a dead-end west of Meridian Street. That proposed road would cross and fill many wetland areas, he said. Instead, he would extend Cordata Parkway north and then build an extension of Kelly Road to take the place of Kline Road as the west-to-east street.

? Eliminating the planned large stormwater treatment ponds in favor of numerous, smaller rain gardens. "Cordata Parkway has enough detention ponds on it, so let's try to do a development where you're not greeted by a detention pond wherever you go," he said.

Mischaikov said the project is fundamentally the same as the one already approved.

"It's the same thing done a heck of a lot better," he said.

Neighbors love the changes.

"We're very happy that it's going to be a pleasant, attractive neighborhood," said Julie Guy, a member of the Guide Meridian/Cordata Neighborhood Association. "We're just glad it's not going to be cookie-cutter." She was particularly excited about the new park and about an under-construction community garden on land Mischaikov already donated.

His plan also would require changes to a June 2007 legal settlement binding the developer to build Kline Road. That settlement ended a lawsuit by D.R. Horton against the city, filed amid a dispute over which roads the company should have to build or improve.

Mischaikov said he'd like to begin the approval process immediately, with a goal of having the first homes ready for sale in summer 2011.