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Consensus reached on Sequim UGA rezone
In April the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board ruled that some zoning in Clallam County was not compliant with the state's Growth Management Act, a law designed to reduce urban sprawl.
In reaction to the ruling, the county began seeking compliance in the contested areas and appealed a few of the rulings to its Superior Court.
A decision on the appeals is not expected for another year. The appeals counter that zoning immediately outside the urban growth area is too dense, that Carlsborg planning is invalid and that the challenge to the zoning was made after the allotted time frame.
The county will need to reach compliance by October or ask for an extension.
Urban growth area
Not all of Sequim's growth area was deemed noncompliant. Clallam County Planning manager Steve Gray said the challenged land base is about 450 acres.
The land was zoned initially with a maximum density of two houses per acre. The county instituted interim zoning shortly after the ruling, which allowed upward of four to five houses.
Gray suggested the Planning Commission direct staff to take steps toward changing the zoning to the increased density permanently.
"While the growth board did not identify a bright line of four units, but they did say two units per acre was not in compliance with the (Growth Management Act)," he said.
The county set zoning at two homes per acre because of critical areas and a lack of public utility services. Also, the city of Sequim was the lead in setting the zoning in the area it was expected to grow into, which the county approved.
Gray hasn't received much comment from four out of the
five "nodes" of noncompliant land regarding the up-zone, but has received many letters and petitions from residents of the Palo Verde subdivisions between Priest and Hendrickson roads.
Most residents in the area are requesting removal from the growth area and have been for years in order to avoid annexation into the city and higher densities.
"Thank you for supporting our previous petition for removal," area resident Harry Gasnick said, indicating the petition was denied by county commissioners.
"This is an emotional topic, we never wanted in and we have been treated, at best, unresponsively and, at worst, dismissively by the city and cannot look at constellations in the sky because of ambient light from Wal-Mart and Home Depot."
Sequim Planning manager Dennis Lefevre spoke at the meeting, indicating the city had no plans to annex the area and that there would be no change if the residents did not ask for change.
"Annexation is landowner driven and extension of utilities would not be forced unless septics began failing," Lefevre said. "So the current character of the neighborhood will remain as current residents remain as well."
The city was not in favor of reducing the growth area size in 2004.
Planning Commissioner Gary Gleason spoke in favor of the reduction.
"The UGA is in the county's jurisdiction and we would be derelict in our duty to not actively explore exclusion or locking in zoning in that area," he said.
The commission directed staff to take steps toward the denser zone in all contested growth area nodes while putting a moratorium on building in the Palo Verde subdivisions specifically while the option of a smaller growth area was looked into.
Because the growth area size is not a part of compliance, the commission opted to look into the matter as a separate issue.
Clallam County environmental planner Carol Creasey gave the planning commission an update on Carlsborg and its sewer. The Carlsborg growth area was deemed invalid because it did not have the service.
The county and the Clallam County Public Utility District have hired a consultant to take a feasibility study for a new sewer system to the next level - a capital facilities plan.
The county hopes that once the plan is complete and funding is lined up, the growth area will be deemed compliant.
One issue looms over the plan, however, and that's whether or not the sewer system will be funded or supported by the Carlsborg community.
Many have indicated they want to hook up, yet there is a strong contingent of residents who do not want to pay into a new sewer.
"The county needs a capital facilities plan for this project before we can know what grants we can get and then know what the assessment to homeowners will be," Creasey said.
Creasey and Gray said they were looking for consensus to move forward with plan A - to create a capital facilities plan. They indicated there was a plan B, which including reducing the size of the growth area or making it a limited area of more intense rural development in order to reach compliance.