Gridlock in the Making

• Topics: Bellingham, Planning, WWU,

Yet another set of apartment buildings with a total of 118 studio units, called Samish View, is now proposed for the two parcels between the Elks Club and the Community Baptist Church on Samish Way. The parcels were the subject of a rezone several years ago, after which they were immediately put up for sale and at least one appears to have changed hands several times. This newest proposal will add 118 units to the area of Elwood/Samish/Lincoln and the I-5 overpass. Currently, about 183 units (approximately 300 tenants) are in various stages of approval and construction at the corner of Elwood and Lincoln. Another 300+ tenants are envisioned for the CityView private dormitory apartment complex which will have 106 three-bedroom units at nearby Consolidation and Nevada. Simple math puts 700+ new residents in a relatively small area.

Samish View Site Plan
Samish View Site Plan

In 2014, a spot rezone occurred in this area to allow an old church to be turned into a psychology practice. The church had been built in a single-family residential area under a conditional use permit. The psychology practice is now directly across Samish Way from the proposed Samish View complex. See: “Hickory, Dickory, Docketing…Yet Another Spot Rezone.” Around the same time, another rezone (from commercial planned (non-retail) to commercial planned that allows retail AND associated apartment buildings), was approved for the two lots where this latest complex, Samish View, is proposed.

At the time, I argued it was not wise to rezone the two parcels because eventually pressure to rezone would be put on the Community Baptist Church and the Elks Club, which book-end these two parcels. Both the Baptist Church and the Elks are on parcels currently zoned single-family. Were they to be rezoned commercial, that would allow multi-family structures along with commercial development on the two properties, which totals nearly 4.5 acres. With the current economic crisis, increased pressure to sell is possible as the church and club remain closed. Both structures on those parcels are also 40+ yrs old and will soon require major repairs and upgrades.

There will be a Webinar meeting held by AVT Consulting on Monday, June 1st at 6 p.m. If you want to “attend” the meeting you can register beforehand and submit questions by clicking here. A copy of the full invitation is located here.

About Dick Conoboy

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Member since Jan 26, 2008

Dick Conoboy is a recovering civilian federal worker and military officer who was offered and accepted an all-expense paid, one year trip to Vietnam in 1968. He is a former Army [...]

Comments by Readers

Doug Ericksen

May 29, 2020

Bellingham is being destroyed by high density housing.  Congestion.  Overcrowding.  Why do we just accept this?  This is short sighted.  Thank you Dick for letting people know about the mistakes that are being made.  We do not need to simply accept this.  GMA does not require this.  We need to take control to build cities we want to live in.



Larry Horowitz

May 30, 2020


I am intrigued by your comment that the GMA does not require Bellingham to destroy the city’s livability with excessive high density housing, congestion, and overcrowding.  It appears Bellingham’s decision makers think differently.

Do you have any insight as to why Bellingham’s decision makers don’t have the same understanding about the GMA as you?

Can you elaborate on why you believe the GMA does not require this?

Thanks, Larry


Doug Ericksen

May 31, 2020


The GMA is supposed to be a flexible tool that encourages local governments to plan.  There are many elements of planning included in the GMA, 

Making the decision to go to super high density housing without corresponding infrastructure is not required by GMA.  

You could actually make the argument that what Bellingham is doing, and other cities around the state, violates GMA because it will lead to traffic congestion levels that would violate the planning goals of GMA.

I imagine that Bellingham would say that they intend to meet GMA standards by increasing mass transit and bike lanes.  High density with inadequate parking and increased traffic congestion is a method that some cities are using to try to force more use of transit.

There are also tax incentive packages at the local, state and federal levels in place that promote this type of growth.

These are choices that cities are able to make and are not required under GMA.



Larry Horowitz

May 31, 2020


Thanks for your insights.  Many have called the GMA a suicide pact that requires cities to accommodate growth ad infinitum.  They have been told that the GMA does not allow a city to give any consideration as to what their ultimate optimal size might me.  The Growth Management Act has become nothing more than a Growth Accommodation Act.

As I’m sure you know, those who profit from growth and development apply constant pressure on cities and counties to adopt population growth forecasts based on as high a level of growth as they can convince decision-makers to adopt.  These adopted forecasts become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Your suggestion that the GMA is “supposed to be a flexible tool” has not proven to be so.  I stopped attending or watching city council meetings long ago, but the constant shrill back when I was paying attention was “The GMA is requiring us to… [essentially destroy our livability].”  Our decision-makers act like victims of the GMA rather than masters of our destiny.  I have published many articles about this process on Northwest Citizen but no longer bother to waste my keystrokes anymore.

You wrote that “We need to take control to build cities we want to live in.”  I’d be interested in learning about your specific and tailored strategies to do just that.  Many Bellingham citizens have attempted to do so with little success, but perhaps being an insider gives you a different perspective and approach.

Observing the struggles that large cities (most of which have far exceeded their optimal size) face, Bellingham residents are reminded why they chose to live in a human-sized locale.  It has been my experience that those who claim the GMA is a suicide pact are right, but I’d be thrilled if you can prove them wrong.

Thanks again, Larry

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