Plans to further playfields parking in limbo

City’s requests too costly for nonprofit groups, leaders say

Soccer players and visitors of the Water Reuse Demonstration Site may have to park on the grass if the parking lot is full. Proposed parking additions west of the Albert Haller Playfields were denied because Sequim Family Advocates does not have funding for brick pavers compliant with city code.

Soccer players and visitors of the Water Reuse Demonstration Site may have to park on the grass if the parking lot is full. Proposed parking additions west of the Albert Haller Playfields were denied because Sequim Family Advocates does not have funding for brick pavers compliant with city code.

Plans for a restroom and more parking at the Albert Haller Playfields have been shelved for now.

Leaders of Sequim Family Advocates, a nonprofit group who gathered support for the playfields, say the second phase of their project, which includes 64 parking spots west of the playfields, is no longer slated to be finished after it was denied by the City of Sequim.

Dave Shreffler, president of the Sequim Family Advocates, said the city chose esthetics over safety concerns.

“SFA has been issued an ultimatum — grassy pavers or no parking and safety improvements, period,” he said to Sequim city councilors on July 27. “The city apparently values pretty parking over safe, functional parking.”

The decision to deny the request came on June 30 when the City of Sequim Parks and Recreation Board held a special meeting to review the advocates’ proposal. Four members voted against the parking proposal at parks manager Joe Irvin’s suggestion.

Irvin told the Gazette that the gravel for parking doesn’t meet low impact development specifications required. He said that in negotiations in May 2014 with the advocacy group they told them gravel wouldn’t work either and that grass pavers were the appropriate technique.

However, the bricks cost three times more, which exceeded the funding providing by the Albert Haller Foundation, Shreffler said.


No on Rhodefer

City staff and advocacy group volunteers decided to go another route that led them to seek parking on Rhodefer Road along with installing an emergency turnaround and a bathroom/ storage facility.

But as time passed, the advocacy group found more problems with more proposed parking.

Plans to chip seal a portion of a ditch on Rhodefer Road was nixed by the Army Corps of Engineers in December 2014, Shreffler said, because they identified it as a jurisdictional wetland that can’t be paved over.

Shreffler said parking along Rhodefer was city staffers’ suggestion despite their own maps showing it was a wetland.

“Thus, at the city’s direction, SFA wasted more time and more money,” Shreffler said Monday.

Irvin said the city suggested the advocates pursue the bathroom only because it didn’t require the same permitting as the proposed parking. The advocates went forward with the plan and city councilors approved it.

However, Craig Stevenson, vice president of the advocacy group, told the Gazette that after hearing complaints from parents about safety during heavy traffic events at the playfields, representatives with the Albert Haller Foundation wanted their donation to focus solely on parking. Representatives for the advocates and the foundation met with the city this June to discuss their options, which led to the June parks and rec special meeting.

Gary Smith, president of the foundation, told city councilors on Monday that something needed to be done before a tragedy occurred.

So the advocacy group went back to its original proposal for 64 parking spots, which was approved by city councilors in 2011.

Shreffler said their proposal was to do the first part of the parking with grading, install storm water drainage, rain gardens and gravel, which eventually would serve as a base for the city’s required brick pavers.

But the advocacy group’s leaders were told that the city’s code doesn’t allow gravel.

“Which wasn’t allowed under the code in 2011 either,” Shreffler said.

Nearby residents, including Jerry Angiuli of Bell Meadow Lane, told city councilors on Monday they favored safety improvements. Angiuli said the closest he’s ever come to injuring someone in 74 years of driving was recently on Rhodefer Road when it was full of vehicles and a child ran out into the street.

“You can’t have parking on North Rhodefer Road unless you get the Corps of Engineers to rescind their ridiculous wetland ruling and let us use the west side of that for parking,” Angiuli said. “Even with that, you’re going to need a lot more than that with the amount of people using it.”


Funding returned

Shreffler said Phase II of the project is done for now and they’ve returned $128,000 back to the Albert Haller Foundation. The advocacy group raised an additional $36,000 for the project.

“Bottom line, there’s $164,000 that we raised the city is walking away from,” he told the Gazette.

Proposals for widening the playfield’s entrance, relocating the Olympic Discovery Trail along Rhodefer Road to a safer alignment, posting warning signs, creating an emergency vehicle turnaround and paying for a topographic survey of extending the parking were denied by the city, Shreffler said, despite the advocates offering to pay for the projects.

“You would think the city would bend over backwards to expedite the process,” Smith told city councilors.

He said  the parking project is tying up a large amount of grant money, that could go to other worthy causes.

“Without a reasonable solution, the foundation will have to take a much more critical look at funding requests within the city in the future,” Smith said.

On Tuesday, he added that everyone is tired of the project delays.

“If something doesn’t happen in the next couple of months, then that’ll be the end of it I guess,” Smith said.

Shreffler told city councilors his group would not be held accountable if a child is hit by a vehicle in the parking lot or on the Olympic Discovery Trail crossing.

At the end of their meeting, city councilors agreed that they needed to work with the advocates and foundation on parking and restrooms.

On Tuesday, Mayor Candace Pratt said, “It’s important to come to a resolution. We love kids and soccer.”

Irvin said, “We are definitely interested in finding a solution of where better parking can go.”

“When we get into the Master Site Plan, we can achieve both purposes,” he said. “There’s enough existing parking that can be expanded at both Carrie Blake Park and by the Interpretive Center without paving an existing green space,” he said.

“From my perspective, this is a partnership we have to keep and I’m determined to work with them to improve parking and restroom facilities.”

This weekend, Sequim Family Advocates hosts the annual Dungeness Cup July 31-Aug. 2 at the Albert Haller Playfields. For more about Sequim Family Advocates, visit www.dungenesscup.com

Plans for a restroom and more parking at the Albert Haller Playfields have been shelved for now.

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