A proposed 71-home project is on hold despite being approved by Sequim City Councilors.
Jennie’s Meadow Phase B and C preliminary major subdivision west of Priest Road was unanimously approved by councilors at their May 28 meeting. However, the approval came with conditions that Ruth Brothers Enterprise, LLC., of Kent, must prove their legal right to use Jennie’s Boulevard, and they must construct to standard, all required improvements to the private street.
Councilors denied a variance request by Ruth Brothers to use Jennie’s Meadow Boulevard as its main entry and exit point from the proposed homes down the hill and through a roundabout without a separated second entrance.
“The real issue here is access,” Sequim Community Development director Barry Berezowsky said.
He said Jennie’s Meadow homeowners in Phase A own the access road, but that the Ruth Brothers feel they have equal access.
“The situation is staff is no position to make a call on that argument,” Berezowsky said. “We can’t sit in the place of a court of law and say which documents prevail.”
Craig Miller, attorney for Ruth Brothers, said they accept they have to establish legal ownership of the road easement.
“We don’t see it as a particularly difficult barrier to overcome,” he said.
However, Miller took multiple issues with the city’s analysis of the proposals. He said city staff analyzed the variance using a subdivision ordinance when they should be looking at the zoning ordinance. He said he also feels the city’s subdivision code featured multiple inconsistencies about points of access.
“The ordinance doesn’t make sense,” Miller said.
Scott Headrick, an engineer on the project working with Zenovic & Associates, Inc., said in a separate interview that they would not comment on their plans moving forward from the city council’s decision.
At the meeting, Headrick said the proposed Phases fit in the minimum amount of homes allowed per parcel with Phase B’s 31 lots sitting on 7.5 acres and Phase C on 40 lots over 10 acres.
“We tried to make it the least dense we could make it,” Headrick said.
Headrick said they explored other entrance options but neighboring homeowners didn’t want to connect to the city, or the developers’ options were too costly — including construction of a road that would require about 4,000 dump truck loads of fill to make a sloped entrance.
Berezowsky said at a previous planning commission meeting that Ruth Brothers representatives recommended a second point of access at Snapdragon Lane, but it wasn’t in the current proposal.
Planning Commission recommended that city councilors deny both the variance and Phase B&C preliminary major subdivision.
Under the city’s municipal code 17.32.110, subdivisions with more than four and up to 30 lots must have at least two points of access if separated by a minimum 10-foot-wide landscape area and encompass two 20-foot-wide drive lanes.
Phase A of Jennie’s Boulevard hosts 89 lots now and the road would exceed the code because it would not meet the minimum 20-foot wide surface width requirement and it would serve more than 30 lots — hence the Ruth Brothers’ variance application.
However, JMHA, the Jennie’s Meadow Phase A Homeowner’s Association, contests Ruth Brothers’ right to access the private road.
Several residents shared concerns with the city council and planning commission about traffic, emergency vehicle access, parking and more.
Colette Kostelec, attorney for JMHA, said Phase A does not meet street standards because it doesn’t have parking on either side of the street and the sidewalk is only on one part of the street.
“We thinks it’s impossible to bring Jennie’s Meadow up to standard because we have private property going right up to the sidewalk,” she said.
“The impact on the existing homeowners to do that work would be so tremendous on private property and create such a disturbance that none of it has been reviewed in the (State Environmental Policy Act) review.”
JMHA president Dan Maloney said with the road being private property it doesn’t mean that anyone else can use their roads.
Maloney said if Ruth Brothers receives an easement through the Clallam County Superior Court, it would need to be reviewed through another environmental review.
“That would tear up Jennie’s Meadows entrance and down the road and down the hill. It would have to rebuild everything,” Maloney said.
“It would be 20 feet for one way and 20 feet for the other. Right now we just have 17 feet of road where that would cut into the property and into the sidewalk and green. It’d look like a freeway entrance and SEPA (environmental review) would probably not pass that.”
Sequim city attorney Kristina Nelson-Gross said the homeowners and developers have 21 days to appeal to Superior Court in Clallam County for any of the decisions through June 18.
Maloney said homeowners are considering an appeal to the approved Phase B and C subdivision.
Ruth Brothers representatives again would not comment.
For more information about the Jennie’s Meadow project, visit www.sequimwa.gov or call 360-683-4908.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.