By Isaac Bonnell
Bellingham’s newest neighborhood is only three months old, and yet residents there are fast on their way to forming a neighborhood association. Besides learning the ins and outs of bylaws and city services, some neighbors are meeting each other for the first time.
At 635 acres, the King Mountain Neighborhood is one of Bellingham’s larger neighborhoods. It is fairly undeveloped, though, and many of the existing housing developments are separated from the others.
“This area is kind of like a jigsaw puzzle,” said resident Bruce Alexander, who last month was elected temporary co-chair of the burgeoning neighborhood association. “My concern is that it’s such a large area that it’s hard to get representation from each part of the neighborhood.”
And the neighborhood may not be done expanding its boundaries.
Developer Ralph Black and eight others who own land just north of the neighborhood have petitioned the City of Bellingham to annex their property — 238 acres of mostly undeveloped land.
George Leonard is one of those property owners, and he attended a May 21 meeting of the already annexed King Mountain Neighborhood to see how the formation of the neighborhood association was coming along. In his eyes, he is a part of the neighborhood and if his land is annexed, it should be included in King Mountain rather than become its own neighborhood.
The reason that land to the north was not included in the recent King Mountain annexation is a complicated path through the past five years of city and county growth debates. Basically, timing is the issue: “The King Mountain annexation process just started a year ahead of us,” Leonard said.
Also, the King Mountain Neighborhood has been in the city’s urban growth area (UGA) since 1997, whereas the property to the north was just added to the UGA last year.
Though the current situation can be somewhat confusing — with two annexations in the same area in close succession — Black said he is happy that the process is moving forward.
“It would have been less confusing if we were included in that first annexation,” Black said. “But until the East Bakerview property came in, we only touched the city limits on one side and now the city limits are on three sides. Now we’re a much more logical annexation.”
So while the new neighborhood plows ahead on forming a neighborhood association, Leonard and Black are simply waiting to be annexed.
Much of the existing development in the King Mountain Neighborhood has happened in the single-family residential zones (light grey), though nearly half of the neighborhood is zoned for multi-family residential (dark grey), meaning the area could grow rapidly in the future.
Urban village plans
If the annexation goes through — which Black said he is confident could happen this year — the King Mountain area could see a boom of development.
“We’ll be spending the rest of this year completing the annexation and finishing the urban village planning,” he said.
Black owns 140 of the 238 acres and has plans for an urban village. It would include almost 1,000 residential units, about 100,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, and 62 acres of parks and trails.
Black has been intently following other urban village projects around town, such as Old Town and Samish Way.
“Now the city knows more about urban villages,” Black said. “They’ve been engaged in a long enough public process that it won’t be completely out of left field when we come forward with our urban village. We’re going to be using the Samish Way Urban Village and the infill toolkit as the base of our plans. But where we’re different is a lot of that is already developed and we’re a blank slate, greenfield development.”
Annexing the land to the north would also bring in more commercial land, which the neighborhood currently lacks. And the city would also collect impact fees and tax revenue from any new development, Black added.
“The sale of every home in there will give more excise tax to the city,” he said.
Association in the works
While the city and county work out the second King Mountain annexation, the new neighborhood is making headway on forming an association.
The challenge facing Alexander and fellow co-chair Kevin Waltz is to get as much feedback from as many neighborhood residents as possible on important neighborhood issues like writing bylaws. There is a push from some residents to get the association up and running as soon as possible, but some are calling for more community outreach.
“If we can’t organize a neighborhood association in three months, then so be it,” Alexander said. “I would rather have a well-run and well-attended organization even if it takes a year.”
Thus far, the city’s neighborhood resources coordinator, Linda Stewart, has been organizing meetings and guiding the group through this complicated process.
“They’re trying to do something that they’ve never done before and that can be scary,” Stewart said. “I admire them for moving forward.”
And if the second annexation passes, forward motion will be inevitable.