Stormwater, Sequim UGA top list of planning recommendations

by Leif Nesheim
Sequim Gazette Staff Writer

July 14, 2004

Clallam County, WA - An ordinance to deal with stormwater runoff from new construction topped the list of recommendations voiced by the county planning commission July 7 to county commissioners.

The recommendations were part of the state-mandated update of the county’s comprehensive plan. The commission also made several other suggestions on issues of local and regional importance. Among these were: to remove the Palo Verde Loop neighborhood from Sequim’s urban growth area; create a program to purchase development rights to preserve farmland; adopt as many of the recommendations of the Carlsborg advisory committee as the county can afford; and study the annexation and water issues related to the neighborhoods east of Port Angeles.

According to state law, the county must review-and update if needed-the comprehensive plan by Dec. 1, 2004, to make sure it complies with the state Growth Management Act.

Stormwater Ordinance

The members of the planning commission reiterated their support for the proposed stormwater ordinance, which has languished in a legislative no-man’s-land in the year since they first supported its adoption.

“Maybe we can get this put back on the front burner,” planning commission chairman Bob Vail said.

County commissioner Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness, said there were several reasons why little or no progress had been made on the ordinance: there aren’t enough county planners to do the work needed to address the concerns voiced by the county permit advisory committee; the ordinance got caught up in the campaign debate last fall for the first elected department of community development director; and commissioners are reluctant to pass an ordinance that doesn’t pass the muster of DCD director Rob Robertsen.

“This is a new world we live in with a new elected DCD director,” Tharinger said.

Robertsen said he would need additional money to pay for staff to enforce a new law, which is money the county doesn’t have, Tharinger said.

To pass the ordinance as-is results in an unfounded mandate and wouldn’t lead to effective stormwater control, he said.

Robertsen says he sees the importance of having a workable stormwater ordinance on the books to help control run-off and pollution. However, he lacks the personnel to do it, he said.

He said he is working on tinkering with the proposed ordinance to craft something that the county can afford to enforce that will still meet the needs of the environment. He suggested having the county public works department-which has engineers and expertise-administer and enforce the portions of the ordinance that deal with commercial projects, subdivisions and critical areas where engineered stormwater plans would be required.

Robertsen’s department would handle the stormwater plans for single-family homes and smaller building projects under this scenario.

“We don’t have the budget to do this (either) but by shifting personnel (we could do it),” Robertsen said.

Robertsen and commissioners said that the update of the comprehensive plan takes precedence over new legislation and is the top planning priority for the next several months.

“My concern is that if some interest isn’t displayed in moving it forward, it won’t,” planning commission member Ben Cappa said.

He suggested moving forward with the public hearing process and gathering the needed information in that forum “rather than just sit dead in the water as it has for the past year.”

Tharinger promised that progress on the ordinance was being made, just slowly and behind the scenes.

Sequim urban growth area concerns

Planning commissioners considered three separate Sequim urban growth area requests on their individual merits.

Residents of two neighborhoods petitioned the planning commission to be removed from Sequim’s urban growth area, areas bordering the city for possible further expansion but still under county jurisdiction.

Eighty-five residents, representing 58 of 75 parcels in an 116-acre neighborhood around Palo Verde Loop on the city’s west end asked to be removed from the UGA.

The petitioners, led by resident Judy Larson. claimed the city ignored their input when considering plans for adjacent development of Wal-Mart, Sequim Village Marketplace and a nearby residential development.

“The area is pretty well built-out already and doesn’t look like future high density,” planning commissioner Bob Lynette said.

The planning commission unanimously recommended removing the neighborhood from the UGA

On the other hand, they said more study needed to be done before they could recommend the removal of 119 acres between Evans Road and Sequim-Dungeness Way from the northern Sequim UGA.

Although 148 people signed a petition asking for the removal, the area is already characterized by residential lot sizes less than half an acre and multi-family residences, and several large vacant lots are zoned at urban densities, meaning the zoning would have to be changed were the area to be removed from the UGA. according to a summary submitted by planning commission members.

“We need more data on how much Sequim UGA is needed,” Lynette said.

Likewise, more information on how much land Sequim needs in its UGA should be obtained before the county decides what to do with a landowner’s request to include a 14.25-acre parcel into the city’s UGA, the summary stated.



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