A final draft of the City of Sequim’s proposed South Sequim Complete Streets Project comes before the public early next year in a virtual open house.
The city’s effort looks to connect Sequim’s two Economic Opportunity Areas (EOAs) by U.S. Highway 101 and provide traffic relief south of Washington Street.
Public input on short- and long-term projects began in the summer of 2019 with consulting firm Framework holding open houses, design sessions and a walking tour.
Sequim project engineer Dave Nakagawara told Sequim city councilors on Dec. 14 at their meeting that city staff and consultants planned to move forward with temporary, short-term installations in spring 2020 to see how they’d work but the pandemic affected those plans.
However, design work continued, Nakagawara said.
City staff and consultants plan to hold a virtual public open house on Jan. 21, with a time to be announced on the project’s final design report.
The report contains recommendations and concepts for complete streets in the South Sequim neighborhood, including Prairie Street, staff said.
Previously, consultants said complete streets balance needs for bicycles, vehicles, businesses and more but don’t adhere to just one mold.
Some of the project report contains design concepts for Prairie Street and other streets, traffic calming and control tools, bicycle lane recommendations, sidewalks/lighting/paths installations, street crossing recommendations and more.
Nakagawara said the project was originally called “the Prairie Street Connector Project, but staff realized they should take a different approach. Community members previously objected to Prairie Street potentially seeing an increase in traffic.
After public input, Nakagawara said the community sought to have a “totally connected neighborhood,” and improved existing infrastructure. With this feedback, he said there doesn’t appear to be a desire to extend Prairie Street west past Seventh Avenue.
City staff said the designs are preliminary but do provide a vision for neighborhood streets in South Sequim.
How some aspects of the city council and its meetings operate will go differently in 2021.
A new resolution passed 5-2 at the Dec. 14 Sequim City Council meeting that changes multiple aspects of council’s procedures. Some of those changes remove councilors’ ability to abstain from a vote and instead recuse themselves, and clarifies the public comment process.
Sequim City Clerk Sara McMillon said she and other staff members have worked since the beginning of this year on proposed changes with plans to bring back a more comprehensive review some time in 2021.
She said allowing abstentions could expose the city to liability issues, create confusion, and allow for fewer voices in voting.
“It’s not as a democratic,” McMillon said. “I feel strongly about someone recusing themselves (instead).”
Under the revised resolution, it states — in Council Meeting Procedures 2.85d — “Every Council member present shall vote on all questions, unless recused due to a conflict of interest or appearance of fairness consideration. A recusal and the reasons for the recusal shall be publicly announced prior to discussion of any motion. Silence during voting shall be recorded as an affirmative vote. Abstentions are not permitted.”
McMillon said a recusal is not counted as a yes or no.
Councilor Dennis Smith voted against the resolution because he felt an abstention is a councilor’s own responsibility.
“I don’t see that it’s a problem,” he said. “It’s an individual making a decision (and they) can’t go one way or the other (on a vote).”
Deputy Mayor Tom Ferrell said, “it needs to stay a tool we can utilize.”
McMillon said how councilors vote on issues “needs improvement” and could be part of a 2021 review. One of her thoughts on changes included councilors voting by paper ballot, if meeting in person.
City Manager Charlie Bush asked for and received $9,300 in additional COVID-19 relief funds from city council on Dec. 14 to support the Sequim Health and Housing Collaborative, a group of six local nonprofits.
Bush said the bulk of funds will go to navigators’ work hours seeking to connect people with needed resources. Other funds will go to upkeep of a mobile van and hotel stays for people in dire need.
He said a majority of those needing a hotel room cannot go to the Port Angeles shelter because they are families and/or medically fragile.
The $9,300 is about how much the city has contributed additionally each month to the collaborative since the pandemic began, he said, with more data to come in an annual report.
Bush said he’s allowed to carry through an emergency order as city manager for the funds but wanted council approval first; councilors unanimously approved the total.
“This is not about charity,” Ferrell said. “This is an investment in our community.
“The folks on the edge need just as much as our businesses (with the city’s Business Relief Program) … we’re talking about immediate needs that need to be met.”
Roads become public
American Eagle Drive and Talon Court, part of the Eagle Crest subdivision off Miller Road, are now city roads after councilors voted 6-0 in favor of bringing them into the city’s care. Councilor Keith Larkin recused himself because he lives in the neighborhood.
The right-of-way dedication includes accepting public ownership of streets, sidewalks and street lights.
Assistant public works director Matt Klontz said the decision dates back to July 2009 following a condition that makes the roads public following annexation.
However, the subdivision’s developer did not prepare legal documents for the city to assume the streets, he said.
In February, city councilors agreed to follow-through with converting the private streets to public on the condition that deferred street maintenance be completed.
Klontz said the estimated total for deferred maintenance was about $40,000, including crack sealing. He said the streets will require an overlay in about 15 years costing an estimated $23,700 per year to go towards the project in 2035.
Mayor William Armacost gave kudos to the city’s Public Works Department, saying it’s honorable the city staff did the right thing because the project came back to residents unexpectedly.
The Sequim City Council’s Dec. 28 meeting is canceled with its next virtual meeting set for 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 11. For more information, visit www.sequimwa.gov.