The major responsibility of the Historic Preservation Commission is to identify and actively encourage the conservation of the City of Bellingham's historic resources by initiating and maintaining a register of historic places and reviewing proposed changes to register properties; to raise community awareness of the City's history and historic resources; and to serve as the City's primary resource in matters of history, historic planning, and preservation. They also review and make recommendations on development proposals located in specified historic design review districts. The duties of the Commission are more specifically listed in the Historic Preservation Ordinance, Bellingham Municipal Code Chapter 17.90 and Design Review, Bellingham Municipal Code Chapter 20.25.
The Commission determines whether nominated structures should be added to the Bellingham Register of Historic Places and make recommendations on State and National Register nominations. They review proposed alterations to buildings on the Bellingham Register for consistency with historic preservation standards. They also may approve property tax reductions for improvements to Bellingham Register buildings under the Special Valuation program authorized by State law.
Certain development projects in specified design review districts, such as the Fairhaven Design Review District, are reviewed by the Commission for consistency with applicable design standards. Their recommendation is provided to the Planning Director for a final decision.
The Commission may also conduct a variety of research and education activities to promote historic preservation.
The Commission has two regular meetings per month, although meetings are cancelled if there are no agenda items. Meetings last approximately one to two hours. Time spent outside of meetings is required to review applications and staff reports for proposals requiring Commission action.
The Commission consists of nine members appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council. One member is appointed from the Municipal Arts Commission. Terms are three years and members may be reappointed. Members must also have lived in Bellingham for at least two years.
Commission members must have a demonstrated interest and competence in historic preservation. The Commission must include at least four professionals who have experience in identifying, evaluating, and protecting historic resources and are selected from among the disciplines of architecture, history, architectural history, planning, archaeology, folklore, cultural anthropology, curation, conservation, landscape architecture, or related disciplines.