Carlsborg development hinges on lawsuit, sewer system

Carlsborg is frozen in time and it's unlikely to thaw any time soon.

On June 15, the Clallam County commissioners voted to renew the interim controls put in place in 2008 after a ruling by the Washington State Growth Management Hearings Board. The interim controls are based on the Washington State Growth Management Act and prohibit business expansion, splitting parcels and other developments until funding and plans for a sewer system are in place.

The interim controls are necessary to avoid another lawsuit, Clallam County Commissioner Steve Tharinger said during the meeting. The county is tied up in appeals with Futurewise, the group that brought the original suit, he said.

The complex issue involves lawsuits, a sewer system, an urban growth area in trouble for noncompliance and property owners who can't adequately utilize their land.

"It's a complicated issue," Tharinger said after the meeting. "We could do a better job communicating."

In 2000, Carlsborg was designated an urban growth area to support mixed-uses and foster growth. But in 2008 Futurewise, a Seattle-based group, contested the UGA wasn't compliant with the Growth Management Act because it didn't have plans or funding for sewer facilities. The Growth Management Hearings Board agreed with Futurewise and the interim controls were put in place to halt development until the area could be brought into compliance.

If the area is not brought into compliance, it will return to the rural zoning of 1990 and nonconforming uses, including Greywolf Elementary School and the Public Utility District warehouse, would not be able to change or expand, Clallam County Senior Planner Carol Creasey said.

Additionally, the rural zoning of 1990 had a maximum of one dwelling per 4.8 acres. Today's zoning has a maximum of one dwelling per half acre, she said.

Cory Startup, who owns Sequim Valley Pumps, said if the UGA fails, it will have a huge impact on the community.

"I'm quite amazed that more people are not aware of what this could mean," he said.

During the public hearing on the interim controls, business owners expressed their upset at the lack of comprehensive information provided and the slow pace of progress.

Don Butler, co-owner of High Energy Metals, said the county's community meeting in the spring was a "disaster." The estimated costs for the sewer system presented were "scary" and upset many people, he said.

Butler said the county may be timid to share updated information that isn't concrete because

of the reaction they received at

the meeting.

Butler said what he wants to know is when he can expand his business and start hiring more people.

For Startup, the frustration lies largely in his inability to control his own destiny, he said.

"This is a pretty intense emotional situation for a lot of people," he said to the board during the public hearing. "We have a lot at stake here ... for some of us, everything we have is invested in these properties and our businesses."

Aside from not being able to expand his business in the industrial park, Startup also owns land near Big 5 and is unable to develop it.

Startup said he knows the issue is complicated and there are a lot of different agendas going on "but at the end of the day we still can't build, we still can't sell."

Startup, who has had his business in Carlsborg since 1992, said the sewer issue is nothing new and it is time to move forward. But while a sewer system is the way to go, it has to make economic sense, he said.

The PUD won't go forward with the sewer plans until half the funding is in place, Creasey said.

The project totals $15 million for the first phase and Clallam County has budgeted $4 million to contribute. Officials are hoping to bring in more grants and loans to cover the cost.

Without plans for a sewer system, the UGA cannot continue unless the lawsuit appeal favors Clallam County. Without the UGA, development cannot happen.

Butler said if progress isn't made soon, he might have to move his business and he thinks others likely will be in the same boat.

"How long can people hold on?" He said. "It's been two years."

Amanda Winters can be reached at awinters@sequim

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