Land Use Codes

Land Use and Development​ Code (Title 20 BMC)

BMC 20 – Land Use and Development Code: The regulations and standards of this title are intended to promote high standards of development for living and in the operation of commerce and industry in order to help assure a pleasant environment for the people of Bellingham.

Accessory Dwelling Units (BMC 20.10.036)

Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance: An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) is a small, self-contained residential unit located on the same lot as an existing single-family home. As the term “accessory” implies, ADUs are defined to be smaller in size and prominence than the main residence on the lot, and aid the City in providing a range of housing choices for residents. The ADU Ordinance addresses how an ADU may be created as a separate unit within an existing home (such as in an attic or basement), an addition to the home (such as a separate apartment unit with separate entrance), or in a separate structure on the lot (such as a converted garage).

Critical Areas Ordinance (BMC 16.55)

Critical Areas Ordinance: The Growth ​Management Act (GMA) defines critical areas as: wetlands, frequently flooded areas, fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas (includes streams), geologically hazardous areas, and aquifer recharge areas. The city regulates all of these through the BMC 16.55 except aquifer recharge areas because there are none within city limits. 

Historic Rehabilitation and Adaptive Reuse of Historic Buildings

The Bellingham Municipal Code allows for historic properties (that meet specified criteria) to apply for special property tax valuation (BMC 17.90.070) or to apply for a conditional use permit that would allow for an adaptive use of the designated property (BMC 17.90-080).

Shoreline Master Program (Title 22 BMC)

Shoreline Master Program (SMP): The City of Bellingham’s SMP includes goals, policies and regulations. The SMP is a comprehensive plan for how shorelines should be used and developed over time. Goals, policies and regulations provide direction for shoreline users and developers on issues such as sue compatibility, setbacks, public access, building height, parking locations, mitigation, and the like.

Short-Term Rentals (BMC 20.10.037)

Short-Term Rental Regulations Ordinance: The adopted regulations for short-term rentals (STRs), took effect on May 5, 2019. The following program goals guided the development of the STR regulations: 1) balance the economic opportunity created by STRs with the need to maintain the City’s housing supply and 2) protect the rights and safety of owners, guests and neighbors.

Subdivision Ordinance (Title 18 BMC)

Subdivision Ordinance: Will regulate the division of land and protects the public health, safety and general welfare, while furthering the goals and policies of the Bellingham Comprehensive Plan.

UPDATE December 10, 2018: The Bellingham City Council passed Ordinance 2018-12-036, effectively repealing 18 BMC and replacing it with a new chapter, 23 BMC. For additional reference:



​Planning and Community Development – 360-778-8300