by MATTHEW NASHSequim 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.