Questions & Answers from the Campaign Trail

1. Why are you running for mayor?

My name is Greg Hansen and I am running to be the next Mayor of Ferndale.  I love this community. This has been my home for fifty years. Four years ago, I ran for City Council because I believe government can be a force for good in peoples’ daily lives.  I have learned a lot about our city government and the people who live in Ferndale – Proud, caring, hard working Ferndale Friendly people.

These are important times for Ferndale.  Our city is growing fast. Important projects are underway in our city – projects that will likely change Ferndale forever.  I think this is a good thing!

Now, more than ever, Ferndale deserves a choice in leadership that is authentic, humble, and collaborative.

I do not want to focus on the petty politics of the past, but rather on Ferndale’s bright a prosperous future.

I want to see a Ferndale that continues to grow, but in a sustainable and responsible way.  Growth in Ferndale must pay for growth… but at the same time, growth must include affordable housing options for individuals and families so that many can become a part of our friendly, vibrant, and welcoming community.

I see a Ferndale with a vibrant downtown, with restaurants, shops, parks, and activities that give people a reason to be downtown spending their time and money and supporting our community.  For me, great parks and events build great communities.

I believe in a Ferndale community that works for everyone.  A Ferndale that understands that our diversity is our strength.  When we respect and consider the diversity of opinions, identities, and backgrounds within our community we make decisions that enable everyone to thrive.

My background in hospitality management, creating a customer service culture, and teaching others to thrive in the business world give me the tools and experience needed to be the Mayor Fendale deserves.    Vote Greg Hansen for Ferndale Mayor.

2. How will you bring and protect jobs in Ferndale? How will you attract businesses to Ferndale? Jobs in Ferndale

The jobs at Cherry Point are critical to our economy.  They are a significant economic driver for our region. Losing a major Cherry Point industry is “the dooms day scenario” for Ferndale. Losing even one of the major industries out of Cherry point would have a devastating impact.

But, Ferndale is much more than what’s going on at Cherry point – we make all sorts of stuff in Ferndale: Hightech rope some of which is it on Mars (Samson Rope); artisan doors (Northstar Woodworks); prosthetic limbs (Cascade DAFO); even some of the best shoes on the planet (Superfeet).

I want Ferndale to protect the jobs that we have but also look forward to attract industries and jobs in the modern economy. That is why I support initiatives like Ferndale Made and I believe our city needs to working even more closely with the Port of Bellingham’s economic development team to make sure that great jobs continue to come to Ferndale.

3. Housing prices in Ferndale and Whatcom County are crazy! What things can the City due to promote affordable housing?

Affordable housing is really a regional issue and Ferndale is impacted by what is happening in Bellingham. Developers and homebuilders are looking to Ferndale for opportunities to build a single-family homes. But with the price of single-family homes averaging somewhere around $380,000 (according to Zillow), we need to do something about the missing middle in housing. Homes that first time homebuyers can afford. I believe, in many ways, Ferndale has been ahead of the curve. Two years ago Ferndale passed an ordinance allowing accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Our planning department has worked on allowing increase density in a number of city zones. Finally, Council recently passed the multi family Housing property tax discount to encourage the development of additional multifamily properties.

Similar but separately, Council city recently passed a catalyst ordinance to encourage mixed use development in our downtown core that includes additional incentives for condominiums and affordable housing.

4. Traffic is something that Ferndale residents face every day.  It’s a nightmare at certain times. What are your thoughts on Ferndale Traffic?

I think traffic has always been a topic of conversation in Ferndale. Stuff of legend. We certainly have our traffic issues and nothing about fixing it is cheap or easy.

It is believed that the Thorton Street overpass will go along way to helping our traffic challenges. Ferndale also needs to support projects such as The Lummi Nation’s plan to elevate Slater Road. Once the Thorton Street overpass is open, I believe the city needs to restudy and re-write the City’s Main Street Master plan with a new vision for downtown that takes into consideration the new normal for downtown Ferndale. Some candidates for Mayor and City Council have suggested various ideas for creating a better or more efficient flow of traffic through our downtown (One way traffic using Main and Alder, a second bridge over the river, and removing the old Hawley’s building and putting a road along the railroad tracks to connect with Vista).  I think it is premature and an irresponsible use of city funds (taxpayer funds) to make any significant changes to traffic downtown until after we know the impact that the Thornton Street overpass will have to traffic downtown,

5. How will you manage city utilities, water and sewer, in a way that’s fair to everyone?

We need water and sewer rates that are fair and equitable for everyone. Past administrations have a kick the can down the road on this for many years. Deciding to hold back on water and sewer connection fees and rate increases and even lowering rates in some cases, even though expenses were continuing to rise.

And now,  we find ourselves in the position of needing major investments in our water and sewer infrastructure. A new wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) and a new water source to be incorporated into our system.  Big expense that will likely require raise rates, possibly dramatically on both new construction and on current customers. I will look for ways to ease rate increases in over time to ease the sting, but also make sure that growth (developers) pay for their fair share of increasing the capacity of our systems.

6. Are you concerned about the rate of growth in Ferndale?  

Ferndale as been growing steadily for 30 years. We are, I’m told, the fastest growing city outside of King County. This growth has certainly brought challenges, but also opportunity.

But, I believe the city is in a pretty good position to continue growing. We are about to begin the Thorton Street project helping with our traffic woes. We are about to begin the construction of an expanded waste water treatment plant. And, we are about to bring our new deep well into service for our community.

I believe that as we continue to grow we must adopt policies with an eye toward what is best for everybody in our diverse community. It is important that growth pay for growth.

7. What is your vision or downtown Ferndale? What are the Catalyst Incentives?  

It’s no secret that Ferndale’s downtown has been struggling for years.  What the City can do to encourage investment downtown has been a challenging question, one that has confounded many community leaders.  I believe there are a number of factors that have contributed to downtown Ferndale’s struggles; social drivers like changing work and shopping habits and evolving demographics; Economic drivers such as industry and jobs outside our community; and Government factors such as development standards, restrictive codes, and environmental considerations.  It cost a lot to start a business, to renovate an existing building, or build a new building downtown. In most cases, however, these are rules and regulations (and corresponding costs) that we as a community have asked for; cleaner water, open space, adequate roads and sidewalks, flood control and protection. I do not believe that the City should be taking steps to relieve individuals and business from these obligations, but rather, the City should help by communicating reasonable expectations for what will be required.  I also believe that looking for ways that incentivize investment in our City’s downtown core, like the recently passed Catalyst Incentives, is an example of how City government can take an active role in fostering an active and vibrant environment downtown.

The Catalyst Incentives are a very focused incentive program to encourage investment in the city’s downtown core, focusing density where infrastructure and services already exist. The city would waive all city fees and the developer would be required to build no less than 15 housing units and 5000 square feet of retail space. These incentives are designed to off-set the increased costs of development downtown. The belief is that large projects like this would have the potential to transform our city center into a vibrant and welcoming place, with restaurants, shops, and events that encourage families and residents to spend their time and dollars in Ferndale while also spurring additional non incentivized investment downtown.

n/a. Where do you stand on FHS’s Old Main being converted to a new Ferndale City Hall? 

Note: After careful consideration, City Council voted to NOT pursue this project.

I’m still on the fence about whether or not FHS Old Main building is a good fit for Ferndale City Hall.

On the one hand this is a great opportunity to save a historic Ferndale building. Four generations have gone to school there in Old Main.  There is a clear sentimental value to this old building. It is clear that this would fit our cities needs for 50 years or more. And, it would be a frugal use of the City’s money.   Recycling old building is something Ferndale often does!

On the other hand – this moves City Hall outside of the city center. I don’t like that. The estimate is between $10 and $12 million to renovate it for the City’s use and we all know what happens when we start to do work on old buildings…

I will make my decision in the weeks to come after I have just a little more information and a better idea and how we would pay for it.