Your guide to neighborhood plan amendments


Some are massive rewrites. Others are just one-sentence text amendments.
They are the neighborhood plan updates.

Every year, the City of Bellingham considers proposals to amend neighborhood plans, and up until recently, the city’s planning staff usually updated them. But starting in 2000, the City Council asked planners to focus on the city center master plan and the state-mandated Critical Areas Ordinance and Shoreline Master Plan, said Nicole Oliver, the department’s communication coordinator. Since then, planners’ plates have also been full with Old Town and Waterfront District planning.

Luckily, in October 2006, planning director Tim Stuart initiated a planning academy for neighborhood residents to learn about planning issues, and because of the experience, many neighborhood associations began working on proposals to update their plans.

In 2007, several neighborhood associations proposed plan amendments, and the City Council approved those from Samish, South Hill and Guide Meridian/Cordata.

This year, seven more associations have proposed plan updates — Fairhaven, Sehome, Silver Beach, Birchwood, Guide Meridian/Cordata, South and Sunnyland. Some are complete plan rewrites, some are partial, and some address a specific site within their neighborhood boundaries.

Another 14 “site specific” proposals have been submitted for consideration by property owners and stakeholders.

The plan proposals address a range of issues, from neighborhood character and history, to transportation and street issues, to land use and development regulations.

Several have gone through contentious processes, like the one proposed by the Fairhaven Neighborhood Association.

Massive in size, the plan became divisive when Fairhaven property and business owners claimed they weren’t included in the planning process. Both the mayor’s office and the planning department have received letters requesting the city not initiate the plan update because of this, Oliver said.

Silver Beach also experienced conflict after a group of about 25 residents worked to update their neighborhood’s plan by including a number of Lake Whatcom protection measures only to have most of them voted down by a majority of residents at a neighborhood meeting, many of whom did not participate in the planning process, according to former association chairman Mike Johnston.

The stripped-down version has been proposed by the neighborhood association, while a small group of residents have proposed the original version separately as part of the “site specific” proposal group.

Planners are now analyzing the proposals and will make recommendations to the planning commission at a Feb. 21 meeting on which proposals to docket this year, Oliver said. The commission will then make a recommendation to the City Council, and council members will vote in March on which proposals to review this year.

After that, the docketed proposals will receive staff analysis, a staff report will go to the planning commission and the proposals will be subject to a public hearing, she said.

The planning commission will make a recommendation to council about which proposals to approve, and the council will make its final decision after another public hearing at the end of the year. The approved amendments will be updated in the city’s comprehensive plan.

Below you will find highlights from the seven neighborhood plan amendments proposed by their associations, as well as descriptions of the 14 site-specific amendments proposed by property owners and stakeholders. The corresponding map shows all of their respective locations. Click here for a high resolution PDF.



Complete neighborhood plan rewrite by the Fairhaven Neighborhood Association

  • Create a design-review district board to review all new and renovation project proposals located in the business and residential areas. Review and rewrite Design Review Code for Fairhaven.
  • Continue the historic core’s design-review district, which regulates height, bulk and design elements, and extend additional regulatory and procedural requirements to the surrounding “influence” and “approach” areas.
  • Building heights should conform to the step-down flow from upland to the waterline.
  • Two- to four-story buildings with a height of 35- to 54-feet are most appropriate for commercial areas. The preferred height limit in commercial core is 35 feet, with higher limits granted if development includes certain criteria.
  • All new residential development encouraged to include an element of affordable housing.
  • Establish partnership with port to sustain industrial activity on its property.
  • Several rezones encouraged, including:
    • Much of the port property along the water from industrial use to planned water-related light industrial, planned light industrial with special conditions or planned marine industrial with special conditions.
    • Portions of historic and business district from commercial use to commercial, neighborhood mixed uses with design review, view, height and parking restrictions.
    • Area approximately west of 8th Street and south of Harris Avenue from industrial use to planned, mixed use of light industrial, commercial, with a limit on residential.
    • Area approximately west of 10th Street, south of Harris Avenue, and east of 8th Street from commercial to planned commercial, mixed use with shoreline, design review, height and view conditions.
  • Eliminate overnight parking of non-resident vehicles in the neighborhood.
  • Create a plan to put all power and phone lines underground.
  • Improve water connection between the waterfront and the business district, including consideration of using an old-time trolley to transport people along Harris Avenue.
  • Undertake a comprehensive commercial and residential parking study that would include consideration of time-limited or metered parking on high-volume streets.
  • Explore possibilities for development of a parking structure close to commercial core.
  • Addition of a section titled “Economic Development” that includes setting goals and policies for supporting the urban village model, implementing a marketing program and exploring creative tax policies.



Complete neighborhood plan rewrite by the Sehome Neighborhood Association

  • Preserve and restore historic character by rezoning some multi-unit areas to single family.
  • Multi-unit structures built within current multi-family zoned areas should reflect character of surrounding neighborhood.
  • Commercial development along Samish Way should conform to design standards that emerge from a public master planning process for the Samish Way Urban Center.
  • Focus infill outside the original Sehome residential area, especially inside the Samish Way Urban Center, through means including, but not limited to, tax and other development incentives.



Complete neighborhood plan rewrite by the Silver Beach Neighborhood Association

  • No major land use changes.
  • Neighborhood shall work together with city to determine height limits and view corridors.
  • Improvements such as installing crosswalks and resurfacing and improving several streets.
  • Capital improvements to Silver Beach School to mitigate runoff from parking lot to lake.
  • Several Lake Whatcom Reservoir protection measures, including:
    • Determine impact of increased algae concentrations on reservoir.
    • Continue monitoring mercury content.
    • Groundwater contamination sites shall be monitored at least every five years.
    • Implement strategy for native fish.
    • Monitor water quality in Silver Beach Creek.



Partial neighborhood plan rewrite by the Birchwood Neighborhood Association

  • With no major land use changes, the amendment would bring the current plan factually up-to-date.
  • Sidewalk improvements needed near Shuksan Middle School and neighborhood street standards should provide a safe school route.
  • Street improvements to W. Maplewood from Northwest Avenue to Alderwood Avenue.
  • Improve intersection at Nequalicum and Eldridge avenues.



Partial neighborhood plan rewrite by the Guide Meridian/Cordata Neighborhood Association

  • No major land use changes, the rewrite brings plan factually up-to-date.
  • Upgrade Sterling Drive area to include a second entrance in addition to Northwest Road, add shoulders and bike lanes.
  • Encourage developers to build east-west connectors throughout the neighborhood when constructing new buildings.
  • Encourage addition of a library presence.



Site-specific amendment by the South Neighborhood Association

  • The amendment is a one-sentence text change that would prohibit development in Chuckanut Ridge.



Site-specific amendment by the Sunnyland Neighborhood Association

  • A proposal to rezone a four-acre vacant lot along Sunset Drive, formerly owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation from mostly residential, single-family, low-density use to residential, single-family medium-density use with a unit-per-square-foot density average of 6,250 square feet.
  • Allow a mix of “attached” and “detached” single-family homes on site.
  • Create a design overlay to ensure consistency with neighborhood’s architectural style, height and mass.
  • The current owner, Edelstein-Greenbriar, has proposed a higher density on the site.



Site-specific amendment in Fairhaven by Haskell Corp.

  • Rezone approximately 8.5-acres on the corner of Harris Avenue and 6th Street from light industrial to planned commercial.



Site-specific amendment in Guide Meridian/Cordata by Mersey LLC

  • Rezone 10-acre parcel east of I-5 and West of Northwest Road from industrial to commercial/industrial.



Site-specific amendment in Guide Meridian/Cordata by Ebenal Construction

  • Rezone 3.2-acre parcel from industrial to commercial/industrial.



Site-specific amendment in Guide Meridian/Cordata by White Leisure
Dev. Co.

  • Rezone 10-acre parcel from planned industrial to planned commercial/industrial.



Site-specific amendment in Guide Meridian/Cordata by Patricia and Jim Smith, Anthony and Christina Andrews and Joseph Larson

  • Rezone of 18.87-acre parcel wouth of Van Wyck Road and east of Guide Meridian from planned industrial to planned commercial.



Site-specific amendment in Happy Valley by Chuck Swift

  • Rezone 705, 709 and 0 32nd St., from residential multi-family to allow small, pedestrian-oriented commercial uses along 32nd Street.
  • This proposal will be automatically docketed because the neighborhood plan was updated within the last seven years.



Text amendment in Roosevelt by Sunset Drive Investors LLC

  • Allow more than one access point into property located at the southwest corner of Barkley Boulevard and Orleans Street, specifically access to and from Orleans Street and from Barkley Boulevard.
  • This proposal will be automatically docketed because the neighborhood plan was updated within the last seven years.



Site-specific amendment in Samish by Disch/Coppens

  • Rezone of a half-acre site on the corner of Byron Avenue and 45th Street from residential single-family to residential multi-family.



Site-specific amendment in Samish by Yorkston Oil Co.

  • Rezone of a four-acre site on Elwood Avenue from residential single-family to allow mix of uses, including multi-family and commercial.



Site-specific amendment in Samish by Samish Heights Inc.

  • Rezone 85-acre parcel along Wildwood Drive from residential single-family to residential multi-family/mixed use.



Site-specific amendment in Samish by David Edelstein

  • Rezone approximately 20-acre parcel along Adams Avenue from residential single, low density to residential single, medium density.



Complete neighborhood plan rewrite in Silver Beach by Wendy Harris,
et al.
Includes highlights listed in above Silver Beach plan, as well as the following:

  • City should adopt “green” street criteria for street improvements to minimize runoff to Lake Whatcom.
  • Ensure boat launch is used consistent with efforts to keep lake clean.
  • Suggested zoning changes to specific areas in the neighborhood that would preclude subdevelopment.
  • Urged the city to continue purchasing areas to protect watershed.
  • Landscapers and builders in watershed would need to get an environmental awareness certification.
  • Create a city department responsible for oversight of the Lake Whatcom Reservoir and associated water treatment.
  • Outreach program using neighborhood and city staff to provide stewardship education for watershed residents.
  • Annual permit inspection program for fossil-fueled vessels to operate on Lake Whatcom.



Site-specific amendment in Sunnyland by David Edelstein

  • Rezone of four-acre property along Sunset Drive from residential single, low density to residential single, medium density, to build approximately 50 units.
  • This proposal will be automatically docketed because the neighborhood plan was updated within the last seven years.



Citywide update of Parks & Open Space Plan by City of Bellingham

  • A request for a non-site-specific amendment to the city’s comprehensive plan to update the parks and open space plan by the Park and Recreation Dept.


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