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2016 Comprehensive Plan Update

The City of Bellingham is in the process of updating its 2006 Comprehensive Plan, a 20-year planning document that sets the framework for the physical, social and economic development of the City. The update is not an overhaul of the existing plan; rather, the new plan will reflect new public input, changes in state law, and new population and employment growth forecasts. It will also reflect the City's Legacies and Strategic Commitments, which emphasize a healthy environment, vibrant economy, sense of place, equity and other important goals. The update must be adopted by June 30, 2016, to ensure compliance with the Washington State Growth Management Act (GMA).

Comprehensive Plan Open House

Last year, the City adopted preliminary 20-year population and employment growth forecasts, projecting an additional 36,000 people and 23,000 jobs by 2036. Using these forecasts, staff analyzed whether the land within the existing City and urban growth areas could accommodate this growth. This work indicates demand exceeds supply by about 3,000 people (or approximately 1,500 housing units). Where will these people live and work? Preliminary options include focusing development within the existing City and urban growth area boundaries through new urban villages and increased housing densities or in new areas through targeted expansion of the UGA boundaries. Community values (e.g. healthy environment and vibrant economy) and challenges (e.g. cost of public infrastructure and affordable housing) need to be weighed with each of these growth patterns. 

Join Bellingham's Mayor and City staff on Tuesday, March 17th, from 6-8 PM at the Squalicum Boathouse (2600 Harbor Loop, Zuanich Point Park) for an Open House to provide input into the discussion about where future growth and development should occur. Following a brief presentation, participants are welcome to visit "topic tables" to talk with staff and provide feedback on the tradeoffs associated with growth options. With the help of the community, an approach can be developed that maintains and enhances the qualities that make Bellingham special.

To be notified of up-coming meetings and progress updates, send an email to:

Public Comment

City Council Meeting Materials

January 26, 2015 - Materials for the City Council Planning Committee can be found at

Planning Commission Meeting Materials

December 4, 2014 - Materials for the public hearing can be found at, including the 12/04/14 Presentation to the Planning Commission on High-Level Growth Alternatives.

Comprehensive Plan Update Survey

As part of the public input process for the Comprehensive Plan update, the city asked the community where an additional 36,000 people should live and work over the next 20 years in an online survey from 9/15 - 10/20. The survey received 1202 total responses from neighborhoods throughout Bellingham.

The survey clearly shows respondents value Bellingham's vast recreational opportunities, sense of place, beautiful natural environment and quality of life. Respondents also indicated the need for improvement in the areas of planning / land uses, transportation and crime / vagrancy.  

Regarding growth and development, 75% of respondents agreed with the statement: "Encourage more infill development", while 52% disagreed with the statement: "Expand the boundaries of the Urban Growth Area to include more land that is suitable for future development". These results indicate a preference among respondents for walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods within the existing city limits.

These results will help shape the growth alternatives and goals and polices in the updated Comprehensive Plan.


The public is invited to submit written comment throughout the Comprehensive Plan update process. Written comments may be submitted to:
Planning and Community Development Department
Attn: Greg Aucutt, Assistant Director
210 Lottie St.
Bellingham, WA 98225

To be notified of up-coming meetings and progress updates, send an email to:


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