A church congregational vote for a land lease to allow an eight-room family shelter west of Dungeness Valley Lutheran Church is on hold because of meeting restrictions due to the coronavirus. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

A church congregational vote for a land lease to allow an eight-room family shelter west of Dungeness Valley Lutheran Church is on hold because of meeting restrictions due to the coronavirus. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Family shelter on hold due to COVID-19 in Sequim

Land lease vote postponed until after meeting regulations lifted

SEQUIM — An effort to help in-need families is on hold in Sequim until group gathering restrictions are lifted due to the novel coronavirus.

Members of Dungeness Valley Lutheran Church were set to vote March 15 on a land lease agreement with Dungeness Homes, a church subsidiary that operates an affordable housing development west of the church on its property at 925 N. Sequim Ave.

“Since the lease is the cornerstone of the project we cannot proceed until that issue is resolved,” Dungeness Homes Chairman Jerry Enzenauer wrote in an email.

The plan remains to provide eight temporary homes in four duplexes for families with children in the Sequim School District.

Enzenauer said recent numbers show there are about 25 families in the Sequim School District without homes, and that the family shelter “could make a significant impact on that group.”

He said in a phone interview that “they felt everything was ready to go” prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

The church’s constitution requires 15 percent of its roughly 200 members to be present for a quorum with a simple majority to pass, Enzenauer said.

However, the church doesn’t have a provision in its constitution for a mail vote.

Previously, about 90 percent of the church’s membership agreed to support the first shelter concept of a 10-room building. The plan, however, was later shelved.

The newest plan includes two- and three-bedroom apartments of about 700 square feet each, located on 1 acre of the southwest portion of the church’s property.

If church members approve the land lease agreement in the coming month or months, Enzenauer said, Dungeness Homes has a three-year window to raise $2 million for design and construction costs.

He said they felt positive about receiving a grant from the state’s Housing Trust Fund and support from local foundations and private contributors.

“I was optimistic about raising the money, but that was three months ago,” Enzenauer said.

The church also had a two-year commitment of $150,000 from a private source that may also be up in the air due to uncertainty with the COVID-19 pandemic.

One positive aspect, Enzenauer said, is that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America — to which Dungeness Valley Lutheran Church belongs — is starting an initiative similar to Sequim’s efforts to establish affordable housing on church properties.

If approved by the congregation, Enzenauer said, church leaders would pursue financial support while following a parallel path of going through the City of Sequim’s permitting process.

They’d also begin the process again of reminding the community about the project.

To contact Dungeness Valley Lutheran Church, call 360-681-0946. Read the executive report at dungenesshomes.org.

________

Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Sequim Gazette. Reach him at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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