The City of Bellingham and the Port of Bellingham are collaborating to guide redevelopment of 237 acres of Bellingham's downtown waterfront. The long-term vision for this former mill site is a new mixed-use neighborhood, featuring residential, commercial, light industrial and institutional uses, as well as parks, trails and a healthy shoreline. Since 2005, hundreds of community members have shared their ideas and dedicated advisory groups have helped shape proposed plans for this area. The draft documents below chart the course for City and Port collaboration on redevelopment work for decades to come.
To watch the City and Port’s presentation to the planning commission about the waterfront district proposal overview, click here.
To read the City's staff report documents and public comments, click here.
Read these comments, submitted by Re Sources on March 18, 2013:
Dear Port and City of Bellingham Officials,
Thank you for the opportunity to review the 2012 update to the draft sub-area plan for the Waterfront District. We recognize that this Plan is the result of many hours of intense effort and, often donated, time. We appreciate the role that the Port and City have played in facilitating an environment for community participation in the revision of this plan.
We commend the Port and City for the following aspects of the plan:
· Expressly stating that habitat and public access are important considerations, but that they do not necessarily co-occur. In sensitive habitat areas, public access will be restricted and/or complex riparian areas will focus public access. (p. 22)
· Planning a soft bank shoreline at the south end of the Cornwall Avenue Landfill. (p.23)
· Modifying the boundary of Cornwall Beach areas to include the pocket beach of Cornwall Cove. (p.66)
· Emphasizing water and energy sustainability as demonstrated in Chapter 6, Utility Systems. (p. 59)
General issues of concern:
· Public Participation: Although we recognize that this plan is the result of years of public participation, the current public comment period feels rushed. We ask you to consider allowing more opportunity for the public to understand this plan, discuss the merits and weigh-in on the deficiencies before the Planning Commission begins their work sessions. Because of the gravity of this project, we believe that the Port and City should take extra care to ensure public participation by hosting more public information sessions and a longer public comment now and when the plan goes before the City Council and Port Commissioners.
· Transparency: The plan is complicated, and as such, deserves more details and disclosure than already provided.
o Full property map: Each section of the Draft Sub-Area Plan includes high-quality maps, but the plan fails to provide a complete picture of the proposed plan in one map. RE Sources asks the Port and City to produce a map that includes all aspects of the redevelopment together including boundaries of each “area,” roads, parks, open spaces, shoreline access, trails, rail, habitat, public access, existing structures, multi-modal circulation, parking.
o Land Use Distribution: The plan states that 111 acres will be available for industrial use or redevelopment for residential, retail, commercial, and institutional use. For full transparency the number of developable acres in each planning area should be elucidated. In this way, citizens can decide if there should be limitations on uses and/or adjustments in planning area boundaries.
· Vision and Guiding Principles: The elements in Chapter two are well-crafted, but are not referenced beyond this chapter. We believe that each of the policies in the proceeding chapters should be directly related to a guiding principle. If they are not, an explanation should be provided. To allow for easy analysis, please provide a matrix that explicitly couches the policies of each chapter under their respective guiding principles, listed in Chapter two.
· Sea level rise: Sea level rise is hardly mentioned in this document and no analysis is presented on how it will affect pending development, parks, and shoreline buffers. As an area vulnerable to sea level rise, such an analysis is critical to the environmental and economic viability of the site. Please include an analysis of how sea level rise will affect the types of development and the amount of park and habitat envisioned in the sub-area plan.
· Log Pond Area: How will use of the Log Pond Area by workers, citizens and animals be protected, given the highly-toxic nature of the sediments and the vulnerability of the sediment cap? If the Log Pond Area will indeed host industrial activities including ships and boats to the GP wharf, we request the City and Port detail how the integrity of the sediment cap will be maintained. This should include an annual monitoring plan that will guarantee the safety of workers, visitors, and wildlife.
· Habitat Planning: Habitat creation is not synonymous with public access creation. Habitat within the site should be evaluated to determine whether it may be more beneficial to keep preserved without public access. Specifically, the log pond area, a well-known seal haulout, and the pocket beach north of the ASB are two areas that deserve scrutiny with an eye to protecting habitat, above providing public access.
· Competition with Downtown: While this redevelopment offers an exciting opportunity for the community, it also holds the potential to draw businesses and occupants away from the downtown, Fairhaven and fountain districts. RE Sources requests that the City and Port present information on the proposed mechanism to prevent the new Waterfront District from competing with other areas that are not currently at full occupancy.
· Clean Ups: We believe that thorough cleanup on the waterfront site is key to its sound development. To that end, we ask the Port and City to go beyond the letter of the law and embrace thorough cleanups as responsible public agencies. To this end we ask for the following:
o Interim clean ups should not be used or advocated at this site. These do not allow full public discourse as to all of the alternatives available at the site.
o There should be no aquatic disposal sites without full community disclosure and discourse. The proposal to place contaminated sediments from the Waterway into the ASB and then open the ASB up for a marina creates a de facto Confined Aquatic Disposal site. The community needs to understand the potential implications of this changed plan and be given the opportunity to comment on it via the release of an amended Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study and Cleanup Action Plan.
Additional details are presented below. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to discuss or need clarification on any of our concerns.
Crina Hoyer, Executive Director
RE Sources for Sustainable Communities