By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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The City Council and city Planning Commission met together Monday night to kick off a review of the urban growth areas around Sequim, those neighborhoods that could be considered for eventual annexation.
Chris Hugo, director of the city’s community development program, told those officials the city needs to update its growth projections because it has not done so since 1992.
“Where are we going to end up in 20 years?” Hugo asked.
Under the state’s Growth Management Act, Clallam County has to update its official urban growth areas by 2016, so Hugo urged city officials to chart out their plans.
“Other counties visit them, like, every five to seven years to try to keep up with changing demographics,” Hugo said.
“I’ve been meeting with my counterparts to try and get this to register over the past year.”
Much of the valley outside of Sequim has been developed through Clallam County more sparsely, with two homes per acre instead of the city’s standard three per acre.
‘World of planning’
“The world of planning would characterize lots of a half-acre up to 2 acres as suburbs,” Hugo said.
“This is the lot size, the ‘parcelization,’ that back in the ’80s led to the Growth Management Act.”
Final decisions are made by the county, though Hugo said the city determines where it wants future growth areas to be.
“Sequim is central to the east side of Clallam County, as all of us that live outside the city are dependent on the city,” County Commissioner Jim McEntire said.
Hugo showed the urban growth areas on a map that marked several areas surrounding city limits in yellow, though he did not know just how much acreage they accounted for.
“Are there some of those yellow areas that we want to take out of the urban growth areas?” City Manager Steve Burkett asked. “What if we decide we don’t want them in the UGA?”
Hugo and City Attorney Craig Ritchie noted that existing areas could be dropped off if the city wants to annex areas such as SunLand and Bell Hill that already are developed but are not in the urban growth area.
“It’s a bit like trading stock,” Ritchie said.
Hugo figured the city would grow at an average annual rate of 2 percent over the next 20 years.
He also figured an annual average of 4 percent of land designated as urban growth areas will be annexed into the city over the next 20 years.
That would increase the city’s population from just under 7,000 people now to 20,000 by 2033.
“At some point, the city is going to push out of those boundaries,” Hugo said.
Fill in city first?
Many on the council and the Planning Commission asked why the city needs to grow outside its boundaries.
“How do you account for the in-filling within the city that hasn’t happened yet?” Planning Commissioner Terry Peterson asked.
Councilman Ted Miller also spoke of undeveloped land within the city that he said should take the focus first.
“We’ve been getting zero percent growth,” he said.
Burkett estimated that the city has 100 years’ worth of vacant lots available within the current city limit.
Hugo estimated a half-mile of open land is in the city zoned for commercial or mixed use — the only zoning tag that allows industrial development, as the city code does not currently provide for industrial zones.
“If the people in those areas don’t want in?” Councilman Erik Erichsen asked. “If they don’t want to be a yellow spot, then all bets are off.”
Hugo noted that residents of the Palo Verde neighborhood northwest of the city petitioned to be taken out of the city’s urban growth area in 2009.
“I didn’t think that was the right decision,” Mayor Ken Hays said.
Residents of the Sun Meadows neighborhood east of Sequim also are off the growth list, though 95 percent of the development is encircled either by the city or by current growth areas, Hugo said.
“That area is an anomaly,” Hugo said. “It’s a place that’s ripe to be considered for an urban growth area. The problem is, we don’t have enough land.”
A big factor in designating land as part of the city’s future is whether or not the city can affordably provide those residents city services.
“We have adequate water, but we’re right at the fringe with the current projections,” said Paul Haines, public works director, though he noted that may not be if the city grows at more than 2 percent a year.
If annexation of those areas is too expensive for the city, it does not have to take them in, he said.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.