City looks to lease 2 sites next to new Civic Center

Staff: Solution ‘out of the box’ for neighborhood complaints

Sequim City councilors agreed on Dec. 8 to lease two homes north of the new Civic Center to eliminate complaints about bad tenants while creating utility truck parking.

The City of Sequim plans to rent again.

With the completion of the Civic Center expected in mid-2015 and the city’s current rentals

going away at the same time, city officials and councilors recently approved a pending lease agreement with resident Ron Fairclough to rent his two properties at 161 and 169 W. Spruce St.

Sitting just north of the new development, the two properties with homes tentatively would cost the city $850 a month for three years for city officials to park up to 10 utility trucks on the sites.

But increasing parking for the civic center has little to nothing to do with the agreement says City Attorney Craig Ritchie.

“It’s 99.9 percent about the neighborhood,” Ritchie said.

He and homeowner Fairclough, who lives nearby, said there have been many calls to the police by neighbors about the appearance of the homes, loud noises and more.

Fairclough, 76, said he’s lost $40,000 in bad rentals and at least $10,000 in stolen property since buying 161 W. Spruce St. in 1980 and 169 W. Spruce St. in 2007.

“I would love to stop it,” Fairclough said of the crime. “That’s why I’d love for it to be a parking lot.”

His plan was to turn the sites into his Sequim Laboratory of Dental Arts and parking.

Under the tentative lease agreement, the houses could be demolished, rented, used for emergency housing or left vacant but that decision depends on the final price, city officials said.

Burkett said they are not looking to buy the properties but it may be a possibility in 20 years.

“But at this point it’s just a lease,” he said.

They are leaning against demolishing the properties at this point, too.

“The cost would be more than we want to pay,” Burkett said.

If the city were to make improvements to the homes then the rent would go up an additional $300, Ritchie said.

City officials would need to make improvements to rent though as the homes are not to city standards but Burkett said he doesn’t have a cost estimate for fixing the homes.

Current tenants will be given conditions to live by if they do rent, City Manager Steve Burkett said, but he and Ritchie foresee evicting the tenants.

“It’s a novel way of trying to deal with a neighborhood problem,” Ritchie said.

Burkett said the parking is not a requirement for the civic center but described the lease agreement as an “out of the box solution to the problem.”

“It’s about improving the neighborhood,” Burkett said. “(Neighbors) have some really serious problems. The city’s primary function is to create and maintain good neighborhoods for people to live in.”


Other offers

Fairclough said he’s approached the city before about purchasing his properties but they told him his asking price was too much.

Ritchie said their most recent offer to Fairclough was $125,000 per lot but Fairclough wanted more.

“We weren’t searching for these (sites), but maybe it’s going to solve the problem in a not so bad way,” he said.

“This is hopefully a win-win solution and if we choose to rent them out hopefully the renters will match what we pay.”

To lease the site, the city would pay for it using funds from the water and sewer utility funds.

If Fairclough were to sell the sites, the city would have a right of refusal.

Genaveve Starr was the only city councilor to oppose the contracts at the Dec. 8 city council meeting because she felt conflicted.

“It sets a bad precedent that we lease the property to control a certain portion of our population,” she said.

Councilor Ken Hays expressed an interest in collaborating with Serenity House to offer emergency housing for residents.

“My concern would be we don’t want to rent out substandard housing, so we would need to fix it up,” Burkett said. “It’s an option.”

 

Alana Linderoth contributed to this report.

 

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

 

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