Interim advisory committee works toward permanency

Slowly but surely the idea of a citizens advisory committee in Sequim is coming to fruition. A group of residents charged with creating the committee may have a structure in place, but the very concept of an advisory committee continues to have its critics.

The interim committee was established in April. It is comprised of men and women living in Sequim, within the surrounding urban growth area and in the county. According to Councilman Ken Hays, representation from the county and city, as well as from the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe, is essential to the committee's makeup, and the final committee will include representatives from each.

The Sequim City Council is responsible for approving the final committee's existence and as of yet a date has not been set to present the council with a proposal.

The interim committee's responsibility has been to create what will become a standing advisory committee. Hays first proposed the latter as a means of addressing planning issues within Sequim, such as the city's comprehensive plan, but the proposed scope has expanded to being a voice of the Sequim community.

"I don't see it relating to the planning commission at all initially," Hays said when asked how the committee would work with

Sequim's planning commission, another advisory board to the council. Hays, however, did add that perhaps in the future the committee could have input on proposed land use projects.

The interim committee met for a third time the morning of May 22 and after nearly three hours of discussion guided by facilitator Sharon Delabarre, the group devised a basic structure for the permanent committee.

It would be set up much like a neighborhood program, with the city divided into four quadrants. The size and scope of the quadrants have yet to be determined. Each quadrant would be repersented on the citizens advisory committee by at least three representatives, as well as the three aforementioned government representatives from the city, county and Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe. The Sequim City Council would be responsible for appointments and all final decisions.

For example, a number of residents in one quadrant have a long-standing issue with garbage pickup. They report the issue to their quadrant representatives, who in turn report it to the core group, which reports it to the council.

The purpose of the committee then is to relay information to the council they might not otherwise be privy to during meetings.

"The simple truth (is) people want to get involved again," Hays said, adding that while running for council, he promised to bring transparency and accountability back to the Sequim government.

"The reality is, you're not going to get them all," said Delabarre of Sequim's residents. "I bet you there are two to three people out there that are just as passionate, who could not be here."

According to Delabarre, the quadrant model works because it's only a basic structure, a skeleton, allowing the neighborhoods and citizens to build the rest from there.

"If a neighborhood has a major issue, they will organize," Delabarre's husband, Del Delabarre, said.

The committee, interim and permanent, has not been without its critics. Most outspoken is Councilman Paul McHugh who believes the committee is not only unnecessary but is the exact opposite of open.

"The committee was not formed with any transparency to begin with," McHugh said, adding that members of the group were hand-selected by Hays, an allegation Hays denies, saying that although he did bring forward names of interested individuals to serve on the committee, they approached him.

McHugh also said that the committee's structure and direction should have been decided prior to meetings.

The interim committee plans to meet again May 30.
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