Sequim updates nuisance codes with hopes of quicker compliance

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SEQUIM — Sequim city officials plan to handle nuisance issues differently after years of complaints.

The City Council on Monday approved an ordinance 6-1, with Councilman Bob Lake opposed, that updates the city’s municipal code with harsher penalties to seek quicker compliance.

Monday was the first time City Council members discussed the ordinance, and Lake said he wanted to bring it back one more time so the public could have more time to comment on it.

No residents spoke on the issue at the public hearing.

Repeat offenders

City Attorney Craig Ritchie said the current system works but staff members have experienced ongoing issues with repeat offenders.

“We’re finding more and more nuisances are not being fixed after gentle persuasion and encouragement,” he said.

Nuisances range from lingering vehicles parked incorrectly to piles of food and garbage drawing rats, he said.

The updated ordinance offers levels of enforcement, one such level being a voluntary abatement contract between the resident and the city.

If a resident is unresponsive, city staff could issue a notice and an order to abate, which could be $250 on the first day of the violation and up to $1,000 or 90 days in jail, or both, for the duration of noncompliance.

A resident who has been found in violation of the code can seek a review by the director of community development.

Previously, the city would seek compliance and connect a resident with a business or agency to work on an issue, Ritchie said.

Repeat offenders were issued a $100 administrative fee to recoup the city’s costs or sent through the courts, facing a maximum penalty of $1,000 or up to one year in jail.

With the new $250-per-day penalty, Ritchie said, most people want to avoid that amount even before one day.

City Manager Charlie Bush said the city continues its code enforcement based on complaints, but if there is a safety issue, then it is more proactive.

“This [ordinance] will make us more effective with our actions,” he said.

“We haven’t seen compliance with a small percentage and often deal with the same residents over and over.”

Ritchie said Sequim’s updated ordinance is essentially the same as the city of Port Angeles’ code.

County planning

Starting in 2017, the city of Sequim will join Forks, Port Angeles and Clallam County in reforming the Growth Management Steering Committee to update the Countywide Planning Policy from 1992.

Chris Hugo, Sequim’s director of community development, said he, City Council members and staff have been advocating for the committee to be reformed since he started in 2011.

Former Mayor Candace Pratt sent a letter to Clallam County commissioners in 2014 urging the committee to reform.

Hugo said he felt the county and other cities were “missing an opportunity to stay current of the changing needs of the region.”

“We’ve already identified changes we’d make for housekeeping and/or to keep things current,” Hugo said.

“We’ll start with that. The good part is that when we get policies current, we’ll have a regional group with periodic discussions about the region’s future dealing with water, climate change and things like that.”

Council members Pratt and Ted Miller will represent the city on the committee.

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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 [email protected]

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