A letter to the state Department of Transportation listing the Sequim City Council’s concerns with a proposed U.S. Highway 101 rest area on the east side of town has been signed, sealed and delivered, but not everyone’s pleased, especially not councilman and interim
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce president Walt Schubert.
The council voted to move forward with the letter during its April 14 meeting, but Schubert wanted a survey — taken by chamber members — to be included. One-hundred-one chamber members answered the survey. The majority of the council said the survey could be sent at a later date but that it was imperative that the letter be sent right away.
“This will certainly get the dialogue moving,” Mayor Laura Dubois said.
The letter is in response to comments made by Kevin Dayton, the transportation department’s regional administrator. Following a presentation of the proposed rest area on March 17, Dayton asked the council to notify him of any concerns they might have regarding the project.
“The sooner the DOT knows about it, the better it is,” Dayton said.
The rest area was first proposed 10 years ago. It would be located on the southwest corner of Lofgrin Road and Spy Glass Lane and would cost an estimated $4.1 million.
Although an earlier Sequim City Council approved the project, granting the transportation department a permit, the majority of the current council has a number of problems with the project’s plans, including its location bordering residential areas, accessibility, its effects on city traffic and possible light, noise and air pollution.
“I’m even more flabbergasted that this project continues to move forward,” Councilman Ken Hays said following the March 17 presentation. Hays went on to call the project an “absolute, utter and complete folly,” comments Hays himself called a “rant,” but he said he does not regret having said it.
“I haven’t heard a single comment that we’re not correct,” Hays said.
The only council member in total agreement with the project is Paul McHugh. Although on vacation and therefore not present to vote, McHugh notified the council that he would not be signing any letter.
The chamber survey that Schubert wanted included was taken April 10-14. It asked five questions and welcomed comments from chamber members. When asked whether Sequim-Dungeness business owners thought the rest stop would have a positive or negative impact on their businesses, of those who answered, 31.3 percent thought the rest stop would have a positive impact, 13.1 percent said the impact would be negative and 55.6 percent said they didn’t know.
Survey comments varied from, “I think it is a waste of taxpayer’s money and should be aborted,” to that of another chamber member — with a truck-driver son — who called the rest stop “a blessing,” and continued with, “I think we need to discourage the constant Me, Me, Me attitude that prevails in our area now. I am embarrassed and disgusted with what has gone on …. A good cup of coffee and a cookie would have been a godsend on those trips,” the comment read.
Schubert said the survey was important and should be included with the letter because it showed the opinion of city business owners, an essential Sequim demographic.
“An informal survey of this kind is not reliable,” Hays said.
Councilman Bill Huizinga asked that the council wait to send the letter until members heard comments from residents regarding the project. Huizinga said that the council should hold at least one public meeting concerning the rest area before drafting any correspondence.
“I think we’re way ahead of ourselves. We have to listen to the people,” Huizinga said.
“It doesn’t make these points invalid,” Hays countered, referring to the letter.
“They’re valid because we thought of them. We didn’t get any input,” Huizinga said.
The council voted 4-2 to authorize Dubois to sign the letter. Dubois said a second letter might be sent to Dayton, which will include the chamber survey and any comments gathered during the April 28 town hall meeting.