Growth and development are topics of much debate for those of us who live here and care about our community.
While most agree that some steps must be taken to slow the expansion of "urban sprawl" into the county, we do not
want this to come at the expense of Bellingham's quality of life.
In the 1990's, Washington State adopted the Growth Management Act (GMA), which, among other things, mandates that
state and local governments manage growth by designating urban boundaries and protecting natural resource lands.
For its part, the City and county are required to develop a Comprehensive Plan which provides policies and rules to
manage growth and development in a way that reflects community values.
Like previous Comprehensive Plans (1980 and 1995), Bellingham’s 2006 plan looks for ways the City might curtail the
traditional pattern of growing out (sprawl), and encourage growing up (density). The benefits to planning for growth
by increasing density within cities are many, including:
- much of the infrastructure and roads are already built;
- density discourages sprawl into farmland, green spaces and critical areas;
Still, the challenges of a denser city remain:
- density creates opportunities for better, more cost-effective public transportation;
- density reduces commute distances;
- density has even been shown to improve residents' health as the number of services within walking distance lessen reliance on automobiles.
The Comp Plan's growth strategy calls for putting much of the 14,000 households needed by 2022 into several "urban villages"
of varying sizes, spread throughout the city. As envisioned by the Comp Plan, an urban village represents a denser pocket
of development where homes, stores, offices and civic uses are
- Will reduced land supplies result in housing prices beyond the reach of working families?
- Will a denser city result in less open space and fewer recreational opportunities?
- Will a denser city result in more traffic congestion?
- Will a denser city compromise the character of its existing neighborhoods?
- Are people ready to embrace alternative housing to the single family detached house?
mixed together, often in the same buildings. An urban village
would be a place where people are walking more and driving less, and ideally, feel more connected to each other through social
interaction. Urban villages could ultimately reduce the amount of development in rural areas by making denser living more attractive.
Barkley District has been identified by the Comp Plan as one of the major urban villages in Bellingham, where a significant amount
of the new residential units will be absorbed. This conclusion in the Comp Plan is consistent with Barkley Company's plans for the Barkley area.
As the Barkley Company develops its master plan for the area, a significant number of residential units are envisioned, with an
emphasis on denser housing types such as row houses, town houses, apartment buildings, flats above stores, and perhaps cottage
clusters. In addition, a strong emphasis will be placed on landscaping, green spaces and pedestrian-oriented amenities. Barkley
is a natural fit for this mixed-use development. The main infrastructures are largely in place, and most of the property's existing
zoning is sufficient to achieve these goals.