Council moving forward with Citizens' Advisory Committee

The Sequim City Council, after a 6-1 vote, plans to establish a Citizens' Advisory Committee to review Sequim's land use and development issues.

The suggestion for the committee came about during the council's Jan. 28 meeting and was brought forth by the council's four newer members: Ken Hays, Laura Dubois, Susan Lorenzen and Erik Erichsen. Although the majority of the council agreed with the idea of creating the advisory committee, some members were upset that the idea was being proposed without their prior knowledge. A motion was not made until the following meeting on Feb. 11.

The purpose of the committee would be twofold. It would review and investigate processes and city plans that are in place but it also would be responsible for creating a vision for what the city should look like.

"The public has not been actively engaged in the planning for Sequim's future growth. As an example the sub-area plan has been developed, apparently, by a group of individuals and staff with a very narrow range of special interest," wrote Hays in a brief outline to staff and council members. "These viewpoints are important but they are only part of the view for how Sequim should grow. The proposed advisory committee will give the public a chance to reconnect to their government and the processes that guide the growth that is coming to Sequim."

Hays added that he wants a diverse group of individuals to sit on the committee, from average Sequim residents, to environmentalists, to those in the development business including developers, real estates agents and architects. Hays also said that representation from the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe should be included on the committee.

Some council and meeting audience members, however, said the proposed committee and its duties sounded like a comprehensive planning process. The city's comprehensive plan was revised and updated in 2006.

"Do you propose we stop all development while we go through the process?" council member Walt Schubert asked.

"This is not about an update," said Hays. "We may find that there's nothing or very little to change."

But Hays did say that he felt the planning process behind the 2006 revisions did not have enough public participation.

"I felt like I was at a timeshare presentation and if I didn't buy in, I couldn't leave the room," Hays commented.

Councilman Paul McHugh did not agree with Hays' assertion. According to McHugh, the 2006 comprehensive planning process had more than enough public participation, taking more than 15 months from start to finish and involving the participation of more than 100 city residents. More to the point, McHugh felt that the committee was unnecessary.

"What's the point of the committee if we already know what we want?" asked McHugh.

Councilwoman Susan Lorenzen, suggested that a building moratorium be installed for six to 12 months, saying that the city staff needed time to focus their attention on such things as creating the advisory committee and working on a concurrency ordinance. Lorenzen's suggestion elicited a number of groans from the audience.

Hays suggested calling for the council to set a study session date "to set the criteria for the desirable make-up of and direction to the proposed advisory committee and a method of selecting the committee members." The lone nay vote was from McHugh.

"Fill in the blank and I'll make the motion," Schubert finally said.

The council agreed to outline the committee during the March 17 meeting.

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