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County hearing examiner considers Battelle plans

While Battelle planners’ immediate agenda is to be included in Sequim’s urban growth area, they also are looking to expand and have taken the next step in the direction of growth.

Expanding an urban growth area is an arduous process and can take some time, which is why Battelle is getting a head start on plans to supplement its current Marine Sciences Laboratory north of Sequim, which it operates for the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, with 15,000-square-feet of office and research space.

The laboratory’s representatives have no immediate plans to begin construction on new facilities, but they have begun the application process to get a conditional use permit, which would allow additional research activities and buildings to be put into place.

The proposal went in front of Clallam County hearing examiner Christopher Melly on July 23 during a public hearing. Melly said he would have a decision the first week of August whether or not to allow the land use.

Battelle performs water resources modeling, ecotoxicology testing, biotechnology research and marine and coastal resource testing for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory as well as other private and public entities.

The international company owns 140 acres of tidelands and uplands along the shores of Sequim Bay just north of the Sequim city limits. About seven acres are developed.



The application

Battelle’s application asks the county to allow for a 600-square-foot building for office space and labs and a two-story building with a 7,000-square-foot footprint to be used for laboratories and mechanical and support facilities. The company has no identified schematic or building plan, as Battelle representatives have no intention to build right away.

“We are just in a planning phase right now, getting things lined up and being proactive with the county, letting them and our neighbors know of our intentions in the long run,” said Van Briggs, the Sequim lab’s operations manager. “We want to assure them that we will continue to operate in the same manner, doing environmental research.”

Clallam County senior planner Greg Ballard read from a staff report at the meeting to Melly, stating the company likely would add about 10 employees and that the expansion would include office and research facilities.

Ballard also stated Battelle would need a new eagle site plan because of the facility’s proximity to American bald eagle nesting sites and other additional information for the county’s Department of Community Development to issue a building permit.

Briggs said meeting those needs would not be a problem, adding that a building permit application will not come forward right away.



Decision

Melly makes his decision based on legalities surrounding land use, especially from the Clallam County Code, Comprehensive Plan and other state and federal land use laws.

Battelle’s land is zoned R5 or residential, in the Clallam County Code. The Clallam County Comprehensive Plan states commercial and industrial land uses should be focused in urban growth areas.

However, the comprehensive plan also identifies land uses like that of Battelle’s campus-style facility to be acceptable if located outside of the designated growth areas.

But Battelle is trying to change that designation.

“Plans are still moving forward for the UGA expansion, but it will likely take some time,” Briggs said.

One voice of concern came from the audience from a couple neighboring the Battelle property. Sharon Skill asked Briggs if Battelle planned on building closer to the neighborhood, essentially making the facility visible where it is presently hidden by a hill and some trees.

Briggs said the idea with this application was to keep development within the same area, but said over the long-term he couldn’t say whether or not expansion would include the hill years from now. Ballard added that an eagle buffer protects much of the area.

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