The Bellingham City Council and Planning Commission are wrestling with the decision of how much growth should be accommodated over the next 20 years. A consultant, BERK, has provided three levels of growth over the next 20 year: low (1,169 a year), medium (1,420 a year) and high (1,567 a year). The council and commission adopted the high level or that Bellingham should provide for 35,918 new residents by 2036. I believe the consultant ignored our growth over the last seven years when predicting growth over the next 20 years. Bellingham growth over the last seven years averaged 587 people per year. Over the last 14 years growth has averaged 1,154 a year, which is in line with the low growth estimate.
Many Bellingham residents are concerned over the high level of growth because the high cost of infrastructure; the sustainability of having an ever increasing population; the need for infill in existing neighborhoods; the environmental impact on our bay and forests; increased traffic and parking problems; and noise and pollution.
Recently the Planning Department recommended three alternatives, all of which adopted the medium growth alternative. I believe planning is going in the right direction by recommending lower growth. They should continue to lower the growth and eliminate any urban growth area increase since infrastructure costs to add to it would run the city and taxpayers around $50 million.