Multi-family Zoning: Achieving Intended Densities

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Picture of townhomes at Aurora Court in Bellingham

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PROJECT SUMMARY

The City Council recently added the Residential Multi (RM) project to the annual list of Comprehensive Plan amendments. This project is focused on changes to the land use code that will allow all RM zones to achieve intended densities, as many of these areas have been significantly underdeveloped with densities much less than what’s intended in the Comprehensive Plan. The project has the potential to implement many goals of the Comprehensive Plan, including those related to housing options, climate action and compact growth.

PURPOSE

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PROJECT SUMMARY

The City Council recently added the Residential Multi (RM) project to the annual list of Comprehensive Plan amendments. This project is focused on changes to the land use code that will allow all RM zones to achieve intended densities, as many of these areas have been significantly underdeveloped with densities much less than what’s intended in the Comprehensive Plan. The project has the potential to implement many goals of the Comprehensive Plan, including those related to housing options, climate action and compact growth.

PURPOSE

  • Implement the Comprehensive Plan's intent for RM zones
  • Address the City's housing, climate action, environmental and land use goals
  • Expand housing variety for people of all ages, incomes and abilities
  • Provide an opportunity for more people to live in walkable/bikeable/transit-friendly neighborhoods

SCOPE (updated June 2021)

  1. A simplified ranged zoning system for all RM zones. This system would assign the adopted Comprehensive Plan density ranges of high, medium or low to each RM zone and allow development at any density within the assigned range.
  2. All Infill Housing Toolkit forms (small and smaller house, cottage, duplex, triplex, shared court, garden court, and townhouse) would be allowed in all RM zones. Small and smaller houses, cottages and duplexes are the only forms currently allowed in RM duplex zones.
  3. Certain (or all) RM zones would potentially include minimum densities.

Explore the tools below to learn more and provide feedback!

For more information on this project, visit cob.org/rmproject.

  • October 2021 Update

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    On October 11, 2021 City Council held a worksession during the Planning Committee to discuss the draft ordinance and proposed changes to Residential Multi (RM) Zones. Staff addressed concerns and questions that were brought forward at the September 27, 2021 City Council Public Hearing. City Council Planning Committee members recommended approval and brought the item forward in the evening council session. At the October 11, 2021 evening Council session, City Council voted 5-1 (1 excused) to approve the draft ordinance and proposed changes.

    3rd/final readings took place on October 25, 2021 along with the other Docket proposals moving forward. City Council adopted the ordinance (2021-10-044) at the October 25, 2021 evening session (passing 6-1). The emergency moratorium will expire once the ordinance takes effect.

  • September 2021 Update

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    EMERGENCY MORATORIUM EXTENDED: On March 9, 2020 the City Council adopted an emergency moratorium on the processing of certain applications for new single-family development in multi-family zones. This action is in conjunction with the RM project and will prevent development that is inconsistent with intended densities in multi-family zones. On August 30, 2021 City Council voted to renew and extend the moratorium for six months. A public hearing will be held on September 27, 2021.

    CITY COUNCIL PUBLIC HEARING: On September 27, 2021 the City Council will hold a public hearing to consider amendments to the Bellingham Comprehensive Plan and Municipal Code for the RM project. Detailed information can be found at meetings.cob.org five days prior to the public hearing.

  • June 2021 Update

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    On May 20, the Planning Commission held a public hearing on the RM project draft ordinance. The public hearing was continued to the June 10 meeting with a work session following that same night. At the June 10 public hearing and work session, Planning Commission recommended to approve the RM project and draft amendments for City Council review. Staff will be holding City Council work session(s) and a public hearing on the draft ordinance later this summer and fall.

  • March 2021 Update

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    by Lisa Pool ,

    On March 4, staff provided the Planning Commission with an update on the RM project, with a focus on minimum densities. The Planning Commission agreed with staff's proposal to use the lowest density in each Comprehensive Plan density range (Low, Medium, or High) as the minimum density (calculated as gross density) for each range. Staff is now preparing a draft ordinance for consideration at a future Planning Commission public hearing this spring. The City Council will also hold a public hearing and make a decision on the ordinance this summer. Check this page regularly for specific dates and updates.

  • January 2021 Update

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    On December 3rd, 2020, staff met with the Planning Commission in a work session to brief the Commission on the RM Project. The work session included information on the public process and feedback recieved to date, as well as a discussion on reconsidering the Density Bonus component of the project and the complexities in the Ranged Zoning System.

  • Virtual Open House

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    On October 8, 2020, planning staff hosted a virtual open house for the RM project. The open house included a brief presentation, followed by an opportunity for participants to ask questions and provide comments. A recording of the presentation, as well as a summary of key questions/comments and staff responses, are below.

    Summary of key questions/comments received during the open house and staff responses (PDF).


  • Project Overview

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    Watch the video to learn more about the project purpose.


    Please note that the "Density Bonus" component was removed from the project scope during Planning Commission work sessions (See December 2, 2020 and March 4, 2021 PC meetings).

  • Project Components

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    Watch the video to learn more about the four project components, which include changes to the land use code and neighborhood plans.

    Project Components Summary (pdf)

    Please note that the "Density Bonus" component was removed from the project scope during Planning Commission work sessions (See December 2, 2020 and March 4, 2021 PC meetings).

  • Density Explained

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    Watch the video to learn more about density.

    More Density Examples (pdf)

Page last updated: 03 November 2021, 13:31