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  Bellingham Herald  March 13, 2009

King Mountain becomes Bellingham's 24th neighborhood

By Jared Paben

BELLINGHAM - The city has a new neighborhood, King Mountain, and in future years it could contain a high-density, mixed-use urban village.

Last week, the city officially added 635 acres near north Bellingham into city limits, creating the 24th neighborhood, the first new one since the Guide Meridian neighborhood (now called the Guide Meridian/Cordata neighborhood) was created in 1997.

Nearly 800 county residents there are now city residents, although officials are currently going door to door to conduct a legally required census to find out exactly how many people live at each address. Officials also are handing out information about city services.

"We look forward to welcoming the residents of King Mountain to the City of Bellingham, and introducing them to City programs, services and people," Mayor Dan Pike stated in a press release.

The new area is generally located between the Meridian and Mount Baker neighborhoods. The intersection of James Street Road and East Bakerview Road sits at its heart.

It's at that intersection that city officials and landowners say could be a future urban village.

"It's kind of exciting to just see where it's going to go," said Steve LeCocq, who lives on about seven acres near the intersection and who helped lead the annexation effort. "It would provide more density in housing in this area, where there's quite a few jobs on this north side." It would also provide closer services for homes already there, he said.

Planning for it would be different than for other proposed urban villages, such as those along Samish Way and in Old Town and the Fountain District, because it would involve developing raw land, not redeveloping, he said. That means more work has to be done on where it might fit, given existing wetlands and creeks, and more infrastructure has to be designed from scratch. It also could mean the neighborhood develops faster, LeCocq said.

Planners have done a cursory review of the area, and they'll spend time this year looking at environmental constraints and transportation infrastructure, said Tara Sundin, special projects manager at the city's planning department. The department doesn't have staff to do the entire master plan this year, she said, but it could be put on the docket in 2010.

In the meantime, the city will help launch a new neighborhood association, which will act as an official neighborhood voice and help guide creation of an urban village plan.

"In a way it's kind of exciting because there's an opportunity to organize a new neighborhood association," LeCocq said. "I think that's a fun first step."