City makes improvements to building application process

Following years of frustrations and criticism from developers about the building development process in the City of Sequim, city staff announced they’ve made some changes they hope improve the application process.

City staff said they met members of the development community last December to hear concerns and followed up with them in late May to receive positive feedback.

City manager Matt Huish said at the May 9 city council meeting that “various processes needed to be improved and some things fell through the cracks.”

Sequim public works director Sarah VanAusdle said they’ve addressed many of the developers’ concerns ranging from simplifying contacts with city staff, decreasing filing times, and evaluating the implementation of new software.

“It’s not perfect and we’re still evolving,” she said. “There’ll still probably be more issues that will come up.”

Speaking with city councilors, VanAusdle said a majority of the issues stemmed from an updated city stormwater code implemented in 2017 requiring “huge shifts in engineering requirements.”

She added, “It’s been a bumpy learning curve.”

VanAusdle listed more than a dozen improvements that she and staff worked on including developing checklists for applications so each staff member isn’t duplicating work.

Builders told city staff their requirements had “moving goal posts,” so staff clarified a checklist for the inside of the house and outside with elements such as stormwater.

“We do believe it’s going to make a huge difference so the community knows what’s required of them,” VanAusdle said.

For future applications, city staff will also send one initial response letter instead of many when an application is complete that will include various departments’ responses in one package, she said.

City staff also look to increase response time to applications for at the most two days to accept a permit, 28 days to determine if “counter complete” and 30 days for “technically” complete.

They’re about three weeks out on applications now, VanAusdle said, aside from outstanding applications that require stormwater revisions.

Defining what “counter” and “technically” complete applications are was an internal issue, she said, and they’ve defined “counter complete” as meaning all materials attached to an application that apply to the parcel.

For application deadlines, they’ve consolidated information into one in-house spot, VanAusdle said, so that all staff know where they are in the process. Future updated software will likely alleviate this issue, she added.

Staff are partnering with its IT department to review software because the city currently inputs development applications manually.

“It will result in a lot more efficiency,” VanAusdle said.

She added that any software would be a one time purchase plus an annual subscription for support.

City staff is also preparing an updated site construction plan tentatively for August, creating a policy for finished applications to be picked up and paid for within 90 days, and preparing more in-house revisions for improvement.

Mayor Tom Ferrell said the update is “a good example of process improvement at work.”


Home prices escalated and availability diminished during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Sequim area and continued to reach its highest median price ever at $559,000 in the first quarter of 2022, according to Michael McAleer, managing broker with Team McAleer at RE/MAX Prime.

In the last four years, city records show two commercial development applications were filed in 2021 and three applications for multi-family developments in 2019.

In 2019, 69 single-family permits were issued, and four permits for mobile/manufactured homes. In 2020, 50 single-family homes and three mobile/manufactured homes were permitted, and in 2021, 68 single-family homes and five mobile/manufactured homes received permits.

Through the end of March 2022, the city issued eight single-family permits, and seven mobile/manufactured home permits.

At the April 11 city council meeting, Barry Berezowsky — then the city’s director of community development — said the city had 25 pre-application meetings in 2021 and seven so far this year. He said 20 is about the average.

Councilor Brandon Janisse asked VanAusdle if city staff needed more people to help with the processes, and she said they are fully staffed with three engineers.