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Top news stories of 2013
Sequim Gazette staff
For all the turmoil and flaring tempers we saw in 2013, the year was for many a time to celebrate — particularly in downtown Sequim.
City of Sequim officials and citizens celebrated the city’s 100th birthday in grand fashion with dozens of events throughout the year. Highlights include the Old-Fashioned Town Picnic and The Street Dance of the Century (picture, right) during the July 4 weekend and the grand finale dinner in November at 7 Cedars Casino (picture, left). The city also purchased property at the northeast corner of Sequim Avenue and Washington Street, dubbing the plaza “Centennial Place.”
Here’s a brief look back at the top news stories and newsmakers of the previous year:
In mid-January, tempers flared over issues arising from the City of Sequim’s new sign ordinance. Shop owners in the Sequim Village Shopping Center said outlawing the use of signs on Washington Street had resulted in a worrying loss of business. Many of the business owners also cited what they describe as the ordinance’s unfairness, noting businesses in the downtown area are allowed to place signs on the sidewalk in front of their businesses.
City Attorney Craig Ritchie agreed the ordinance was flawed, but said the city was dealt a bad hand by the courts and was working with business owners to craft a reasonable ordinance.
The new Dungeness Water Rule became effective on Jan. 2, leaving a number of Clallam landowners high and dry.
All landowners who hope to drill a well within the affected area will be able to secure the right to indoor water. However, new uses of outdoor water is denied to hundreds of lots covering thousands of acres.
In February, the Washington Department of Transportation began work on a project that will complete the four-lane widening of U.S. Highway 101 from Sequim to Port Angeles.
Scarsella Bros., a Kent construction firm, won the contract in December 2012 with a bid of just more than $27 million.
Also in February, voters showed their support for two Sequim School District proposals in overwhelming fashion, accepting a four-year, $23 million Education Programs and Operations levy and a one-time, $1.6 million Transportation Vehicle Fund levy.
Both proposals received more than 65 percent approval.
“This shows an incredible amount of trust from our community,” said Sequim School District superintendent Kelly Shea.
In late 2013, a school district committee dedicated to assessing the school’s facility needs comes to the school board with a $169 million package that would include a new elementary school and a major renovation to Sequim High School, among other projects. A vote could come to voters in early 2014.
A video recording an incident between Sequim Police and an individual outside the Oasis Bar & Grill in May made the rounds online at YouTube and Facebook. Police and citizens offer conflicting views and opinions on whether or not the police striking the man was an appropriate use of force. The individual is later identified as Morgan Weimer, a 45-year-old Sequim man who was involved in an altercation outside the Sequim establishment before being restrained by four officers. The video records one of the officers, Grant Dennis, striking Weimer three times to what police officials assert is to subdue Weimer; Weimer later files an informal complaint.
In June, the Kiwanis Club of Sequim-Dungeness, who served children locally and worldwide with fundraisers and community service, officially disbanded after 40 years. Declining membership led the group to hold its last meeting in June. Its two biggest fundraisers will continue for other organizations as KSQM Radio took on its bunting program and Sequim High School Choir Boosters its Christmas tree sales.
On June 4, “Boys in the Boat” is released by Viking Press and author Daniel James Brown. The book features the University of Washington’s eight-man crew and their quest for Olympic Games gold at the 1936 games in Berlin. The book’s spotlight primarily falls on Joe Rantz, who grew up in Sequim and is buried here. The account of Rantz and his teammates earning Olympic glory becomes a New York Times bestseller; a film version of the story is in the works as well.
On June 24, the board of commissioners of the Port of Port Angeles listened as Jeff Robb, the executive director of the Port, resigned his position, effective immediately. Robb cited health concerns for his decision.
He was then hired to fill a newly created position as Director of Environmental Affairs for the Port. In that position he continues to receive the $138,000 annual salary he was paid as executive director.
In July, R. Leo Shipley donated a 51-pad mobile home park to the Sequim Senior Activity Center. The gift was estimated at more than $1 million. In recognition of his gift, the current activity center has been renamed the Shipley Center. The profits from the park will be used to fund a planned new $10 million Shipley Center for area seniors.
After placing fourth on the TV show “The X-Factor” in late 2012, Emblem3, the band of brothers Keaton and Wesley Stromberg with long-time friend Drew Chadwick, released their first full-length album “Nothing to Lose” in July, which debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard charts.
Soon afterward, Emblem3 toured the world with celebrity/singer Selena Gomez on her Stars Dance Tour. They performed at Key Arena in Seattle on Nov. 12 with hundreds of Sequim fans making the journey to the show.
Their two music videos for “Chloe (You’re the One I Want)” and “3,000 Miles, which harkens back to the band’s days in Sequim with family footage, have more than 10 million combined views. Emblem3 continues to tour in 2014 but dates for the Pacific Northwest aren’t announced yet.
While digging a hole for a septic tank, crews discovered a partial skull in August in Diamond Point.
State anthropologists determined the remains found on Aug. 23 to be of a prehistoric Native American woman but an exact date couldn’t be determined due to there not being other artifacts with the bones. Crews with the Department of Archeology, the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office and Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe sifted through sand and dirt Sept. 3-5 to uncover much of the woman’s remains.
These were the first bones of this kind to be discovered in the area, experts said, but no others have been reported. Local Native American tribes opted to rebury the bones in a private ceremony on Oct. 1 at the dig site.
Two landmark businesses closed in Sequim in 2013. After 26 years in business, Tarcisio’s, the Italian Grill, closed its doors in October.
Following the purchases of the 3 Crabs Restaurant and 52 adjoining acres by the Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, the iconic restaurant was demolished in November.
In November, Sequim’s Thomas Ash became the first Clallam resident to announce he will seek a marijuana license under I-502, the state initiative that allows the growing, processing and retail sale of marijuana for recreational use.
Ash has since been joined by dozens of additional applicants for marijuana licenses.
On Nov. 12, a Kitsap County jury again found Sequim resident Darold R.J. Stenson guilty of two 1993 murders. Stenson appealed his 1994 conviction and subsequent death sentence for 18 years before the state Supreme Court in May of 2012 agreed with his attorneys, reversing his conviction. His second, 22-day trial found Stenson guilty of two counts of aggravated first-degree murder. He was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in December, but immediately appealed.
The Sequim City Council gave the unanimous go-ahead on Dec. 6 to negotiate terms for the new $11.85 million city hall and police station with Lydig Construction and Integrus Architecture. Demolition of the old city hall and the former Serenity House space in late January or early February with construction beginning in March or April. Completion is tentatively set for April 29, 2015.