Chapter 20.06


20.06.020    Zoning classification system.

20.06.030    Topic categories.

20.06.040    References to development handbooks and neighborhood plans.

20.06.020 Zoning classification system.

A. The zoning classifications and regulations contained in Chapter 20.00 BMC are made up of six categories:

1. General use type.

2. Use qualifier.

3. Density.

4. Special conditions.

5. Prerequisite considerations.

6. Special regulations.

Together, these categories describe the intended land use for an area. In some instances a category might not be used because it is unnecessary for a particular area. But usually the first five categories are used to accurately describe the area’s land use. [Ord. 2004-12-088; Ord. 9024, 1982].

20.06.030 Topic categories.

A. General Use Type.

1. The general use type is a term for groupings of common land uses under a major type of use zone. There are seven different common groupings or general use types:

a. Residential single.

b. Residential multi.

c. Commercial.

d. Industrial.

e. Institutional.

f. Public.

g. Urban village.

2. The intent of the general use type is to quickly orient someone to what general types of uses may be allowed within an area.

3. This title contains development regulations based on each general use type. The regulations are further defined for each use qualifier for the general use type.

B. Use Qualifier.

1. The second category of the zoning classification system is called a “use qualifier.” The use qualifier focuses specifically on what are the allowable uses or what housing configuration is permitted within each area. In other words, the use qualifier “qualifies” or reduces the broad category of uses of the general use type into a concise description of permitted uses.

2. Within the chapter of this title having the same name as the general use type of an area, a section can be found which delineates in detail the meaning of each particular use qualifier.

3. Each general use type has its own unique use qualifiers. Presently the system contains the use qualifiers listed below. More may be added, or some may be eliminated, through future amendments to this title if greater detail is necessary.

General Use Type

Use Qualifiers

Residential Single





cluster detached


cluster attached



Residential Multi

































Whatcom Community College (WCC)








governmental services


housing, public


housing, student


open space











Urban Village

per location

In addition, some areas may include the term “mixed.” This term indicates that the uses following are also permitted in addition to those within the main use qualifier. This allows flexibility without having to create new use qualifiers for minor differences in land use.

Finally, the “planned” use qualifier has a separate regulatory chapter written especially for it as this qualifier must follow a special procedure.

4. All use qualifiers delineate uses allowed in a specific area. Some, however, such as those found within the residential single general use type, also denote optional development regulations which may be used if certain criteria are satisfied. For more detail, refer to the applicable chapter.

C. Density.

1. The third category in the zoning classification system is called “density.” As used within the system; density may refer to the number of dwelling units permitted for a specified amount of area, may designate minimum lot size, or it may restrict floor area size for commercial usage.

2. By including this indicator into the neighborhood plan format, subdivision of land and development regulations can relate directly to the developed character of the individual area, rather than to a broad, citywide standard.

D. Special Conditions.

1. “Special conditions” is the term used for the fourth category. A special condition is a development concern which has to be addressed prior to construction.

2. There are two types, or groups, of special conditions: special districts and special concerns. Special districts deal with general citywide concerns which apply to a particular area. Special concerns reflect a site-specific concern.

3. The special districts are specific development ordinances which apply in certain areas throughout the city.

One such citywide development ordinance is the city’s shoreline management master program. Although it is an ordinance which applies within the city, its jurisdiction is limited to those areas adjacent to the protected water bodies.

4. As mentioned above, special concerns are site-specific in nature. These site-specific special conditions will be utilized for review of development projects which require discretionary approval (such as conditional use permits, variances, subdivisions and rezones) or are not exempt from SEPA. An example of a site-specific special condition might be: “this drainage course is important to the area’s natural drainage system and should be kept in its natural state.” Thus developers and decision makers will know that something site-specific needs to be addressed.

Again, special conditions serve as a flagging system which says... “there may be a problem.” Early consultation with a neighborhood and/or short range planner is encouraged.

E. Prerequisite Considerations.

1. The fifth and last main indicator is called prerequisite considerations. Prerequisite considerations are items which have to be addressed for any development proposal which is discretionary or semi-discretionary in nature. An example of a discretionary or semi-discretionary permit is one which needs a Type II or higher decision (i.e., a rezone, subdivision, planned proposal, building permit for any development which is not exempt from the State Environmental Policy Act, etc.).

2. Prerequisite considerations are recommendations on what should occur or what will need to happen prior to some future level of development in an area. Usually they point out necessary capital improvements which are going to have to be constructed. Thus, prerequisite considerations help to serve as a timing mechanism.

3. Prerequisite considerations, like special conditions, help to serve as a caution for both decision maker and developer.

It will say to the developer that a problem exists which needs to be addressed in some manner.

It will point out to the decision maker that if development continues in this area these considerations are going to have to be faced. It is the intent to acknowledge these concerns early and start planning and devising methods to see that they are satisfied in a manner as fair and equitable as possible.

F. Special regulations are specific regulations that apply to the associated numbered area. These regulations may modify or supplement the standard regulations for the general use type and use qualifier. [Ord. 2017-11-025 § 16; Ord. 2014-09-049 § 26; Ord. 2009-11-069; Ord. 2004-12-088; Ord. 9024, 1982].

20.06.040 References to development handbooks and neighborhood plans.

A. When the term “development handbook” is used in this title to reference development regulations, it shall mean the development regulations contained in this title for the application general use type and use qualifier.

B. When any section of the Bellingham Municipal Code refers to the neighborhood plans for land use classifications and/or development regulations, “area” boundaries, general use type, use qualifier, density, special conditions or prerequisite considerations, it shall mean the zoning maps, classifications and redevelopment regulations contained in Chapter 20.00 BMC. References to the comprehensive plan or neighborhood plan goals and policies shall continue to mean the comprehensive plan and neighborhood plans when the context clearly indicated this meaning. [Ord. 2004-12-088].