News

Downtown Plan approved

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by MATTHEW NASH

Sequim Gazette

The City of Sequim’s downtown plan is one step away from adoption after months of analyzing input from citizens, business owners and consultants.

 

City councilors approved the concept 6-1 with Erik Erichsen voting no on Monday, July 11 with an ordinance for implementation coming to the next council meeting on July 25 for approval. The plan covers several aspects of the downtown with an emphasis on the city embracing other districts and focusing new, mixed-use development into a compact, walkable area.

Examples of polices include:
Land use:
• Highest intensity of commercial and residential development should be concentrated in a compact, walkable, downtown core
• New development will not exceed four stories in height
Transportation:
• Redirect some cross-town traffic away from Washington Street and Sequim Avenue by enhancing intersections
• Parking is a shared resource
Housing:
• Encourage higher density residential development
Capital facilities:
• City hall should be in downtown core
Parks:
• Redesign Pioneer Memorial Park to anchor east end downtown core for events
Utilities:
• Replace all undersized and outdated waterlines,, sewer lines and fire hydrants

Strategies within the plan include short term, 1-3 year projects, to long-term, 7 years or more, to implement. Steve Burkett, city manager, said staff will monitor goals through public works’ capital improvements’ list and identify high priority projects.

Some of the Downtown Plan strategies
Short-term, 1-3 years:
• Prioritize downtown streetscape improvements
• Re-stripe Bell and Cedar streets and change all 90 degree parking on streets to angled parking for safer entry and exit.
• Leverage city hall redevelopment
• Provide bike parking
• Improve parking and way-finding signs
• Foster coordination of downtown businesses: coordinate marketing, coordinate extended business hours, develop business retention and recruitment program

Mid-term, 3-7 years
• Partner with cinema developer
• Flank the downtown core with low-rise higher-density housing
• Stripe bike lanes on select school connection streets, such as Fir Street
• Bracket the downtown core; Third Avenue to West Washington Street gateway; Washington Street eastern gateway near Pioneer Memorial Park
• Start and implement a main street program
• Create a secondary pedestrian spine south of Washington Street

Long-term, 7 + years
• Construct southern bypass road
• Redesign Pioneer Memorial Park and its surroundings
• Pursue development of downtown hotel
• Create pedestrian spines north of Washington Street, east of Sequim Avenue
• Find more bike parking
• Identify pedestrian cross-circulation easements in downtown

The plan identifies some unfilled needs including:
• Unique boutique hotels that have 30-40 rooms
• Cinema/ theater
• Main street program

Opportunity sites for development include vacant land less than one block east of the Washington Street/ Sequim Avenue intersection, the southeast corner of Washington Street and Sequim Avenue for a cinema, and the northwest corner of Third Avenue and Washington Street.  

In the plan, prohibited uses of new construction include:
In all districts:
• Adult entertainment
• Gas stations and car washes
• Halfway houses and rehabilitation centers
• Jails and other detention or correction facilities
• Kennels
• Manufacturing and fabrication
• Sales, leasing, servicing, or repair of vehicles, unless entirely within a structure
• Warehousing, including mini-storage
Prohibited in the Downtown Core and Mixed Use 1 districts:
• Commercial uses with drive-through windows or service kiosks
Other prohibitions:  
• Residential use on the ground level

New regulations state that new buildings in the downtown core cannot exceed 45 feet and 38 feet in the downtown core mixed-use 1 and 2 areas. Buildings above 35 feet in the core and 25 feet in the mixed use 1 and 2 districts shall be set back from any street by at least seven feet.

 

New buildings must meet new parking space standards for residences too.

 

For example, if a new senior housing facility is built, they must provide 0.5 spaces per unit. One-bedroom homes or more and hotels and motels must provide one space per unit/ room. New parking lots must provide one tree with a minimum 2-inch base required for six parking spaces, and a low fence or decorative wall with shrubs along any street frontage. Chain link fencing and razor ribbon are prohibited.  

Councilors’ opinions

Erichsen voted no towards the plan because he thinks the plan is flawed and council is trying to fix something that isn’t broken.

 

“All that I see this plan doing is turning the downtown into a ghetto, especially with the 4-stories, 45 feet high,” he said. “It’s no longer a friendly, small town. You are going to require them to share parking. Build another bypass, we’ve already got a bypass. But we’re not maintaining a friendly, small town environment. It looks like we’re creating Yuppyville. This is not Yuppyville. This is a rural community, and I like the way it is now.”

 

Mayor Ken Hays disagreed saying the downtown plan is probably one of the most important pieces of legislation in a long time for council.

 

“I think this is a great plan… Downtown is about people; not buildings; not streets,” Hays said. “It’s where people go to meet other people, do a little commerce; embrace community… I feel like it reinforces and strengthens concerns from the public and creates a framework as we grow.”

Conflict

In the months leading up to the public hearing, citizens spoke in favor and against a downtown cinema, parking issues and new buildings’ height.

 

Downtown business owners and residents near Seal Street recently spoke against woonerfs because they were concerned if the plan was implemented that they might lose parking spots, accessibility and money while decreasing safety. Woonerfs are spaces that support pedestrians, slow vehicles, and delivery trucks with access to activities and maintaining access to adjacent properties. Wording in the plan said Seal Street could be a woonerf for festival and celebration space, but Chris Hugo, planning director, took it out.

 

“Today there is no formal adoptive policy about the things people are concerned with in terms of parking supporting adjacent residences, access to private businesses, there’s no public policy about any of that,” Hugo said.

 

“This plan mentions the needs of businesses to have accesses to them and local residences to have parking. This plan provides something people are seeking. Without adoption, there’s silence.”

 

Business owners previously testifying on June 27 spoke again saying they were mostly pleased with the changes.

Community involvement

Mark Hinshaw, urban planning director for consulting group LMN Architects, said all ideas in the plan had an origin with someone in the community.

 

Burkett told the Gazette that the plan received a lot of publicity and that city staff and councilors spoke to local residents and businesses for input.

 

“I think we did a good job of outreaching,” he said.

 

Council also approved Sequim Planning Commission’s recommendations.

 

They seek to adopt the plan as a sub-area plan and element of the comprehensive plan and to enact downtown development regulations as a new chapter in the Sequim Municipal Court.

 

Read more about the plan at www.ci.sequim.wa.us. Contact the City of Sequim, 152 W. Cedar St., at 683-4139.

 

 

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

 

 

Community Events, April 2014

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