Council approves more multiplex zones in city

Duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes are now allowed in more areas within the City of Sequim.

City councilors unanimously approved an ordinance at their Oct. 10 meeting that changes portions of the Sequim Municipal Code. The changes allow for multiplex developments in Low Density Residential and Community Mixed Use zones that make up most of the city.

Councilors expressed an eagerness to pass changes in recent months, with the ordinance stating that it furthers the council’s goal of “providing more affordable housing in Sequim (and that) multiplex housing is a valuable tool to address the nationwide housing shortage and affordability crisis.”

Mayor Tom Ferrell said he hopes the changes open the doors for more developers.

The ordinance follows a council decision in April to amend the Comprehensive Plan and align it with the Municipal Code for the developments.

The Sequim Planning Commission also unanimously recommended on Aug. 2 the council approve the latest ordinance.

Steve Lachnicht, Sequim’s director of community development, said in a phone interview that multiplexes were allowed in some parts of city limits, but that a previous Comprehensive Plan update made it an “involved” process.

“It was no real easy task (and) generally not allowed as a standalone complex,” he said.

Under the ordinance, Lachnicht said, any proposed multiplex homes would be required to keep the same height and street setback requirements as single-family units. Minimum sizes for duplexes are 9,000 square feet, triplexes at 10,500 square feet, and 12,000 square feet for fourplexes, according to the Municipal Code (chapter 18.26).

Each multiplex project with two or more buildings must provide a minimum 200-square-feet of usable open space for each dwelling unit in the project, city code states.

In addition, multiplexes with two or more buildings anticipated to accommodate families must provide a safe play space for children, with prescribed safety standards.

In September, Lachnicht told city councilors via a video presentation that the east side of the city might hold areas for multiplexes, while developments with homeowners associations in the city likely don’t allow them.

He said in the phone interview that multiplexes are most likely to fit in vacant lots and/or if two lots are combined.

Under review

The council-approved code changes also creates an Administrative Conditional Use Permit (ACUP) review process that Lachnicht said would give his position the decision-making power for approval of individual multiplexes.

Lachnicht said that if a developer seeks more than one unit, or a development with single-family and multiplex homes, the properties would more than likely go before a hearing examiner for review as a Conditional Use Permit.

Clallam Habitat for Humanity CEO Colleen Robinson has testified before council numerous times in the last year asking councilors for faster action as her agency looks to build 80 homes (20 fourplexes/townhouses) split between two South Sequim Avenue properties.

During the ordinance’s public hearing, Robinson said 10 Habitat for Humanity homes were built in the city between 1999-2006.

She said that Habitat in March received an unrestricted $1 million from McKenzie Scott and they’ve secured another $500,000 for the project.

“Habitat homeowners are contributing members of our community, they pay property taxes, they shop here and they work here,” she said.

“Their children attend Sequim schools, play sports and participate in other community activities here where they live.

“The new multi-family zoning will not only allow more families to achieve the dream of home ownership, but will allow them to become vibrant members of our Sequim community.”

Following the council’s decision, Robinson said in an interview she’s talked with a surveyor about starting the development process.

Lachnicht told councilors that there’s been some interest from other parties along with Habitat about multiplex developments and that “hopefully we’ll see something soon.” He noted that all talks have been informal.