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Design Review Board


The purpose of the Design Review Board (DRB) is to encourage quality building design and site planning that enhances the character of the city. The Board reviews proposed development projects for consistency with adopted design standards within the following urban villages: Downtown, Old Town, Waterfront, Samish Way and Fountain. The Board may also review proposed multifamily, mixed used in residential multi zones, and large retail establishments located elsewhere in the City at the discretion of the Planning and Community Development Director.

Typical Decisions

The Board reviews new development and exterior alterations that are valued at over $50,000 and do not involve buildings on a historic registry. Projects involving historic registry buildings are reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission. Staff may also refer smaller projects to the Board if there are design issues. 

The Board reviews projects at two stages:  (1) a pre-application review of conceptual plans to provide design guidance and (2) a final review of the design application.  All reviews are conducted at open public meetings. The Board makes recommendations to the Planning and Community Development Department Director regarding design approval.

It is also anticipated that the Board will assist the City in a periodic evaluation of the design review program and standards.

Time Requirements

The Board holds a regular meeting on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 3:00 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at City Hall. Additional time will be required to review plans and reports prior to meetings.


The Board consists of five members serving without compensation.  No member of the Board may be an elected City official or City employee.  Members are appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council.  Any U.S. citizen may apply, but preference will be given to residents of Bellingham.  Of the members first appointed, one will be appointed for one year, two will be appointed for two years, one will be appointed for three years and one will be appointed for four years.  Thereafter, the term is four years and members may be reappointed.

At least three members must be from the professions of architecture, landscape architecture, urban design/planning, or similar disciplines.  At least one member shall represent the community at large and not be from the above listed professions. Members must be capable of reading and understanding architectural plans and be knowledgeable in building and design.  Any U.S. citizen may be a member except City of Bellingham employees or officials.


Main Office

Design Review Board
Planning and Community Development Department
210 Lottie Street
Bellingham, WA 98225

Phone: (360) 778-8300
Email: designreview@cob.org