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Sequim city planning director leaves

Sequim city planning director leaves

by MATTHEW NASH

Sequim Gazette

Sequim City Planning Director Dennis Lefevre is slated to leave his duties by the end of the week after eight-and-half years with the department.

City Manager Steve Burkett and Lefevre issued a joint news release similar to one given at the departure of Robert "Bob" Spinks, former police chief.

"Based on the needs of the city going forward, the two of us have concluded that now is the appropriate time for Dennis to leave the city and to pursue other professional opportunities," Burkett said.

Lefevre worked on planning large Sequim projects like Costco, Home Depot and Walmart. He supervised the city's comprehensive plan update in 2006 and developed architectural design standards among other projects.

Off and on discussions between Burkett and Lefevre about the future of the planning department began a few months ago.

Burkett said he feels city staff is entering a new phase of planning for the future with the city council and community changing their philosophies.

"With the temporary pause in the pace of growth, the community has the opportunity to consider implementation of comprehensive plan provisions and zoning code amendments which can effectively manage and accommodate future growth," Burkett said, "while maintaining the city's small town and rural atmosphere.

"I concluded that these changes and challenges can best be taken on by new leadership in the Planning Department."

Familiar fill-in

Joe Irvin, a city planner of five-and-half years, will serve as interim planning director, whom Lefevre hired.

"I've had the opportunity to work on a number of positive projects and programs for the city," Lefevre said, "and to be associated with a high-level of professional and dedicated staff. I am proud to have mentored Joe Irvin to the point that the city manager is comfortable with appointing him interim planning director."

Burkett intends to search for a new director and announce a replacement by February or March 2011.

He said high priority would go to those with experience in communities that have adopted managed growth strategies and are known for innovative planning and high quality of life.

Next steps

Lefevre is going to receive a severance package that pays his salary and health insurance benefits up to six months or when he is hired at a new job, whichever comes first.

Burkett said the agreement was made because of Lefevre's hard work and service.

He makes $84,619 a year and Burkett said the next planning director would make a similar salary. For now the city is going to make due with Irvin as its only professional planner.

"We're going to see how and if we can handle things with Joe and Kristina Nelson-Gross, a contract attorney, who has been doing a lot of legal work with planning issues," Burkett said.

Director's response

Lefevre said the city is always going to go in a positive direction.

"There's a good group of people living here with a good knowledge base of the physical environment who always want to go forward," he said.

After his job ends, his first choice would be to stay in the area.

"It has been a great eight-and-a-half years, and my wife and I have met and befriended a lot of wonderful people in this community," Lefevre said.

Before moving to Sequim, he lived in Olympia as a regional planner for the Grays Harbor Council of Governments for nine-and-a-half years.

Lefevre said he's most proud of the camaraderie and level of teamwork during the busy development period, communicating with developers to make everything work, and his efforts towards integrating Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Marine Sciences Lab into the city limits.

Burkett continues to highly recommend Lefevre.

"Dennis has great experience based upon his involvement over the last eight-and-a-half years with the rapid growth in Sequim and that will make him well-qualified for other cities facing similar challenges and opportunities," Burkett said.

Sequim City Hall is located at 152 W. Cedar St. and can be reached at 683-4139.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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