Sequim tables one big subdivision, OKs another

SEQUIM — Neighbors — and others farther away — call Sorrento inappropriate, even “appalling,” as David Brown put it.

The development, which proposes 229 dwellings where the Booth dairy farm once was, is part of a trend that’s “messing Sequim up,” said Joy Erichsen.

After a long, angst-filled public hearing Monday night, the Sequim City Council tabled the project, planning to take it up again Oct. 23.

The council members noted, however, that Sorrento meets the city’s zoning requirements and complies with the state Growth Management Act.

Cheryl Browder of Apex Engineering, who represents Sorrento developer Origen Corp. of Des Moines, Wash., also showed the council how the subdivision’s street configurations have been adjusted to better accommodate emergency vehicles.

Density an issue

The 38-acre Sorrento site, at the corner of Sequim-Dungeness Way and Port Williams Road, lies in a zone where 14 dwelling units per acre are allowed. The proposal, however, calls for only 6.3 units per acre.

They’re Mediterranean-style “villas’ and “casitas’ — single-family homes, duplexes and four-plexes — that would be built closer together than most Sequim homes.

That density is one of the things that upset those who came to the podium Monday night.

They didn’t care that 10.4 percent of the development would be open space with gazebos and meandering paths.

This kind of subdivision, said Sue Mendenhall of Sequim, “has created crowded conditions,” in cities.

No way is Sorrento compatible with this town, she said.

The Planning Commission heard on Sept. 5 from many of Sorrento’s would-be neighbors, who said the densely packed houses would bring down their property values, generate intolerable traffic and diminish their quality of life.

The Planning Commission declined to recommend the development for City Council approval.

Several of the neighbors returned to address the council Monday.

Jon Eaton was among those who objected.

“I’ve got a beautiful home,” next to the site, he said. “I’ve been here since ’60. I’m in construction.”

But Sorrento “is a little out of character. I’m concerned about the bulldozers. They’re going to come right through . . .”

“I hate to see something like this being built,” added Erichsen.

People move here to escape urban development, she said.

“We want fresh air . . . and open spaces.”

Fresh-air seekers from cities are swelling Sequim’s population.

“We can’t change the fact that people keep moving here because it’s a nice small town,” said Councilman Paul McHugh.

Resistance to Sorrento smacks of the “not in my backyard” reaction that greeted high-density housing in California, added Councilman Bill Huizinga.

“I’ve been reading up on this,” he said, citing an unnamed article about “suburban homeowners’ who “exerted considerable pressure on local legislators.”

When they succeeded in averting construction of dense developments, they kept the housing supply down and prices up, he said.

The City Council voted last month for municipal code changes that allow considerably higher density than Sorrento would have, Huizinga noted.

“I didn’t see anybody here,” protesting those changes, he said.

New affordable housing

Earlier in Monday’s meeting, the council approved another kind of subdivision: Hendrickson Heritage Park, a 66-unit manufactured home community on West Hendrickson Road.

In doing so, the council members made some people happy.

“This is affordable housing,” said John Vostrez, who said park residents will enjoy pedestrian access to nearby services and shopping.

“My wife and I plan to leave our car in the garage.”

Vostrez, a retired traffic engineer, may help control the congestion that worries city planners.

The planners are considering a traffic signal at Fifth Avenue and Hendrickson to regulate users of the nearby Olympic Medical Center campus, several medical offices and clinics and other residential construction.

Their developers will eventually have to share the cost of the traffic light.

Heritage Park developer Mel Hendrickson is the only one who must pay his share now. He’ll hand over to the city $34,400 to defray the signal’s $266,093 cost.

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