Community development director urges small house lot sizes to limit Sequim growth
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Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News
Community Development Director Chris Hugo speaks to the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday at the SunLand Golf & Country Club.

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– Housing lots need to shrink in Sequim to prevent the city from “continuing to consume the [Dungeness] Valley,” Chris Hugo, the city's community development director, said Tuesday.

“The more compactly we develop, the more sustainable and affordable the city is going to be,” he told a crowd of some 75 people at the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce's regular luncheon meeting at SunLand Golf & Country Club.

For the past two years, Hugo has been updating the city's comprehensive plan, a document that guides lawmakers as they shape the city's future.

The plan rewrite was intended to stop what Hugo called “haphazard zoning” that had been created throughout the city.

“I couldn't figure out what the plan was,” he said.

Using the 2 percent average growth rate at which the city has developed for the past 50 years to project future growth, Hugo estimated that an additional 3,000 people will live in Sequim in 2044.

“Every big place at some time was a small place,” he said. “The time to start building a good place is right now.”

Hugo polled chamber members at the luncheon to get their responses to 28 slides picturing different neighborhood and housing designs.

Earlier this winter, Hugo gave the same presentation at open houses to which he invited the public.

Only about 40 people attended those sessions over the four days he held them, he said.

“So we're talking out here where we've got you already corralled and captive,” he joked.

He has more presentations scheduled for private homes in the near future.

Porches and alleyways

The slide-show pictures were chosen to depict suggestions made by citizens early in the rewrite process, he said. People earlier wanted Sequim to be a friendly, small town that is easily walked through.

Hugo's pictures included single-family and multi-family houses along tree-lined streets. Many at the luncheon meeting noticed a lack of obvious parking or yards on the smaller-lot developments.

“Where do you play?” said Michael Smith, executive director of the Shipley Senior Center. “None of these places have yards.”

Hugo said the city should reduce its lots to encourage more affordable, compact development to strengthen the community in neighborhoods.

Smaller lots would mean smaller yards, but the city could build more parks in neighborhoods to make up for that, he said. He noted that his hometown of Spokane set a park on every square mile in the city limit.

What can the city do?

Farmers market manager Lisa Bridge and artist Renne Brock-Richmond asked how much authority the city had to make developments look like those depicted in Hugo's slides.

“Can we start planting trees right away?” Brock-Richmond asked.

Goals laid out in the comprehensive plan can be used to make standards part of the city's ordinances, Hugo said.

“We express our future in our plans, but we get our future from the codes,” he said.

He hopes to have the comprehensive plan ready for consideration by the City Council this fall, he said.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 28. 2014 7:37PM
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