CORRECTED: Developer eying property near John Wayne Marina

Property long-targeted for a large resort along Sequim Bay has drawn the interest of developers for a planned community in Grays Harbor County.

Casey Roloff, who along with wife Laura created Seabrook, a resort startup on the bluffs of Washington state’s Pacific Coast that’s grown to 600 homes in the past 20 years, has been meeting with local government agencies, economic agencies, community groups and members of the public in recent weeks to explain his plans for a resort community on property owned by John Wayne’s heirs near the marina that bears his name.

On April 22 and 23, Roloff and his partners — including Seabrook CFO Jeff Gunderson and Sam Nielson, Seabrook’s vice president of engineering and entitlements — met with community members in offering his vision of how he’d like to build as many as 500 to 600 homes of varying size and densities, along with some small commercial structures, in a walkable, pedestrian-friendly development on about 160 acres adjacent to West Sequim Bay Road.

“We know everyone loves this property,” he said, “but it needs the right kind of development and the right kind of developer.”

Roloff, Seabrook’s CEO, said his company does not own the property but owns the rights to purchase if the development looks achievable. He said he’s spending about $1 million to go through a process to determine the viability of a resort before filing an application with the City of Sequim.

The property is within city limits, while the marina — which is not part of Roloff’s proposed development— is managed by the Port of Port Angeles.

In recent weeks, Roloff and his team have met with municipalities, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, anglers groups, the Sequim Bay Yacht Club and others to create an “open line of communication” with the community and “make sure everyone has an opportunity to share.”

Sequim Gazette photo by Michael Dashiell
Seabrook CEO Casey Roloff talks with community members about a planned 500 to 600-home development near Sequim Bay on April 23 at John Wayne Marina.

Sequim Gazette photo by Michael Dashiell Seabrook CEO Casey Roloff talks with community members about a planned 500 to 600-home development near Sequim Bay on April 23 at John Wayne Marina.

If developed, Roloff noted, the site will go through a number of environmental studies by entities such as Department of Ecology, Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Natural Resources and specialists from the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.

“It’s a very rigorous process; the last one we did was about a thousand pages,” Roloff said.

Roloff said John Wayne Enterprises president, Ethan, the son of the late actor John Wayne, reached out to his company about 10 years ago about a deal for the site.

Now, Roloff is hoping to create something similar to Seabrook on the Olympic Peninsula — with some significant differences. While Seabrook is a town unto itself, with amenities such as a full grocery store and soon an urgent care center which is necessitated by its relative geographic isolation, the Sequim development would be more like a village, Roloff said, because of its proximity to Sequim.

The development would feature smaller (1,000- to 2,000-square-foot) commercial sites surrounded by relatively dense residential properties such as apartments and smaller townhouses that Roloff likened to “multi-generational properties.”

Those properties would be surrounded be more traditional homes with more space between residences.

“We don’t use anything that looks cookie-cutter or ugly,” he said.

Average cost per home would be about $500,000, Roloff said, though there would be other housing options from 450-square-foot “cabins” to accessory dwelling units (ADU) and apartments above garages.

Roloff’s Seabrook took 20 years to develop at about 30 homes per year.

“We expect a similar pace out here,” he told community members.

Though there is no set timeline yet, Roloff said the first part of the Wayne property to see development would likely be the northern end because it is less geographically complex and a portion has been cleared.

Following that, come small commercial featured would be added such as food trucks, a farmer’s market-style venue and potentially a fisher’s market.

The property has seen its share of potential developers, most recently seeing a six-month marketing effort to sell the 160 acres in 2020 draw national interest; the asking price then was $9 million It is zoned for planned-resort community development that allows housing, transient lodging and commercial uses.

Roloff said he expects this property to see some development sooner or later.

“Someone is going to develop it,” he said — adding that he and Gunderson are Washington state residents who live in Seabrook.

“We’re all in,” Roloff said.

Concerns

Some of those attending the April 23 community meeting were concerned about the percentage of short-term rentals (STRs). Roloff said that at a previous development he oversaw, Bella Beach (Oregon), “We were worried [that if] short-term rentals took over, our community wouldn’t work,” so they purposefully built in short term rentals and managed them A little more than half of the homes at Seabrook are STRs, though Roloff said he does not expect to see the Sequim site have that heavy a percentage because of its proximity to Sequim proper.

“The shared economy is here to stay [but] we don’t see that happening here,” he said, estimating about 70% of the projected 500-600 homes to be full-time Sequim residents.

“We don’t see this as a town; we see this as more of a village,” he said.

At Seabrook, he said, managers check in every guest face to face rather than vacationers checking in by punching a number on a security panel.

Sequim Gazette photo by Michael Dashiell
Seabrook CEO Casey Roloff talks with community members about a planned 500 to 600-home development near Sequim Bay on April 23 at John Wayne Marina. Many of the residences would have relatively high density, he said, including apartments and small townhouse-style structures.

Sequim Gazette photo by Michael Dashiell Seabrook CEO Casey Roloff talks with community members about a planned 500 to 600-home development near Sequim Bay on April 23 at John Wayne Marina. Many of the residences would have relatively high density, he said, including apartments and small townhouse-style structures.

Attendees also voiced concerns over traffic, the area’s water supply and traffic.

Roloff said this development would hook up to City of Sequim water and sewer, though he did not have information about whether nearby residents would be forced to hook up to those utilities as well.

The nearby park — John Wayne’s Waterfront Resort for recreational vehicles (RVs), part of the overall land purchased — would be phased out and go away, Roloff said.

Developers will not be taking control of John Wayne Marina, which is managed by the Port of Port Angeles, nor are developers interested in proposing any shellfish operations on Sequim Bay.

Roloff said this property would be designed to encouraged traffic to use Whitefeather Way as the main egress point. He said developers hope to see a roundabout to ease any congestion.

“[It’d be] way safer to get across that road,” he said.

A stop sign on West Sequim Bay Road would likely be part of the traffic alterations, Roloff said.

“We want to calm traffic down [there],” he said. “If anything, this [area] is going to be more walkable.”

Bryan Berreth heard the developers’ presentation on April 23 along with other Sequim Bay Yacht Club members in late April.

“I think it’s a positive thing. — it’s going to get developed — but it’s going to be a process,” he said.

“It seems like they want to do a great job for the community.”

Berreth had a 40-year career as an appraiser in commercial real estate projects and is “very familiar with the process.”

He said the biggest issue will be access.

“It’s a nice piece of property …[but] it’s going to throw a lot of people on the roads,” Berreth said.

“Can you imagine putting 500-600 homes there and trying to make a left [to get back on U.S. Highway 101] with all the traffic there?

“That’s something they’re going to have to address with the city.”

Berreth, noted that he’s seen the area develop since the 1950s and that as a Pacific Northwest native he’s a bit in the minority in the yacht club.

“No one wanted to live in the Pacific Northwest because all it does is rain,” he said.

It’s a little different now, Berreth noted.

As for the development, he said.

“This is one of the growing pains everyone is going to have to work through, Berreth noted.

About Roloff

Casey Roloff said he started a house painting business while attending college in 1993. Two years later, about the time he as graduating the University of Puget Sound with a business degree, he sought a $150,000 loan from a bank to build a house. Denied the loan, he said he turned to someone who he had painted a house, got that loan at 14% interest and it sold immediately.

Growing up in a cul-de-sac in Vancouver, Wa., Roloff said he and his family had to get in their car to get anywhere. His wife Laura grew up in wife grew up in neighborhood in Sellwood, Oregon, a suburb of Portland that was relatively easy to walk and bike to school and get around the community.

“That spoke to the kind of neighborhood we wanted to build,” Casey Roloff said.

He said the town of Seaside, Florida — an unincorporated master-planned community on the Florida Panhandle constructed in 1981 with a population of about 12,000 — is a prime example of biking- and walking-friendly communities where motor vehicle traffic is slowed.

“[Then] everything was designed around cars,” Roloff said. “Why did we stop building these towns?”

Seaside was credited for “bringing back” this style of town, Roloff noted.

“You can live most of your day without needing your car.”

With Seaside developer Robert S. Davis as his mentor, Casey Roloff decided in to go bigger. According to a story posted by the University of Puget Sound, Casey and Laura built and sold more than 25 homes all along the Oregon coast between 1995-2000 before developing the 10-acre Bella Beach property. Casey Roloff said that after securing a $1.4 million loan he sold half of that community’s properties within 90 days and was able to pay the bank back in just four months.

In 2002, the Roloffs targeted a piece of relatively undeveloped land in southwest Washington state, noticing that Seattle residents were bypassing the Washington coast altogether in favor of small towns on the Northwest Oregon coast.

The land they found was oceanfront property adjacent to Pacific Beach, both attractive and difficult to develop because of its geography.

“We had to build everything,” Roloff told attendees of the April 23 community meeting in Sequim.

Based on the concept of New Urbanism — a design movement creating walkable neighbourhoods and featuring a wide range of housing and job types — Seabrook began to take shape.

As of 2023, a Forbes article noted that Seabrook boasts 450 homes of varying design, 17 parks, a town hall, Montessori School, miles of mountain bike and hiking trails, ice cream parlors and general stores, pickleball courts and more.

Much of the 700-acre development — one that is planned to grow to 2,000 homes in all, Roloff noted — is accessible to the public, not just residents, including concerts and other events.

“The best places in the world are very public places — places that everyone is welcome,” Roloff said.

“Some people sometimes say ‘It looks fake’,” he said, and for good reason. The Seaside development he in part modeled his own startup was used in the film “The Truman Show.”

For more about Seabrook, visit seabrookwa.com.