The Bellingham Neighborhood Coalition is an alliance of community members working together to ensure that:
- The vitality and character of established single-family and multi-family neighborhoods are preserved as the city accommodates additional growth and development;
- Bellingham’s urban villages are targeted for future infill projects; and
- Existing residents and taxpayers are not unfairly burdened with the costs associated with growth and development.
1. Vitality and character of residential neighborhoods
The Washington State legislature amended the 1991 Growth Management Act (GMA) in 1995 because the original requirements “not only do not adequately protect single-family residential neighborhoods, but increase the pressure to rezone established single-family neighborhoods to allow development of apartment buildings and commercial uses.”
Under the original GMA, the comp plan housing element was required to “recognize the vitality and character of established residential neighborhoods.” The 1995 amendment changed the language to “ensure the vitality and character of established residential neighborhoods.” (Emphasis added)
State Senate Bill 5567 (SSB 5567) elevated the initial goal of recognizing the vitality and character to a requirement of ensuring the vitality and character. The revised language appears in the GMA under
2. “Right place” infill
A mix of residential housing types, as defined in Bellingham’s urban villages, provides housing choices for people of various incomes and ages and can revitalize areas of the city that would benefit from increased housing and commercial development.
3. Growth-related costs
Since the GMA was adopted, cities and counties have charged impact fees on new development to pay for the construction and expansion of off-site capital improvements that are necessitated by and benefit the new development. The GMA authorizes the assessment of impact fees for: a) roads; b) parks, open space and recreation facilities; c) schools, and d) fire protection facilities.
Based on a 2006 Development Impact Analysis prepared by Fodor & Associates, existing Bellingham taxpayers are currently subsidizing each new single family unit by $23,000 and each new multi-family unit by $14,000 for just the four capital improvements for which impact fees are authorized. Existing taxpayers provide a 100% subsidy for all other growth-related costs such as libraries, jails, police protection facilities, government buildings, museums, etc.
Impact fees became popular in Florida and California in the 1970s as a result of taxpayer revolts and reductions in federal and state aid for local infrastructure. Recently, there has been a national trend toward communities recovering the FULL cost of facilities rather than a percentage of the cost.