Sequim aims for more multi-family home options in zoning

SEQUIM — By the end of the year, Sequim officials anticipate updating city zoning to allow for more multi-family housing, such as duplexes, in the city to help alleviate some of the housing crunch.

That could happen by October or November, city staff estimate.

However, some housing advocates continue to hope for a quicker turnaround, such as Habitat for Humanity of Clallam County, which has a 40-home development project in the city sitting in limbo until the changes are made.

To craft and align policies, a series of meetings and discussions are planned in the coming months with the city’s Planning Commission and City Council.

The move for expanded housing options comes after city councilors unanimously agreed to amend the city’s Comprehensive Plan on March 28.

It would allow for more housing types in specified Low Density Residential and Community Mixed Use zones.

Earlier this month, Steve Lachnicht, Sequim’s new community development director, wrote in a report to the council that city staff need to amend land development regulations in the municipal code to align with the amended Comprehensive Plan policy so that building applications are consistent with design standards.

Lachnicht said his hope was to have a brief discussion with council members about the review process and new regulations before starting a series of review meetings.

Those tentatively include:

• July 19, Planning Commission’s first reading of draft Sequim Municipal Code amendments.

• August, Planning Commission public hearing, recommendation.

• September, City Council first reading.

• September or October, City Council second reading.

• October or November, City Council public hearing, possible adoption.

He said the public can comment throughout the review process.

“It’s as fast as the city, with the various required meetings and approvals, could reasonably expect,” Lachnicht said in an interview. “If we keep pushing forward and there are no delays, it could be October instead of November.”

City Manager Matt Huish said at the June 13 city council meeting that people are aware of the Comprehensive Plan amendment but not about how long it takes and how they implement it.

City Councilor Kathy Downer said at the same meeting, that “some of us on the Planning Commission before council have been waiting for this moment for a while.”

Construction possibility

For months, Colleen Robinson, CEO for Habitat for Humanity of Clallam County, has urged the council to speed the changes to the city code for multi-family housing options.

Due to the city’s current zoning for multi-family homes, Habitat for Humanity’s proposed 40 affordable homes (10 fourplex, townhome units) on more than 4 acres in city limits, were denied, she said.

In March, Habitat received an unrestricted $1 million from McKenzie Scott and it has secured another $500,000 for the project, Robinson said.

If the zoning changes are implemented by November, she said Habitat could reapply and tentatively see a project approval by January 2023, when weather is less than ideal for construction.

The project is estimated at about $3.2 million for construction and about 18-24 months before building begins, she said.

Robinson said she understands the due process, but she hopes for more of a sense of “urgency to the critical housing need in our community.”

For more information about scheduled city meetings, visit https://sequimwa.gov/214/Boards-Commissions-Committees.

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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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