Port and city officials considering waterfront land swap

The Port of Bellingham and the city of Bellingham have released a proposal to swap chunks of property along the city’s waterfront, according to announcements released by both agencies.

If approved by the port commission and the Bellingham City Council, the proposal would give the port additional land in the Marine Trades Area near the Whatcom Waterway, while the city would consolidate ownership of the Cornwall Beach area on the southern tip of the former Georgia-Pacific mill site.

The deal would only involve exchanges of property, not money.

Two public hearings regarding the proposal have been scheduled:

– 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 16, at the Port of Bellingham commission meeting, Harbor Center Conference Room, 1801 Roeder Ave.

– 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 22, at the Bellingham City Council meeting, City Council chambers, 210 Lottie St.

Since 2005, the port and the city have been working together on a master plan for the massive redevelopment of Bellingham’s central waterfront. In their announcements, officials from both agencies said the land swap proposal, while not a part of the master planning effort, would simplify ownership and land use issues.

Port officials said they would use the properties near the Whatcom Waterway to attract new marine industries. The port is ready to invest about $3 million in infrastructure improvements in the area and would work with the state Department of Ecology on a clean-up of the sites, according to its announcement of the proposal.

Rob Fix, the port’s interim executive, said the land swap could result in a more efficient use of public lands and create new jobs in the Marine Trades Area within the next year.

“Having a single owner for this section of shoreline will allow the port to manage the property so that multiple businesses can make use of the public investment in the shoreline improvements,” Fix said, in an announcement.

On the city’s end, Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville said city officials would like to move forward on plans for public waterfront access in the Cornwall Beach area, a spot that has been envisioned as prime ground for public parks, trails and mixed-use development.

The proposed property exchange calls for the city to gain access to the breakwater surrounding the former Georgia-Pacific treatment lagoon, as well as access to adjacent property for public parking, according to announcements.

Linville said she expects to propose a public trail be built around the breakwater, possibly as early as 2014.

Both the city and the port have posted more information online:

-Port of Bellingham website

City of Bellingham website

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