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City begins zoning reform
A new ordinance approved Jan. 24 by the Sequim City Council takes the first steps toward implementing citywide zoning reform.
Councilors approved a list of zoning items:
• Developers must hold a neighborhood meeting prior to project submittals of major subdivisions and major binding site plans.
• Mixed use and commercial zones allow new residential developments only when located above ground-floor retail and office space.
• Mixed use and commercial zones no longer have a minimum density.
• Maximum density is set for 16 residences per acre in mixed-use and commercial zones.
• Mixed use and commercial zones no longer allow stand-alone residences.
Joe Irvin, interim city planning director, said most of the changes solve one issue.
“The main intent of this ordinance is to ensure future development within commercial and retail property not be built with an unlimited residential density,” Irvin said.
“While it is a lot of code, the changes were adopted to prevent misuse of commercial mixed use property.”
The city limits currently include 278 acres of mixed use property.
City staff was asked to consider the changes after councilors outlined their 2010-2011 city goals. At their annual retreat on Jan. 21-22, councilors consolidated earlier zoning reform goals when they worked on completing the city’s comprehensive plan.
Before a large-scale development is built, the city is to notify neighbors within 300 feet and post a sign in front of the property.
This became an issue in October 2010 when councilors approved a low-income 109-unit housing project being developed by Peninsula Sunbelt Investments on South Sequim Avenue near U.S. Highway 101.
Neighbors complained they weren’t notified. City councilors sent the notification distance mandate to staff for review, leading to the proposed 300-foot notification radius. Irvin said common city notification distances are 300-500 feet.
Neighbors will be notified if developers file applications for:
• a variance, a land-use application or a quasi-judicial decision, also called type B, or
• a major conditional-use permit, type C-1, such as the permit for Peninsula Sunbelt’s development, or
• a major binding site plan, type C-2, such as Sequim Village Market Place, which houses The Home Depot and Petco.
City Manager Steve Burkett said he backs neighborhood meetings because residents could make suggestions and complaints that could lead to better development before construction begins.
Mayor Ken Hays said he sees the required neighborhood meetings as a real positive to moving forward as a city.
“It’s what smart developers do anyway,” Hays said. “Savvy developers don’t want to be where they aren’t wanted.”
His goal is to make the zoning code more reliable, predictable and clear for developers.
Major subdivisions are reviewed by the city’s planning commission before going to the city council for approval.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.