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Bellingham Council OKs Annexation of King Mountain Area

August 5, 2008

By Jared Paben, The Bellingham Herald, Wash.

Aug. 5–BELLINGHAM — More than 1,200 county residents will be pulled into Bellingham city limits, and the land around them will be slated for dense urban development, the City Council decided Monday, Aug. 4.

Creating the city’s 24th neighborhood, the King Mountain neighborhood, the City Council voted to add the 635 acres between the Meridian and Mount Baker neighborhoods into city limits. The council voted 6-0, with council member Terry Bornemann absent, to approve the annexation. The council will hold a work session, likely next month, to answer a few council members’ questions before voting for the third and final time to make it law.

“I really want to live in an area that has walking trails and bike paths and parks,” annexation backer and resident Cathi LeCocq told the council. “I would really like to live close to my neighbors.”

“I do see this as a sensible way for this area to develop,” she added.

Some residents of the King Mountain area oppose the annexation because it paves the way for development of a high-density urban village mixing housing and shopping, the same reason others support it. Annexing the land makes properties eligible for new city water and sewer extensions, allowing high-density development. The city estimates zoning would allow for at least 722 more housing units and 138,065 square feet of retail, office and industrial/warehouse space, added to the 41,132 square feet of retail and office space already there.

The annexation could also spark interest in the transfer of the development rights program, through which Lake Whatcom watershed landowners can sell their rights to build housing units to developers, who use the rights to increase housing densities elsewhere. More than 410 acres in this annexation would be eligible for the program.

City financial projections for serving the new neighborhood vary widely, depending on the service assumptions. For example, one projections shows that the city would be about $30 million in the hole in serving the area in the next 15 years. It assumes spending $16.3 million to improve East Bakerview Road and $8.8 million for new parks.

Another projection, which assumes developers would pay to improve Bakerview and the city would spend $4.4 million for new parks, shows the city would net more than $900,000 in the next 15 years.

After annexation, the city would provide residents with fire and police protection, although Whatcom County Fire District No. 4 would continue to provide water tankers for fire calls for three years, and the city would pay the district $95,000 for each of the first three years to soften the impact of the loss of district tax base.

Most residents who spoke to the council supported annexation. Not resident R.E. Stannard Jr., who wants to see land north of Bakerview left in the unincorporated county as a buffer to block urban sprawl into rural areas north of King Mountain. He feared the city’s plan to extend James Street Road north to connect to Meridian Street near Horton Road would simply encourage development farther north, he said.

If approved, the annexation would be effective Jan. 3.

Reach Jared Paben at 715- 2289 or jared.paben@bellinghamherald.com.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Bellingham Herald, Wash.

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