Sequim mandates infrastructure before development

SEQUIM — In another long-discussed move toward managed growth, the Sequim City Council voted 6-1 Monday night to adopt its first concurrency ordinance.

Simply put, concurrency means “you can’t build it, at all, period, if we don’t have sufficient infrastructure to serve it,” City Attorney Craig Ritchie explained during the council’s meeting Monday.

“It” is a development, such as a subdivision or a shopping center like the many that sprang up over the past decade here.

Infrastructure, that oft-used urban planning word, includes things like water pipes, sewer and storm water drainage systems and decent roads.

For decades, Ritchie said, Sequim permitted projects and assumed there was practically unlimited water and sewage capacity.

And “in the good old days there was always enough water, because we just drew more out of the river or out of a well,” the attorney noted in his report.

“There was always more sewage capacity because we just dumped it into the Strait [of Juan de Fuca],” he added.

“Transportation infrastructure seemed not to be a problem, until cities started noticing rush hours and congestion.”

Today, however, the state Growth Management Act requires concurrency, at least with streets and traffic control.

Sequim’s new ordinance takes that several steps further, covering water, wastewater, reuse water, storm water drainage and parks and recreation as well as the transportation system.

So before the city approves a new development, it must ensure that all of those infrastructure elements will be in place and upgraded to serve the population, Ritchie said.

Council member Bill Huizinga was the lone dissenter in Monday’s vote, saying that before adopting the ordinance, Sequim should establish standards of service, especially for parks and open space.

“We’re way ahead of ourselves,” Huizinga said.

“We need to have a long and serious discussion,” about how much parkland the city should provide for its residents.

City Manager Steve Burkett responded that Sequim has plentiful open space now, but has yet to adopt a master plan for its parks.

“The council could defer action,” Burkett said, until after that plan — and others for stormwater and related utilities — are finalized.

But member Ted Miller called for adoption of the ordinance now.

“If we wait, it could take years,” before the council approves all those plans, he said.

With a concurrency ordinance in place already, Miller added, the city can start defining standards for open space and other infrastructure.

And when those are established, the ordinance makes them instantly enforceable, he said.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at diane.urbani@peninsuladaily news.com.

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