The Port of Bellingham has decided to make a public park a key feature of its new downtown waterfront design.
Port commissioners voted 3-0 on Tuesday to approve the Waypoint Connection, a design that makes Waypoint Park the starting point for the secondary trail park that meanders south to Cornwall Beach. Port staff will now finish the changes in the form of an amendment to the waterfront plans and submit it to the city, which will go through its own review process.
That process will include giving the public a chance to comment on the changes.
The Port has spent the past three months soliciting comment from the community through neighborhood meetings, an open house, creating public comment periods and asking people to submit opinions and questions.
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Most of the public favored the Waypoint design over a second option that was nicknamed the Maple Street Connection, which featured a larger public plaza area but had the serpentine park cut across the central part of the district to the Whatcom waterway.
Commissioner Michael Shepard said he was pleased with the process, which got off to a bumpy start last fall when the public raised concerns that they were not informed about the changes.
“I think we’ve gone the extra mile,” to alleviate many of those concerns, Shepard said.
Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville said she also preferred the Waypoint design, adding it kept more with the 2016 design of connecting the waterfront through the use of parks.
At the meeting on Tuesday Port Commissioners Ken Bell and Shepard expressed concerns about the Ireland-based developer Harcourt, with both saying they would like to see the company more involved in the process and to have local presence. Both expressed concern that Harcourt had yet to set up a local office to start handling leasing.
Commissioner Bobby Briscoe said he wasn’t surprised that Harcourt had not yet set up an office here, given the number of times the county has changed its mind on design plans. Now that a plan is in place, Briscoe said he would expect the company to become more involved.