Motel in Sheep’s Clothing
Opinion by Kathryn Grosz
A wolf has arrived in Sequim Bay and is trying to slide a business-sized building into a residential neighborhood. The controversy began when a corporation, represented by Judy Lee of Los Angeles, applied to build a 32,000 sf structure at 695 East Sequim Bay Road, claiming it is a bed and breakfast inn (B&B). Zoning is R2 Rural Moderate. This structure will be 15 times the average size house in the neighborhood. A second structure, the same size, is shown on ancillary plans.
Lee is threatening to sue the county if Mary Ellen Winborn, Director of Community Development for the county, does not issue a permit.
County commissioners, the county prosecutor’s office, and the Risk Pool (the county’s insurer) are now involved. Winborn has received angry phone calls from neighbors. The neighbors may sue if a permit is issued, especially if their property values are compromised?
There are no size limits for single-family residences or B&Bs. Code changes for size might only apply to future structures. The current code requirements for residential appearance and limited overnight accommodations fly in the face of this project? Winborn states she wants to do the right thing and does not believe the structure meets the current code requirements.
Current Code Requirements
Clallam County Code 33.03.010 says: “(13) “Bed and breakfast inns” means a single-family dwelling on property occupied by the owner or manager which is constructed or converted partially or entirely into an overnight, short-term boarding house which does not detract from the residential appearance of the structure, and has five (5) or fewer rooms for overnight accommodations.”
This structure does not appear to meet these requirements.
Detracts From Residential Appearance
I viewed the plans at DCD. Residential appearance is about shape, style, material, size, use and what is typical for the character of that neighborhood.
Size does matter for the “does not detract from the residential appearance” requirement when the size is so outrageously out-of-character for the neighborhood. This is a 32,000 sf, 4-story building: 3 stories above ground, one below. Every floor of the proposed structure is 8,000 sf. For reference, 8,000 sf equals 20 garages (20’x20’). For reference, Sequim’s Quality Inn is 29,787 sf.
It defies logic and common sense to think this structure meets the “does not detract from the residential appearance” requirement. How can it? The average size of 30 neighboring houses is 2,050 sf. This structure is 15 times that average house size. This is not a neighborhood of gigantic mansions. A mansion 15 times the average house size simply does not have the residential appearance of this specific neighborhood.
Shape, Style, Material
A steel and glass building that looks like an office building/motel simply does meet the “does not detract from the residential appearance” requirement, especially considering this neighborhood of northwest style homes.
The blueprint of the building’s front has the appearance of either a motel or an office building. It is all glass. There are seven doors on the front: two sliding glass doors on the ground, 2nd, and 3rd levels, which open unto balconies or patios, plus the front doors. This makes the structure look like a motel. Are there any neighboring houses have seven exterior doors on the front?
Surely the intent of the “does not detract from the residential appearance” requirement is to ensure that B&Bs fit flawlessly into the neighborhood, match the style and character of the other homes in the neighborhood, and do not stick out like sore thumbs. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure this out.
5 or Fewer Rooms
Does this structure have 5 or fewer rooms for overnight accommodation? This is what I saw: The guest level has five suites: four two-room suites with full baths, plus one three-room suite with full bath. This totals 11 rooms labeled for guests. The code says “five (5) or fewer rooms for overnight accommodations”, not 5 or fewer suites each with multiple rooms that can be slept in.
The third floor family sleeping rooms are laid out the same as the guest floor: 5 suites totaling 11 rooms.
The cost to build a concrete, steel, and glass building is $400 to $500 per square foot. This building will cost $12.8 million to $16 million.
Why would anyone want or need to take in boarders if they can afford to build two, or even one, $12.8-$16 million building? As a B&B, the project does not make sense.
What B&B has two huge exercise rooms, two huge studies, two huge massage rooms, and a huge business center? What is the real intended use?
Is this a B&B in name only because B&Bs, not motels, etc., are allowed in R2 zoning? If this building is used for something other than a simple B&B, the county will end up spending tax dollars on code enforcement when neighbors complain.
Will the septic derail this project? Two lots were purchased. There is not enough room on one. The driveway, septic drain field, and leach lines are on the adjacent lot. The maximum size septic that fits is for eight rooms, meaning 16 people. This building has ten suites (22 rooms) labeled for sleeping (20 to 44 people). How can the septic accommodate that? Will sewage leak into Sequim Bay, contaminating shellfish beds? The house for sale at 871 E Sequim Bay Rd says it has deeded access to a 300’ beach for clamming.
The gigantic 3,624 sf entry/living room on the ground level looks like a lecture hall, exhibit hall, wedding venue, or conference site. Are huge events planned? For reference, a 2,300-square-foot hall could seat up to 150 people for a dinner party, or 200 people standing up at a cocktail event. Will the septic be overwhelmed?
This Is Important
Zoning is a promise, a guarantee to property owners, businesses, and citizens. It should not be perverted. This corporation should purchase land that is properly zoned.
This issue is important to everyone. We want the character of our cozy neighborhoods to remain intact. We do not want business income to be eroded by blight. We do not want hotels, slaughterhouses, smelly noisy feedlots, or wrecking yards in residential zones. Zoning is supposed to protect us from these blights to our cozy homes or businesses.
It is your tax dollars. Is it the Lange case all over again? The county permitted illegal structures resulting in twenty years’ ligation and ending with a half-million dollar settlement paid by taxpayers.
Faith in local government erodes when people believe government does the wrong thing and fails to protect them.
If you do not speak up for your neighbors, then who will speak up for you?
The commissioners’ e-mails addresses are: Mark Ozias, email@example.com; Mike Chapman, firstname.lastname@example.org; Bill Peach, email@example.com The DCD Director, Mary Ellen Winborn’s is: firstname.lastname@example.org