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City planners: Better times ahead
Sequim’s incoming and outgoing city interim city planning directors both say the market will turn around for developers.
“It’s not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when,’” said Christopher Hugo, the newly hired interim city planning director.
Hugo, who has worked across the state in recent years, said employment numbers need to rise and homeownership issues need to be settled before a visible change occurs.
Joe Irvin, outgoing interim city planner, said he couldn’t speculate when Sequim’s development will improve, but when it does there’s plenty of space for it. He said there are about 600 vacant residential lots in recorded projects and about 1,200 preliminary residential lots available.
“The amount of supply created over the last six and seven years is going to be available to be built on, it’s just a matter of when,” Irvin said. “The sewer capacity is there and we have the right tools in place.”
Irvin said he spends a lot of his time speaking with people who are investigating the market rather than working in it.
“I’m not talking so much with developers. It’s more existing residents (for example), looking to build their new dream home and finding out the building permit process,” he said.
Simple is good
Hugo said as he works through his current contract, he will investigate the city’s zoning ordinances and comprehensive plan to make them more accessible.
“There’s inconsistency in codes,” Hugo said. “The directions the codes are going in are not consistent with the whole of their plans. (They are) filled with cumbersome mechanisms to get through a development process. They can turn off an investor.”
To promote more growth, Hugo said the community should know where it’s going and have good customer service for investors and developers.
“In Bremerton in 2000, their permitting was in shambles. It was an operation in shell shock,” he said.
“When I left it was one of the three best to do business (with), next to Bellevue and Tacoma.”
In order for projects to move faster, Hugo promotes simplicity.
“In Bremerton, there were projects that hadn’t moved in six months,” he said. “It took four weeks when I left. Simplicity and clarity and a regulatory environment help that.”
Hugo said he has 20 major projects to complete in the next two months.
“Best I can do, in my experience, is put some directions in place,” he said. Hugo said he’d like to have the opportunity to put those new directions into action and has applied for the permanent city planner director position.
A senior or associate planner will be hired depending on the experience of the eventual director.