Chapter 20.40


Article I. General Provisions

20.40.010    Applicability.

20.40.020    Purpose and intent.

20.40.030    Permitted uses.

20.40.040    Master plan adoption procedure.

20.40.050    Master plan elements and standards.

20.40.060    Development/application procedure.

Article II. Whatcom Community College Institutional District

20.40.100    Whatcom Community College institutional district – Applicability.

20.40.110    Whatcom Community College institutional district – Establishment of boundaries and land use districts.

20.40.120    Whatcom Community College institutional district – Process.

20.40.130    Whatcom Community College institutional district – Permitted uses.

20.40.140    Whatcom Community College institutional district – Standard development regulations.

20.40.150    Whatcom Community College institutional district – Parking.

20.40.160    Whatcom Community College institutional district – Landscaping.

20.40.170    Whatcom Community College institutional district – Signage.

20.40.180    Whatcom Community College institutional district – Lighting.

20.40.190    Whatcom Community College institutional district – Streets, utilities and access.

Article I. General Provisions

20.40.010 Applicability.

Regulations specified within this chapter shall apply to the use of land within areas which have an institutional (IN) general use type. Additional regulations which may apply are referenced within the text for the convenience of the user. [Ord. 2017-11-025 § 17; Ord. 2004-12-088; Ord. 9024, 1982].

20.40.020 Purpose and intent.

A. Intent. The institutional general use type is intended to provide for the development of large campus type public or quasi-public uses in a planned and coordinated manner. Institutional areas should be considered where such uses utilizing at least 50 acres are in single or few ownerships or are otherwise able to utilize a coordinated planned concept.

B. Purpose. The purpose of the institutional use designation is to:

1. Delineate definite boundaries and development parameters for institutional types of uses;

2. Ensure orderly, phased development of appropriate uses within those areas;

3. Identify and reduce the impacts of institutional development on surrounding areas with less intensive uses;

4. Ensure the adequacy of city utilities, streets and other services to and within institutional areas as they develop;

5. Ensure development of institutional areas which is compatible with the physical features of those areas.

C. Use qualifiers are generally assigned to each institutional use based on the name or location of the particular institutional use. Individual development and design standards are developed for each institutional use, consistent with BMC 20.40.050. These regulations are to be used together with any other general regulations within this title that apply to all institutional development.

D. The Whatcom Community College institutional qualifier is intended to implement the vision of the WCC Institutional Master Plan, which provides a policy framework for an approximately 73-acre area generally located at Cordata Parkway and W. Kellogg Road. [Ord. 2017-11-025 § 17; Ord. 9024, 1982].

20.40.030 Permitted uses.

A. Prior to approval of an institutional master plan pursuant to BMC 20.40.040 or upon property not included in such master plan, development is allowed in areas designated institutional as though such area was zoned as follows:

General Use Type

Residential Single

Use Qualifier



20,000 square foot minimum detached lot size

Special Conditions


If the applicable zoning for an institutional area so specifies, uses shown on an existing master plan for an area are allowed as enumerated within such plan.

B. Subsequent to the adoption of an institutional master plan, uses which are listed as permitted in that master plan are permitted upon approval pursuant to the procedures delineated in BMC 20.40.060. [Ord. 2004-12-088; Ord. 2002-10-069 § 57; Ord. 9024, 1982].

20.40.040 Master plan adoption procedure.

A. No development within an area designated institutional is permitted until a master plan as described in BMC 20.40.050 shall have been approved except as allowed in BMC 20.40.030(A).

B. An application for a new or amended master plan shall follow the procedures established in Chapter 21.10 BMC.

C. Final Actions. Upon approval of an ordinance adopting the master plan by the city council, all development within that institutional area shall comply with the plan requirements and standards included or referenced therein. [Ord. 2004-12-088; Ord. 2004-09-065; Ord. 1998-03-011 § 3; Ord. 9024, 1982].

20.40.050 Master plan elements and standards.

A master plan for an institutional area shall discuss specifically and make provisions for all concerns referred to in the special conditions listed for that area. The master plan shall include alternatives representing different landowners’ choices for resolving issues raised during the planning process. The master plan shall also include at least the following elements and standards.

A. Elements. The following subjects shall be dealt with in both written and graphic formats. Maps shall be drawn at a scale appropriate to adequately show the plan proposals.

1. Land Use.

a. The master plan shall include maps and plans showing the following information:

i. The area boundary.

ii. Ownership boundaries of properties within and contiguous to the institutional area.

iii. Existing improvements and land uses both within and contiguous to the institutional area.

iv. Proposed land use classifications and boundaries between those use areas within the institutional area.

v. The designated land use classifications or properties contiguous to the institutional area.

b. The rationale for the proposed land use classifications shall also be discussed. A list of the specific uses which would be allowed within each area shown on the land use classification plan shall also be included in the land use element.

2. Circulation.

a. The circulation element of the master plan shall include maps showing the following information:

i. Existing streets and rights-of-way within the institutional area, as well as those leading to it from nearby arterials.

ii. A plan for circulation within the institutional area, including provisions for automobile, transit, bicycle, and pedestrian circulation systems.

iii. Plans showing how access to the site will be provided, including alignment and profiles of any new roads and standards for their development as discussed in subsection (B) of this section.

iv. The general location and approximate capacity of parking facilities shall be shown relative to the circulation system within the institutional area.

b. Narrative within the circulation element shall include a description of the existing circulation facilities – including the size and condition of any developed streets and sidewalks. Problems with the existing circulation system and proposals to deal with those problems shall be addressed. The phasing of circulation improvements within the institutional area shall also be specified pursuant to subsection (A)(4) of this section.

3. Utilities.

a. Maps shall be provided in the master plan showing the following information:

i. The location and size of all existing city utilities which are developed within the institutional area or which lead to the site.

ii. Plans for the location and sizing of utilities extensions and/or improvements which will be necessary as the site is developed.

b. The utilities element shall also contain a description of the existing utilities, including the capacities and condition of existing lines. Those capacities shall be discussed in relationship to the additional capacity required for future development within the institutional area. Proposed improvements to correct any substandard conditions and to provide service to future development shall also be discussed. Phasing of those improvements relative to development of the area shall be delineated pursuant to subsection (A)(4) of this section.

4. Phased Development Schedule. The master plan shall include provisions which the city determines necessary for the phased development of the institutional area. These may include special warrant levels for street improvements and signalization; and/or square footage development levels by use types or other appropriate levels which would trigger certain public amenities (bus shelters, recreational open space, bike and pedestrian ways, etc.) or utility improvements (storm drainage, sanitary sewers, water lines, etc.). The master plan shall include provision for the improvements required to raise the institutional site’s ability to handle a higher level of development as projected by the master plan.

5. Open Space.

a. The open space element of the master plan shall include maps showing the following information:

i. The topography of the institutional area with at least a five-foot contour interval.

ii. Drainage courses, treed areas, and other major natural features, such as marsh areas or rock outcrops.

iii. A plan showing areas to be reserved as open space areas, including those left in a natural state, and those landscaped for active or passive uses or standards for development of such spaces.

b. The open space element of the master plan shall also contain a written description of the relationship of the proposed open space plan to the nature features and conditions within the institutional area. There shall also be included a discussion of how the open space patterns will serve to buffer uses in the institutional area from adjacent, less intensive uses.

B. Standards. The master plan for an institutional use shall also contain standards for development within the area. Included shall be standards for the following:

1. Permitted uses for each area shown on the land use classification plan for the institutional area as required in subsection (A)(1) of this section.

2. Building height limitations with special attention given to those peripheral areas within the institutional area which border other areas with less intensive land use designation.

3. Site coverage limitations within the area.

4. Yard (or setback) requirements to those peripheral institutional areas which border other areas with less intensive land use designations.

5. Landscaping requirements with special attention given to those peripheral institutional areas which border other areas with less intensive land use designations.

6. Parking requirements including: the number and kinds of parking required, the design of the parking areas, and the location of parking areas relative to the uses they will serve, and other adjacent uses.

7. Street standards shall be specified which will accommodate the anticipated future needs. Facilities for pedestrians, bicycles, and transit should be taken into consideration. In no case shall right-of-way widths be less than minimum city requirements.

8. Standards for signing shall also be specified, with particular attention given to impacts on adjacent less intensive uses. A standardized design theme for signing for the entire institutional area may be included in the plan.

9. Provisions for handicapped access shall be specified. [Ord. 2004-12-088; Ord. 9024, 1982].

20.40.060 Development/application procedure.

A. An institutional site plan approval is required for all development proposals within an area having an institutional master plan approved by the city unless the development is exempted by the applicable master plan. All development must be consistent with the approved master plan. The planned proposal may be changed, altered or conditioned as reasonably necessary to ensure compatibility with city goals, policies, standards, the surrounding areas or to mitigate direct impacts of the proposal. The decision shall address all development aspects necessary to protect the public health, safety and welfare including, but not limited to, the following:

1. Appropriate permitted uses and/or special conditions on the uses;

2. Height restrictions on structures;

3. Yard requirements;

4. Sign regulations;

5. Street, utility and other public improvements both adjacent to the site and off site, which may be necessary as a result of the proposal; and

6. An exhibit specifying building area, parking area, curb cut locations, buffer areas if necessary, or any other feature or requirement which may need to be graphically depicted.

B. Applications shall follow the procedures in Chapter 21.10 BMC.

C. Building Permits. Any building permit issued must be in compliance with the restrictions and conditions of the institutional site plan approval. [Ord. 2004-09-065; Ord. 2002-10-069 § 57; Ord. 1998-03-011 §§ 1, 2; Ord. 10719 §§ 28 – 38, 1996; Ord. 10309 § 4, 1992; Ord. 9597 § 3, 1986; Ord. 9352 § 5, 1984; Ord. 9024, 1982].

Article II. Whatcom Community College Institutional District

20.40.100 Whatcom Community College institutional district – Applicability.

A. Regulations specified within this article shall apply to the use of land within the Whatcom Community College institutional district (WCCID).

B. Other Codes. Development within the WCCID does not excuse compliance with all other local, state or federal regulations. [Ord. 2017-11-025 § 18 (Exh. I)].

20.40.110 Whatcom Community College institutional district – Establishment of boundaries and land use districts.

The boundaries of the WCCID and associated land use areas are hereby delineated as shown in Figure 20.40.110.

Figure 20.40.110

[Ord. 2017-11-025 § 18 (Exh. I)].

20.40.120 Whatcom Community College institutional district – Process.

Pursuant to BMC 20.40.060, individual projects will be reviewed by the city using either the institutional site plan approval process for significant projects or the land use approval process for non-significant projects as follows:

A. Significant projects include new buildings, parking lots or parking structures, and new (or alterations to) major and secondary vehicle routes. A project should be deemed significant if the following apply:

1. The project is located within 100 feet of a residential zone; and

2. The project is not “exempt” from State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review under BMC 16.20.180 as amended; or

3. The project is located in district 2.

B. Nonsignificant projects are those projects that do not meet the criteria in subsection (A) of this section such as:

1. New buildings in the core of the campus, interior improvement or renovation of existing buildings, exterior renovation and minor additions to existing buildings, minor roadway improvements, utility improvements or renovations, safety improvements, landscaping, signage, off-street pedestrian or bicycle paths, and installation of art sculptures; or

2. When a project in subsection (A) of this section is determined by the planning director to not have significant planning issues.

C. Building Permits.

1. Any building permit issued for a nonsignificant project must be in compliance with the WCCID standards herein and consistent with the WCC IMP.

2. Any building permit issued for a significant project having an institutional site plan approval shall be in compliance with the restrictions and conditions of the approval. [Ord. 2017-11-025 § 18 (Exh. I)].

20.40.130 Whatcom Community College institutional district – Permitted uses.

A. Uses Permitted Outright. No building or land shall be used within the WCC institutional district, except as follows:

1. Academic. Classrooms, laboratories, computer labs, faculty offices, college and departmental offices, centers, institutes, conference, libraries, research areas, food services, parking facilities, and related uses.

2. Administrative/Support. Administrative offices, utility systems support functions, physical plant, recycling, copying services, business functions, archival functions, environmental health and safety functions, parking facilities, and related uses.

3. Residential. Residence halls, dining halls, apartments, administrative functions, conferences, resident fitness centers, resident computer centers, outdoor recreation areas, parking facilities, and related uses.

4. Student Activities. Programmed outdoor sport activity areas, playfields, tennis courts, running tracks, campus recreation facilities, associated student functions, student union functions, administrative offices such as admissions, counseling, registrar, career services and general student support, parking facilities, and related uses.

5. Open Space. Educational or recreational functions, native growth protection areas, plazas, art (including outdoor sculpture), landscaping, walkways, kiosks, and related uses.

6. Mixed Use. Any combination of the above uses.

7. Public utilities.

8. Wireless communications facility, subject to the provisions of Chapter 20.13 BMC.

B. Accessory Uses. WCC is allowed to establish accessory uses that are customarily subordinate to the primary use of a building. Examples of accessory uses include day care, a small coffee shop located in an office building, a computer lab located in a residence hall, or small retail for student supplies in the Syre Student Center. Where development directly interfaces with the Meridian commercial district on the southeast corner of campus, small-scale commercial uses may occur at ground level to provide a transition between the institutional and commercial zoning, provided they support the campus community. They can also be incorporated elsewhere in district 2 as a mixed-use student housing village concept. Commercial uses are not intended as standalone one-story commercial buildings.

C. In the case of a question as to the inclusion or exclusion of a particular proposed use in a particular use category, the planning director shall have the authority to make the final determination. The director shall make the determination according to the characteristics of the operation of the proposed use as they relate to similar allowed uses within the use area, the intent in the WCC IMP, or both.

D. Building Across Boundary Lines. The existence of district boundary lines within the WCCID does not preclude the construction of a building across said boundary lines provided other development standards such as height limits are met within each respective district. [Ord. 2017-11-025 § 18 (Exh. I)].

20.40.140 Whatcom Community College institutional district – Standard development regulations.

The regulations of this section shall apply to the development of any principal and/or accessory use within the WCC institutional district (WCCID).

A. Floor Area.

1. Development shall not exceed the floor area threshold established in the WCC IMP, Chapter 1, Introduction, Section 6, Life, of the IMP.

2. In district 2, residential and small-scale “accessory” commercial uses as defined herein are exempt from the maximum floor area threshold in the WCC IMP.

3. Any land use application for new development resulting in a net change of floor area on campus shall include an itemized list showing the change in relation to the maximum floor area threshold in the WCC IMP.

B. Lot Coverage. There shall be no maximum lot coverage requirements.

C. Height.

1. No portion of a structure within 100 feet of a property line abutting a residential zoned property, or within 70 feet of a property line that is across a right-of-way from a residential zoned property, shall exceed 60 feet under BMC 20.08.020, height definition No. 1.

2. Except for the height limitation above there shall be no expressed general height standard. Final height standards shall be determined by the planning director.

D. Yards.

1. No structure shall be located within 20 feet of any residential general use type designation.

2. All structures shall require a setback of 40 feet measured from the centerline of a street or 10 feet measured from property line if abutting a cul-de-sac, as measured to the foundation of the structure.

3. The setback requirements in this subsection shall not apply to nonstructural, architectural, and circulation elements such as fences, freestanding and retaining walls, ramps, steps, walkways, signs, awnings, eaves, and bay windows. Signage may be allowed subject to the approval of the planning director.

E. Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). Appropriate CPTED principles should be incorporated in all projects. [Ord. 2017-11-025 § 18 (Exh. I)].

20.40.150 Whatcom Community College institutional district – Parking.

A. Proposals for development shall satisfy all parking and loading area regulations for similar uses contained within Chapter 20.12 BMC except as provided herein.

B. WCC manages parking on a district-wide basis with parking facilities distributed across the campus. This practice is intended to allow on-street parking and off-site parking to meet parking requirements within the district as follows:

1. The total number of parking stalls required within the WCCID shall be one per classroom and office plus one for every four students enrolled. Public assembly areas, residential, support and accessory uses are exempt from parking. For purposes of determining student enrollment and subsequent minimum parking requirements, the fall quarter full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment of students on the campus shall be used.

2. When on-street parking is allowed by the public works director, said parking may count toward on-site parking requirements.

3. Off-site parking may be utilized to meet up to a maximum of 20 percent of the minimum college parking requirements if it is available during peak periods of parking utilization and is located within 500 feet of the campus boundaries, or beyond 500 feet when it serves college off-campus uses located on the same or adjacent site(s) or is connected to the campus by free or low cost transit service operating during peak periods. If off-campus parking areas serve other, noncollege uses, a joint parking agreement specifying rights and/or operating times must be signed by all participants and the planning director and filed in the county auditor’s office. Any off-campus parking must be consistent with city land use and zoning requirements and approved by the planning director.

4. Parking lots should not encircle buildings, should be minimized where they are located between the street and building, and are discouraged adjacent to streets.

5. Vehicle and pedestrian circulation facilities should coordinate with street and walkway systems of adjoining properties.

6. The college may make revisions to its existing parking facilities without city approval, in ways that do not require a city permit, so long as the college does not decrease the total amount of off-street parking spaces below the minimum requirements.

C. Bike Parking. The college shall provide bicycle parking facilities consistent with USGBC LEED standards for each building project. [Ord. 2017-11-025 § 18 (Exh. I)].

20.40.160 Whatcom Community College institutional district – Landscaping.

A. Proposals for development shall satisfy all landscaping requirements for similar uses contained in BMC 20.12.030 except as provided herein.

B. Generally, the design of landscaping on campus shall take into consideration the following principles:

1. Use plantings to minimize noise and visual impacts on adjacent neighborhoods.

2. Provide street trees along campus periphery roadways.

3. Select and position landscape materials to aid in achieving energy efficiency.

4. Use native or drought-resistant plant material where appropriate.

5. Where possible, take advantage of trees to reduce cooling loads and use hedge rows or shrubbery to block cold winter winds or help channel cool summer breezes into buildings.

6. Use plant material and site design features to slow and absorb water runoff, filter sediments and facilitate water infiltration.

7. Maximize pervious surfaces that are conducive to water filtration and use natural drainage ways where possible.

8. Minimize use of herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizer through plant selection and design.

9. Minimize need for irrigation by plant selection and by grouping plant material with similar watering needs.

C. Standards. All landscaping required by this section shall be provided to the city for review and approval in a plan prepared by a licensed landscape architect.

1. Landscaping within Development. The minimum landscape requirements for every 500 square feet of landscape area within the project shall include:





18-foot height/3-inch caliper

Deciduous tree



Coniferous tree



Coniferous tree



Coniferous tree


2-gallon pot/30-inch height/spread

Evergreen shrubs


2-gallon/24-inch height/spread


2. Parking Areas.

a. Parking areas are to be landscaped to minimize the perceived area of paved surface. The area designated for parking shall devote 10 percent of that area to landscaping. A minimum of one tree is required for every eight vehicle stalls.

b. A wall or evergreen hedge designed to be maintained at a height of at least two and one-half feet and not more than three and one-half feet is required along the frontage of any street level open parking lot. Open trellis work or similar features that can be seen through may extend above the wall. Street trees with canopies above pedestrian height may be included. Planting beds must be at least five feet wide. (See Figure 20.40.160-A.)

Figure 20.40.160-A

c. A rain garden, bioswale or low-water use alternative landscaping feature may be used to screen surface parking lots, provided the planting bed is at least five feet wide and includes shrubs or grasses which can be maintained at a height between two and one-half feet and three and one-half feet the majority of the year.

3. The Street Trees. Street trees shall be installed in a double row spaced 30 feet on center adjacent to the right-of-way. Street tree species should be as follows:

a. Cordata/Westerly: scarlet oak.

b. Stuart/Kellogg loop: scarlet oak.

c. Short Street: red maple. [Ord. 2017-11-025 § 18 (Exh. I)].

20.40.170 Whatcom Community College institutional district – Signage.

A. Exterior signs shall follow the established campus sign program. The signage program shall provide a framework for promoting a visually cohesive environment and providing identification and directional communication in a safe, effective and aesthetically pleasing manner.

B. All new signs on the perimeter of campus shall be designed and installed with consideration to the impacts on the adjacent neighborhood.

C. Signs may be internally illuminated or have indirect lighting that does not adversely impact adjacent residential property.

D. The use of neon signs shall be discouraged.

E. All signs shall be located outside the vision clearance triangle established by the city in BMC 20.12.060.

F. The sign program may be revised to accommodate any new signage needs, provided the intent, general configuration and graphic layout of signs shall remain consistent with the existing program.

G. Until a safer alternative and more unified approach is developed, the use of WCC-sanctioned sandwich board signs for temporary events may continue to be used on campus (not in the public right-of-way). [Ord. 2017-11-025 § 18 (Exh. I)].

20.40.180 Whatcom Community College institutional district – Lighting.

Lighting plans shall be included in all development involving major building and/or circulation improvements and will be approved on a project-by-project basis. Plans should include the following elements for consideration:

A. A photometric site plan, drawn to scale, showing proposed buildings and/or parking areas, mounting and pole height and including all proposed exterior lighting fixtures and foot-candle spread.

B. Design specifications for all proposed lighting fixtures to include photometric data, cutoff fixtures, bulb wattage/type, and other descriptive information.

C. Outside parking lot lighting shall not be less than one-half foot-candle per IES minimum lighting standards at the property line.

D. Wall packs on buildings may be used at entrances to a building to light unsafe areas. Wall packs are not intended to draw attention to the building or provide general building or site lighting. Wall packs must be fully shielded to direct the light downward.

E. Building and aesthetic lighting must be shielded to prevent direct glare and/or light trespass in excess of one-half foot-candle.

F. Lighting must be, as much as physically possible, designed to minimize glare and spillover into adjacent properties. [Ord. 2017-11-025 § 18 (Exh. I)].

20.40.190 Whatcom Community College institutional district – Streets, utilities and access.

A. Multimodal circulation and utilities should be designed to fulfill reasonably anticipated future need and be located to enable the continued orderly and reasonable use of adjacent property.

B. The timing of improvements in this section shall be determined through project review for individual projects and based on the location, scale, and impacts of the proposed project(s).

C. All streets, utilities and access shall be compliant with BMC Titles 13 and 15.

D. Abutting streets shall be improved to three-quarters city standard and include curb, gutter and sidewalk, except as provided in subsection (E) of this section; provided, that the planning and public works directors may approve alternate standards when:

1. Practical difficulties arise in the design and construction of streets due to topographic or geological limitations or other problems inherent or peculiar to the area;

2. The directors find that imposition of the required street design would be detrimental to the interest of the WCC campus and/or applicable neighborhood;

3. The directors find that the modifications will provide an equal or better solution that is consistent with the goals and policies in the applicable neighborhood plan, and the WCC IMP; and

4. If applicable, the modifications are consistent with the city’s Complete Networks Ordinance No. 2016-09-032, as now or hereafter amended.

E. Whether public or private, a north/south street providing unrestricted through public access shall be developed by WCC on the east side of district 2 connecting Short Street to E. Kellogg Road as follows:

1. The street shall be constructed to three-quarters standard of a 28-foot street and include curb, gutter and sidewalk. Inclusion of street parking will require dedication of additional street width.

2. Minimum sidewalk width shall be 10 feet and shall include a landscaping strip or tree wells adjacent to the street curb. Landscape strips and tree wells shall have a minimum width of four feet.

3. The project shall include a transportation impact analysis (TIA) to determine the traffic control needed in association with this new circulation link.

F. An institutional site plan proposal shall comply with city requirements related to curb cuts and arterial streets access.

G. Walkways shall be required linking building entrances to parking areas, sidewalks, transit stops, and other building entrances on campus and, where appropriate, to open space/recreation areas.

H. Dedication of public streets, open space, or easements may be required.

I. A local improvement district (LID) commitment, or equivalent, may be required in lieu of construction if the city determines immediate construction is not warranted. [Ord. 2017-11-025 § 18 (Exh. I)].