A $50,000 grant from the state’s Department of Commerce Community Economic Revitalization Board will help the city of Sequim pay for consultants to identify the best development opportunities for 52 acres north of U.S. Highway 101 and east of North Sequim Avenue. (City of Sequim)

A $50,000 grant from the state’s Department of Commerce Community Economic Revitalization Board will help the city of Sequim pay for consultants to identify the best development opportunities for 52 acres north of U.S. Highway 101 and east of North Sequim Avenue. (City of Sequim)

Grant to help Sequim plan property by U.S. Highway 101 for development

By Matthew Nash

Olympic Peninsula News Group

SEQUIM — Sequim has received a $50,000 grant for consultants to review best-use development options for property formerly linked to Fred Meyer by U.S. Highway 101.

Sequim City Manager Charlie Bush said city officials learned May 18 that the city has received a grant from the state’s Department of Commerce Community Economic Revitalization Board for the development of a sub-area plan for the Bell Creek Economic Opportunity Area, formerly known as the Burrowes property.

City staff said funds pay for a planning consultant to provide information on the best fit for the 52-acre property with a site analysis, market analysis and direction for future development.

The Sequim City Council committed to $5,000 in February with former property owner Fred McConkey committing $12,000 as part of a matching grant.

McConkey sold the property about a month ago to Bell Hill resident William “Bill” Holt.

The 52 acres originally were part of a 77-acre property east of North Sequim Avenue that failed to sell at auction in November 2016.

Former co-owner Mark Burrowes, a broker with John L. Scott, and McConkey, a developer, exchanged ownership of the property, with McConkey taking on three parcels.

The property had been in Burrowes’ family since the 1920s, and Fred Meyer often was reported as an anchor tenant for the proposed property in recent years, but the capital committee for Kroger, Fred Meyer and QFC’s parent company, didn’t approve the project in 2004 because they didn’t want the two competing in Sequim.

Holt, a 73-year-old retired electronic engineer, founded Holt IC in Mission Viejo, Calif., in 1976 and moved to Sequim in 2003 with his wife.

He officially retired from his company in 2013, which continues to employ about 80 people, making integrated circuit components for aviation electronics applications, he said.

“The city realizes there’s a need for what they call higher-income jobs in this area,” Holt said. “What that translates to me is high-tech — software, hardware.”

His hope for the Sequim property is to create “a campus of low-profile attractive hi-tech buildings in a park-like setting,” he said.

Other tenants could be educational and/or professional offices, but “hopefully the [commerce grant] study will find that this option will work along with other interesting possibilities,” Holt said.

He’s also hoping the property fits his new business, Sequim Tek, which he said focuses on developing, assembling and selling USB-connected benchtop development tools for electronic engineers and technicians.

Holt doesn’t plan to hire, though, until he tests his first product and the market later this year, he said.

Before the November auction last year, the 77-acre property was last listed at $3.5 million and then at $1,860,000.

Holt said his 55-acre portion was last appraised at around $1 million and he bought it for $600,000.

When the property went to auction, Holt said he didn’t consider it because of the asking price.

“I didn’t dream I could buy it for what I bought it for,” Holt said.

Holt and city staff plan to work with Ed Hovee &Co. and BergerABAM of Vancouver, Wash., to conduct the study to pinpoint challenges and possible solutions for the area’s issues such as handling wetlands on the property’s south edge and Bell Creek and finding access to utilities and transportation.

City staff said they look to protect sensitive areas such as the native Garry oak grove through the planning, too.

A draft of the plan is expected by November, with a final draft in January, Holt said.

Holt’s property is part of an economic opportunity area, formerly known as a mixed-use zone, which the city’s comprehensive plan states is “comprised of large, underdeveloped lands with access to U.S. Highway 101 and other infrastructure as venues to expand and diversify the city’s economic base and increase living-wage employment opportunities.”

The city has two proposed economic opportunity areas through the comprehensive plan, with the first at Holt’s property and a second east of North River Road comprising about 85 acres.

“I’d like to see the result of what happens to the property benefit everybody,” Holt said, “not just myself.”

________

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

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