Most construction activities required to stop

Governor’s proclamation deems nearly all construction as non-essential

March 27, 2020 - by Janice Keller, Acting Communications Director

The City of Bellingham announced yesterday (March 26) clarifications to Governor Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” statewide order as it pertains to construction, identifying nearly all construction as non-essential.

This means non-essential construction activities are required to stop during the order. In support of the Governor’s direction and to support stringent social distancing to stop the spread of illness, most City of Bellingham construction projects currently in progress also are being suspended.

Companies involved in active projects should be securing their sites now, with a focus on public safety and preservation of facilities under construction. Project managers, engineers and inspectors should ensure that safety plans and stringent social distancing are met while sites are secured as quickly as possible.

All construction activities allowed to continue under exemptions must comply with social distancing recommendations including appropriate health and worker protection measures before proceeding.

Exemptions for essential activities only

According to the memo issued by the governor’s office, the exceptions are construction related to essential activities like health care, transportation, energy, defense and critical manufacturing; construction “to further a public purpose related to a public entity,” including publicly financed low-income housing; and emergency repairs. 

Inspections will continue for projects in the City of Bellingham that qualify for essential Infrastructure and businesses including:

  • Healthcare and Public Health facilities.
  • Emergency Service facilities.
  • Food and Agriculture facilities that manufacture or distribute and are currently under construction.
  • Utility facilities related to transportation, communication, electricity, water, wastewater.
  • Critical manufacturing facilities including hazardous or chemical materials.
  • Financial facilities.
  • Residential construction projects that are currently under construction can continue to a point to prevent spoliation, damage or unsafe conditions. Projects shall be brought to a point of securing the structure to prevent personal and environmental damage of exterior and/or interior building elements and to negate unsafe conditions. This will be construed narrowly.
  • Residential construction related to emergency repairs and projects that ensure structural integrity or the health and safety of occupants.

“We value the continuing cooperation of Whatcom County’s building and construction industry during this emergency and acknowledge that one of the key levers for our recovery will be the building and construction sector,” Rick Sepler, Planning and Community Development Department director, said.

“We are working diligently to ensure that the review process for building and land use permits continues during this crisis. It is our intent to ensure that when restrictions are lifted, construction can immediately begin. This is among the many ways we are acting to slow the spread of illness and position our community for recovery,” Sepler said.

Impact on City projects

Most active construction on City of Bellingham Public Works and Parks & Recreation Department capital projects has been suspended, with sites now being secured. The City will continue to develop and request bids for new capital construction projects on schedule, said Bellingham Interim Public Works Director Eric Johnston.     

“Construction is a major economic driver for our community and it is important to preserve our ability to move projects forward safely and quickly in the near future,” Johnston said.

Media Contact

Rick Sepler, Planning and Community Development Director
(360) 778-8326

Nicole Oliver, Parks and Recreation Department Interim Director
(360) 778-7013

Eric Johnston, Public Works Department Interim Director
(360) 778-7710​

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