Chapter 20.35


20.35.010    Applicability and purpose.

20.35.055    Old town overlay district – Applicability.

20.35.060    Old town overlay district – Establishment of boundaries.

20.35.065    Old town overlay district – Permitted uses.

20.35.070    Old town overlay district – Development regulations.

20.35.075    Old town overlay district – Parking.

20.35.080    Old town overlay district – Landscaping.

20.35.085    Old town overlay district – Signs.

20.35.010 Applicability and purpose.

Regulations specified within this chapter shall apply to subareas, overlay districts and other zoning districts or areas established by the city to implement the requirements of the Growth Management Act and the Bellingham comprehensive plan. Should the provisions of this chapter conflict with any other provision of the BMC, except the critical areas ordinance, the shoreline master program, and the stormwater regulations, the provisions of this chapter shall apply. [Ord. 2008-03-022].

20.35.055 Old town overlay district – Applicability.

A. Regulations specified within this chapter shall apply to the use of land within the old town overlay district.

B. The old town overlay district designation shall be considered a “commercial” general use type (zoning) designation.

C. Should the provisions of this chapter conflict with any other provision of the BMC, except critical areas ordinance, shoreline master program and stormwater regulations, the provisions of this chapter shall apply. [Ord. 2008-03-022].

20.35.060 Old town overlay district – Establishment of boundaries.

The boundaries of the old town overlay district are hereby delineated as follows and shown in Figure 20.35.060. Boundaries within street rights-of-way are delineated along platted centerlines unless specified otherwise.

Beginning at the intersection of G and Bancroft Streets and proceeding SE down Bancroft Street to D Street, then NE along D Street to Clinton Street, then SE along Clinton Street to mid-block between C and D Street, then NE along mid-block between C and D Street to Dupont Street, then SE along Dupont Street to Prospect Street, then south along Prospect Street to Bay Street, then SW along Bay Street to Chestnut Street, then NW along Chestnut Street to the intersection of Central and Roeder Avenue, then continuing NW along the NE side of Roeder Avenue to G Street, then NE along G Street to the point of beginning.

Figure 20.35.060 – Old Town Overlay District

[Ord. 2008-03-022].

20.35.065 Old town overlay district – Permitted uses.

A. The following uses are permitted:

1. Retail establishments.

2. Motorcycle and scooter sales.

3. Offices and other commercial services.

4. Banks and other financial institutions.

5. Residential uses.

6. Personal and business services.

7. Commercial recreation.

8. Eating and/or drinking facilities.

9. Repair shops for small equipment and items.

10. Handicraft manufacturing (jewelry, pottery, glass, furniture, etc.).

11. Theaters, art galleries and art studios.

12. Public buildings and uses.

13. Passenger terminal facilities.

14. Private clubs and lodges.

15. Schools, art schools and institutions of higher education.

16. Hotels, motels and resident inns.

17. Day care.

18. Service care, day treatment and child placing agencies.

19. Medical care centers.

20. Neighborhood clubs and activity centers.

21. Public parks.

22. Parking facilities.

23. Community public facilities.

24. Uses similar to the above.

B. Uses Permitted with Conditions. The following uses are allowed provided they are established and operated in accordance to the applicable conditions:

1. Boat sales; limited to properties southwest of Holly Street.

2. Boat repair; complete minor boat and engine repair is permitted; however, hull work is prohibited. Limited to properties southwest of Holly Street.

3. Automobile sales; when business activities are conducted entirely within an enclosed showroom.

4. Live/work; including professional, artist, technical and trades; provided, that noise, smell and other impacts are internalized within an enclosed structure.

5. Small product manufacturing; provided, that noise, smell and other impacts are internalized within an enclosed structure. This category includes manufacture and assembly of light and small items made from previously prepared materials such as office machines, small motors, cabinets, electronic equipment, electrical devices, and signs.

6. Mini storage facilities; when the floor area is less than 50 percent of the floor area of other permitted use(s) on site.

7. Freight terminals and warehousing; when associated with rail transportation (limited to properties abutting Roeder Avenue, and shall not be expanded to properties abutting Holly Street).

8. Manufacture of food and beverage; provided, that noise, smell and other impacts are internalized within an enclosed structure.

9. Outdoor storage of product when:

a. Accessory to a permitted use on site and does not exceed 50 percent of the area of the permitted use on a square foot basis;

b. Located on properties southwest of Astor Street and between D Street and Whatcom Creek; and

c. Located to the rear of buildings and screened by landscaping or an architectural wall (not blank wall) at least six feet in height when installed. If appropriate, some viewing of activity may be allowed through gaps in screening.

10. Warehousing and wholesaling of products; when in conjunction with retail sales of the same product on site.

11. Public utilities; exclusive of storage yards.

12. Wireless communications facilities; subject to the provisions of Chapter 20.13 BMC.

13. Care shops for small animals (house pets such as dogs, cats, etc.); keeping of three or fewer animals overnight is permitted as an accessory use if animals are kept in an enclosed structure, and noise, smell and other impacts are internalized within an enclosed structure.

C. Uses Permitted by Conditional Use Permit. The following uses may be allowed if approval can be obtained, based upon standards and requirements for conditional uses as specified in Chapter 20.16 BMC.

1. Church.

2. Service stations; for automobiles.

3. Wireless communication facilities, subject to the provisions of Chapter 20.13 BMC.

D. Uses Not Permitted.

1. Retail establishments selling the following products:

a. Recreational vehicles.

b. Heavy farm and construction equipment.

c. Feed, grain, and farm supplies.

d. House trailers and mobile homes.

2. Drive-up window facilities such as bank tellers, food and beverage services, laundry pick up, etc.

3. Adult entertainment.

4. Jails and correctional facilities.

5. Automobile wrecking.

6. Car washes.

7. Day labor hiring halls. [Ord. 2008-03-022].

20.35.070 Old town overlay district – Development regulations.

A. Minimum Site Area. None.

B. Maximum Density. None.

C. Building Height. The maximum building height within the old town overlay district shall be 75 feet (BMC 20.08.020, height definition No. 1), except as provided in subsection (F) of this section and as follows:

1. To encourage a response to topography on sloping property, a building may be divided into modules and stepped with height measured on a per module basis.

2. Height may be increased to 130 feet (BMC 20.08.020, height definition No. 1) on those properties identified on Figure 20.35.070(A), except as provided in subsection (F) of this section and shown on Figure 20.35.070(C).

3. Height is limited adjacent to historic buildings as shown on Figure 20.35.070(B).

4. Height is limited within views to cultural and geographic features of significance as shown on Figures 20.35.070(C) and (D). Height limits within view corridors are measured to the highest point of a building or structure. Encroachment above the height limit into view corridors by rooftop objects such as mechanical equipment, elevator and stair shafts, smokestacks and ventilators is prohibited. Any exceptions are limited to those outlined in subsection (F)(1) of this section.

Figure 20.35.070(A) – Height Opportunity Areas

Figure 20.35.070(B) – Height Limits Adjacent to Historic Features

Figure 20.35.070(C) – Height Limits within View Corridors to Cultural and Geographic Features

Figure 20.35.070(D) – Height Limits within View Corridors to Cultural and Geographic Features

D. Floor Area Ratio (FAR).

1. Purpose. The maximum floor area ratio (FAR) standards are intended to accomplish several purposes of the old town subarea plan. Combined with the established height limits herein, the FAR allows for greater modulation in individual buildings and the greater urban fabric. They also provide architects greater flexibility in how to mass buildings on sites and relate projects to unique on- and off-site features.

2. Floor Area Ratio (FAR) Standard. The maximum FAR for all sites in the old town overlay district is 3.5, or 5.0 with use of floor area transfers and bonuses as outlined in subsections (D)(3) and (4) of this section.

3. Transfer of Floor Area. Transfer of FAR among properties that are part of a single development plan is allowed when approved by the planning director, provided:

a. The designs for the sending and receiving properties are reviewed at the same time.

b. The property owner(s) executes a covenant with the city that is attached to and recorded with the deed of both the site transferring and the site receiving the floor area reflecting the respective increase and decrease of potential floor area.

4. Floor Area Bonus Options. Floor area bonus options are offered as incentives to encourage facilities and amenities that implement the old town subarea plan.

a. Projects may use more than one bonus option unless specifically stated otherwise; bonus floor area amounts are additive.

b. The maximum floor area ratio increase that may be earned through the bonus options is 1.5 for a maximum FAR on site of 5.0.

c. Bonus Options.

i. Public Plazas and Open Spaces. Floor area may be transferred to and from any property within the old town overlay district when approved by the planning director, provided:

(A) The transferred floor area will result in dedication of a public plaza or open space as identified in the old town subarea plan;

(B) For each square foot of base FAR allowed by the zoning code from an eligible site, one and one-half square foot of bonus floor area is earned on the receiving site(s) up to a maximum of 1.5 FAR per receiving site; and

(C) The property owner(s) executes a covenant with the city that is attached to and recorded with the deed of both the site transferring and the site receiving the floor area reflecting the respective increase and decrease of potential floor area.

ii. Affordable Housing. Housing for low and middle income residents receives bonus floor area when approved by the planning director. For each square foot of floor area certified by the director as affordable housing, four square feet of bonus floor area is earned up to a maximum of 0.5 FAR. The project must have controls in place, subject to approval by the director to ensure that the project’s residences remain permanently affordable in accordance with subsections (D)(4)(c)(ii)(A) and (B) of this section. Purchasers of affordable homes constructed under this chapter shall meet the following requirements:

(A) Annual Income. All purchasers or tenants shall be from a household whose annual income, at the household’s initial occupancy of the single-family residence, is 80 percent or less of the median income (determined by Housing and Urban Development) as adjusted by family size of the Bellingham Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area (SMSA), specifically defined as Whatcom County; and

(B) Housing Expenses. The monthly expenditure by a purchaser, as described in subsection (D)(4)(c)(ii)(A) of this section, for housing including rent or mortgage repayment, insurance, taxes and utilities (water and sewer) shall not exceed 38 percent of the gross household income at the time of purchase and the amount for rent or mortgage repayment shall not exceed 30 percent of gross household income. All other variable living expenses associated with the resident’s occupancy shall not be a factor in the calculation of affordability.

iii. Leadership Through Energy and Environmental DesignTM (LEED) Certification (or Equivalent). Buildings that incorporate sustainable design receive a maximum 0.5 FAR bonus. To qualify for this bonus, the proposed project shall be certified by the planning director as a minimum LEED silver certification (or equivalent).

iv. Lake Whatcom watershed property acquisition program (LWWPAP) bonus option. contributors to the LWWPAP receive floor area bonuses when approved by the planning director, provided:

(A) Bonus floor area earned is paid for on a per square foot basis according to a fee schedule established by city council resolution;

(B) Floor area paid for and floor area earned is at a 1:1 ratio, such that for each square foot paid for, one square foot of floor area is earned on the receiving site up to a maximum 0.5 FAR bonus;

(C) The applicant must submit with the application for land use review a letter from the Bellingham finance department documenting the amount which will be contributed to the LWWPAP.

E. Yards. There shall be no minimum yards.

F. Design Standards. The following design standards are intended to carry out the goals and policies of the city center master plan and old town subarea plan, and shall be used in addition to the city center design standards and decision criteria outlined in BMC 20.25.040(C). Should the provisions of this section conflict with any other provision in BMC 20.25.040(C), the provisions of this section shall apply.

1. Street and View Corridor Encroachments.

a. Intent. Maintain identified view corridors of significance.

b. Standard. In order to maintain view corridors, above grade building encroachment into the street right-of-way and identified view corridors is prohibited except for eaves, cornices, awnings on the first floor, decks and balconies with see-through railings, and similar features.

2. Open Spaces and Public Places.

a. Intent. Buildings adjacent to public and open spaces such as public parks, plazas, trails and Whatcom Creek shall be oriented to promote activity and interaction along such spaces, and provide visual interest to buildings along the spaces so as to avoid the back-of-building effect.

b. Standards. Locate some ground level features such as entries, windows, decks, patios or similar features on buildings that interface with open spaces and public places.

3. Building Modulation.

a. Intent.

i. Design buildings in a manner that enhances identified view corridors to landmark features, creates visual interest to pedestrians, and minimizes building mass on public spaces.

ii. Step down building bulk to Maritime Heritage Park, residential neighborhoods, public spaces and listed historic buildings.

iii. Avoid long, uninterrupted expanses of walls, vertically and horizontally. Roof parapets and eaves are encouraged to vary in height to avoid long, straight lines at the maximum building heights.

b. Standards.

i. The maximum height within 15 feet of any street right-of-way is three stories and 40 feet. The minimum height within 15 feet of any street right-of-way is one story and 18 feet. A maximum of 50 percent of wall length above the third story may encroach five feet into the setback (not including decks). See Figure 20.35.070(E).

ii. Provide at least one setback for every three stories in similar fashion to subsection (F)(3)(b)(i) of this section on building elevations that front Maritime Heritage Park, public spaces and historic buildings on the city, state or national historic registers. This provision shall apply regardless of whether the proposed development is built up to, or set back from, the common property line.

Figure 20.35.070(E) – Building Modulation

4. Building Corners.

a. Intent. Enhance key intersections as gateways to and within old town.

b. Standard. Stylistically distinguish buildings’ corners along Holly Street at the intersections of Central Avenue, C and F Streets in a manner that contributes to the identity of old town. See Figure 20.35.070(F).

5. Roof Forms for Tall Buildings.

a. Intent. Create a skyline that is visually interesting.

b. Standards. Buildings over 75 feet in height shall:

i. Incorporate at least one additional setback at or above the fifth floor; and

ii. Incorporate features that create a visually distinct roof form. The following are examples of such features:

(A) Terraced setbacks.

(B) Pitched or curved roof elements.

(C) Projecting cornice elements.

(D) Trellises along the parapet.

(E) Geometric forms.

(F) Change of material or color on the top floor. See Figure 20.35.070(G).

G. Street Improvement Requirements.

1. New construction projects shall be required to improve abutting streets to three-fourths standard for the full length of the block face. Developer reimbursement for nonadjacent improvements may be applicable under BMC Title 14.

2. Street standards shall be generally consistent with the old town subarea plan streetscape designs. Minor modifications may be approved by the planning director.


Figure 20.35.070(F) – Building Corners


Figure 20.35.070(G) – Roof Forms

[Ord. 2008-03-022].

20.35.075 Old town overlay district – Parking.

A. Uses on Tracts A and B as shown on Figure 20.35.075 are exempt from parking requirements, except for hotels and motels, which shall provide the number of spaces required in BMC 20.12.010(B).

Figure 20.35.075 – Parking Tracts

B. Uses on Tract C as shown on Figure 20.35.075 shall provide parking as follows:

1. Residential. Minimum of one parking space per studio, one-bedroom or two-bedroom dwelling unit. An additional one-half parking space per unit shall be provided for each bedroom over two per unit.

2. Commercial. Minimum one space per 700 square feet of gross floor area, including office, retail, service, eating and drinking establishments, entertainment, and uses similar to those previously mentioned.

3. If a use is not readily classified within the residential and commercial classifications, then the planning director shall determine the standards which shall be applied.

4. Buildings existing as of (date of adoption of this chapter) are exempt from the requirement to provide additional parking due to a use change.

5. The planning director may exempt existing buildings listed on the local, state or federal register of historic places from required parking for a one-time floor area expansion, provided (a) the floor area expansion is limited to an area equal to 10 percent of the area of the existing building and (b) existing conforming parking on site shall not be displaced except as otherwise may be allowed. If the listed historic building provides 10 percent or less of the on-site parking that would be required for an equivalent new building, the planning director may allow displacement of some or all of the on-site parking.

C. Shared Parking.

1. Purpose. To efficiently utilize parking resources where the potential for shared parking provisions with adjacent land uses has been analyzed and found to be appropriate.

2. The amount of off-street parking required by this chapter may be reduced by an amount determined by the planning director when shared parking facilities for two or more uses are proposed; provided, that the requirements stated in BMC 20.12.010(A)(6) are met.

D. Parking Reduction Allowed. The planning director may administratively reduce parking for uses that are inherently less auto dependent, and for mitigation provided in lieu of the parking reduction. Mitigation may be accomplished through adoption of a program, fee-in-lieu, and installation of infrastructure that promotes use of alternative transportation and less auto dependence. Such uses, programs or infrastructure improvements may include, but are not limited to: senior and affordable housing, implementation of a shared car service (i.e., Zipcar™), enhanced bike storage facilities, purchase of WTA transit passes through the urban village trip reduction credits (BMC 19.06.040(E) – Table 19.06.040(B)), installation of covered transit shelters where approved by the Whatcom Transportation Authority and public works department, and off-site pedestrian infrastructure improvements. The applicant must demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the director, how the proposed mitigation will be adequate and proportionate to the requested parking reduction. Parking reductions authorized by this subsection cannot be combined with those allowed in BMC 20.12.010(A)(5).

E. All parking standards in Chapter 20.12 BMC concerning applicability, general provisions, design provisions and improvement standards shall apply. [Ord. 2017-03-009 § 33; Ord. 2008-03-022].

20.35.080 Old town overlay district – Landscaping.

Landscaping shall be established with design review. [Ord. 2008-03-022].

20.35.085 Old town overlay district – Signs.

A. General Provisions. No sign shall be permitted unless it complies with the provisions herein. Sign size and location standards may be modified by the planning director in order to minimize view impacts to identified view of significance.

B. Exemptions. The following signs shall be exempt from the provisions of this title:

1. Traffic signs installed by a government agency.

2. Directional, way finding program signs installed by a government agency if the signs are consistent with the provisions of the applicable neighborhood plan.

C. Permitted Signs.

1. One monument sign per site is permitted whether it is for a single or mixed use. The monument sign shall not exceed 60 square feet per face or six feet in height measured from existing grade.

2. The total gross area of all permanent exterior signs for any one use shall not exceed one square foot of area to one lineal foot of street frontage, or 100 square feet whichever is more restrictive.

Exemption: Building identification signs (i.e., Roth Building, Pickett Building) or cornerstones are permitted as an integral and architecturally compatible part of the building or structure. Cornerstones shall not exceed four square feet and building identification signs shall not exceed 32 square feet. These exemptions shall not contain any colors, words, letters, numbers, symbols, graphic designs, logos or trademarks for the purpose of identifying a good, service, product or establishment.

3. Building-mounted signs extending over the street right-of-way shall comply with IBC Chapter 32. There shall be at least eight feet of vertical clearance between the bottom of the sign and the sidewalk and the sign shall not extend within two feet of the street curb.

4. Directional Signs.

a. Directional signs are limited to six square feet per sign face and to four feet in height if freestanding.

b. The message shall not contain the name of the establishment or advertising of any kind. Examples of directional signs include: “Enter,” “Service Entrance,” “No Parking,” etc.

c. There is no limit on the number of directional signs.

5. Temporary building signs: shall not exceed 32 square feet.

6. Real estate signs: limited to one sign per street frontage, shall be unlighted, and shall not exceed 32 square feet.

D. Signs Permitted with Conditions.

1. Animated, moving, blinking or electronic (LED or similar) message boards are permitted only in association with entertainment uses such as theaters, comedy clubs, musical venues and similar activities. The total gross area of the message board for any one use shall not exceed one square foot of area to one lineal foot of street frontage, or 100 square feet, whichever is more restrictive.

2. The planning director may approve a sign package that varies from the provisions of subsection (C) of this section when incorporated into the architecture of a building.

E. Prohibited Signs.

1. Off-premises signs.

2. Pole, roof and inflatable signs.

3. Parapet walls may not be erected for the sole purpose of extending sign heights and when they are not in character with the rest of the building or complex. [Ord. 2008-03-022].