News

Residents seek unfinished project funding

by MATTHEW NASH
Sequim Gazette

Unfinished projects in and near the Fair Weather subdivision off West Sequim Bay are complicating solutions for residents and City of Sequim staff.

 

Work remains to be done in the subdivision: moving currently overhead utilities underground, placing an asphalt overlay on interior streets, creating an extension of future utilities for future project phases and widening West Sequim Bay Road.

 

The remaining funding is just a portion of the larger $840,336 bond that developer Gerald Engler, the owner of Fair Weather Properties, Inc., purchased from INSCO Insurance Services for $15,605. The original surety bond allowed him to develop up to 44 single-family homes on the property.

 

On June 10, 2008, Bill Bullock, former interim planning director and city engineer, released Engler of all but $138,347 of the bond.

 

In 2008, completing the projects was estimated to cost $110,678. Today, residents don’t think a bond worth $138,347 will be enough.

 

Robin Auld, president of the homeowner’s association, said the city shouldn’t hold Fair Weather residents responsible for any underfunding as a result of the bond’s release.

 

“Why should we be responsible when you cut loose $700,000 of bond money?” Auld asked. “We don’t want to be held liable for any funding.”

 

One of the problems is that Fair Weather’s streets are private, say city staff.

 

Paul Haines, public works director, said the city has been in discussions about the subdivision for about a year.

 

“We want to make sure there is a way to finish the private and public projects before releasing the bond,” Haines said.

 

“The point of contention is that the roads are private and the city has no jurisdiction over those bonds. It’s not legal for us to go in and build private improvements.”

 

Haines said if a developer wants a final plat of all of the improvements in the development, they have two choices: complete work or the city can accept a bond. He said that is common practice throughout the state, and was even more common when construction and real estate was booming.

 

 

Possible illegal actions

Auld and the association said the city’s 2008 release of the bond was illegal under the city’s municipal code, section 17.64.020, which states there shall be no reduction in a bond amount.

 

City attorney Craig Ritchie disagrees. He said Bullock didn’t act wrongfully. He said the bond is intended to protect the city — to make sure the city infrastructure is completed.

 

“We want public infrastructure done first,” Ritchie said.

 

He said it might be possible to postpone construction on private infrastructure, the asphalt overlay, until more money becomes available through grants.

 

“It’s not cost effective to improve a short stretch of road when the per foot cost would be less when doing more,” Ritchie said.

 

The city will host a meeting with the involved parties Aug. 10 where they hope to come to a solution on the unfinished projects.

 

“If we do it right, we’ll have a win-win-win situation,” Ritchie said. “That’s what we’re working for.” Haines said staff won’t know the projects’ total until it goes to bid. He estimates the remainder of the bond might be low for finishing the front improvements.

 

“If we can do it within the bond amount, then we don’t need council’s decision,” Haines said. “If it’s more than the bond, then we need to make it into a project. In some fashion, it’ll be going back to council.”

 

Auld spoke at the July 25 city council meeting with a handful of homeowners in attendance. Some city councilors spoke in support of finishing the projects.

 

Bill Huizinga said people bought homes with expectations that projects would be completed. It’s the city’s responsibility to finish this, he said.

 

Auld said Fair Weather currently has 16 homes with 35 residents. He said there is interest in developing 24 lots in the subdivision. That would be in the city’s best interest, he said, because it means impact fee revenue.

 

Contact the City of Sequim, 152 W. Cedar St., at 683-4139.

 

 

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.
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