The Bellingham School District finalized the purchase of 17 acres in the King Mountain/Irongate area Friday, Nov. 18.
The site, which cost about $1,125,000, will be used for a school when development in the area warrants one.
The district has been looking for land in the north-central part of the district for years, said Ron Cowan, assistant superintendent of business and operations.
The parcel is L-shaped, fronting Bakerview Road between Cougar Road and Kramer Lane, across Bakerview from the Irongate Industrial Park. The wooded, mostly flat parcel bends behind Bellingham Covenant Church and homes north of the church.
Much of the growth in Bellingham has been on the north side of the city, and while there’s “limited development in the area now,” growth is expected in the area, Cowan said. At least one urban village project is planned for King Mountain at this point.
“It positions us well to have a nice school site when that development and growth occurs,” Cowan said. “We won’t have to play catch-up… we’re trying to be proactive and be well-positioned for when it’s necessary.”
It is common practice for school districts to own property for future growth; Ferndale and Lynden school districts each own property for future school sites with no immediate development plans.
The money for the property comes from the capital projects fund, which under state law, can only be used for construction and purchasing property. Specifically, the money is interest earnings from previous bond issues; when a school district sells bonds, the money is invested and interest is earned. That interest stays in the capital projects fund.
Voters approved a bond in 2006 that included money to purchase land in Sudden Valley for a future school. That money still remains and is not being used for the new property purchase, Cowan said. However, finding a school site in Sudden Valley isn’t likely to happen soon.
“The environmental constraints associated with constructing a large facility within the Lake Whatcom watershed at this point would appear to be prohibitive and might make it even impossible to build in the watershed,” Cowan said. “The district is holding funds in reserves, not spending it on anything else, for if and when the time comes it looks like we could build a school in Sudden Valley.”
There are no immediate plans to build another new school; the district opened Cordata Elementary this fall and Birchwood Elementary School is slated for renovations over the next couple of years. The future school would likely be an elementary or middle school; the site is too small for a high school.
The Bellingham School Board approved a purchase and sale agreement for the property in July and therefore did not need to approve the final sale.