SEQUIM — After nearly a month of consideration, the Sequim City Council has opted to leave a residential 2-acre parcel as such rather than change it to a neighborhood commercial space.
City staff in 2019 are expected to review the site, as well as seven others, as potential commercial sites.
The acreage on the southeast corner of Sequim Avenue and Port Williams makes up part of a 38-acre property owned by the Booth family that sits across from Hardy’s Market, Rock Plaza and Peninsula Nursery.
The Booths sought a change from the city’s 2015 Comprehensive Plan to designate it from residential to commercial because developer John Johnson of the JWJ Group in Silverdale was interested in purchasing the entire parcel if he could have the 2-acre commercial portion by the roundabout, said Ron Gilles, listing broker for the property through Professional Real Estate.
It was previously zoned commercial before the change in the updated plan.
A 4-3 decision
Council members postponed a decision on the property at their Dec. 11 meeting last year and ultimately voted 4-3 on Jan. 8 — with Candace Pratt, Pam Leonard-Ray and Jennifer States opposed — denying the proposal to change the site from a residential to commercial area.
The majority of council members voted against the recommendation by Barry Berezowsky, Sequim’s community development manager, and the Planning Commission to approve the change to a neighborhood commercial site.
Berezowsky said an analysis authorized by the council last March for Eric Hovee of E.D. Hovee & Company, LLC to identify possible neighborhood commercial spots — particularly at major arterials and intersections — located eight spots that could be considered, including the Booths’ property.
Other possible neighborhood commercial spots identified include West Hendrickson Road, Washington Harbor Road, Keeler Road, Simdars Road and Solana Parkway, South Sequim Avenue by Miller and Brownfield Roads, Seventh Avenue and South River Road.
“[The Booths’ property is] the only location that has three adjacent corners already commercial and it was zoned commercial before 2015,” Berezowsky said. “It’s highly unlikely that it will be developed without some commercial component. Land is more attractive to residential developers this way.”
Some council members and nearby residents contested the need for more commercial development in the area including former Councilman Erik Erichsen.
“The people who live in that area are residential and don’t want any more commercial,” he said Jan. 8.
Former director of community development Chris Hugo said in 2016 he opposed changing the site to commercial for several reasons but the biggest was because demand wouldn’t be there for any new commercial businesses even if hundreds of new homes were built.
Mayor Dennis Smith expressed concern about the commercial designation too because Hovee’s report came from people who don’t live in the area while city staff worked years on the Comprehensive Plan.
“I understand the desire to sell that property … but I also know we have an obligation to the people who live here,” he said. “It took many, many years to address the Comprehensive Plan, which wasn’t addressed for 10-15 years.”
Gilles said Johnson had a vision of developing commercial and residential together.
“That’s the key there to being done right,” he said. “It’d be impossible to sell with residential homes on that corner until we run out of space for homes in Sequim, which is going to be a while.”
Council members and residents expressed reservations about the status of Rock Plaza’s vacancies, but Berezowsky said the “city doesn’t zone property based on whether or not businesses are doing great.
“We zone property because it makes sense from a land use perspective; from a planning perspective; from a neighborhood perspective,” he said.
Berezowsky added that the same logic would mean a development couldn’t go in next to an existing development with vacant lots because “it doesn’t mean the property is unsuccessful” but rather due to pricing or something else.
For now, Berezowsky said city staff will analyze all eight sites as a whole likely sometime in 2019 as potential neighborhood commercial zones.
By reviewing the eight identified sites, Councilman Ted Miller said the city “can treat all of the developers equally and not give favoritism to just one … I’d rather take the time and get it right.”
After the vote, Gilles and Thomas Booth, co-owner of the property, expressed their displeasure.
“They’re not listening to their own staff,” Giles said. “They’re penalizing [the Booths] for no reason.”
Booth said his family plans to keep their farm on the market.
For more information on the council’s decision, visit www.sequimwa.gov or call 360-683-4139.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.