By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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But the new height cannot be part of the building structures themselves, the City Council decided in a 5-1 vote this week.
Under the new ordinance, a small terrace roof, elevator towers, heating and air-conditioning systems, and solar- or wind-powered equipment that exceed the city's commercial building height code of 35 feet will be allowed.
The rooftop terrace covering may be no more than 256 square feet in area or 12 feet tall, and cover no more than 5 percent of the roof area.
Other rooftop equipment must be set back from the edge of the building to reduce its appearance from the street or other buildings, according to the new ordinance.
Councilman Erik Erichsen voted against the ordinance, citing concerns that the addition to the city building code will provide a backdoor for taller construction in the future.
“I do believe we're allowing the proverbial camel to get his nose under the tent,” Erichsen said.
“Pretty soon, we're going to have the same canyons as cities on the Kitsap Peninsula. I urge a vote against this. We need to remain a small town, not with a skyline as high as the mountains,” he said.
Other council members said they shared Erichsen's concerns but felt confident that the newly allowed exceptions would not be widely adopted because not all rooftop designs are conducive to such uses.
“I have mixed feelings,” Mayor Ken Hays said.
“Sequim is a low-rise community,” he said, but he added that he believes there should be some exceptions to the height limit, especially in the downtown business area.
Others were more enthusiastic about the change.
“The use of the rooftops is a great idea,” said Councilwoman Candace Pratt.
Councilman Ted Miller said he was happy to see the green-energy exceptions added to the ordinance.
The ordinance was proposed by the city Planning Commission because of the expiration of a temporary height variance issued to Holiday Inn Express, 1441 E. Washington St.
That hotel was built with a rooftop terrace that included a shelter roof — an architectural tie-in with other portions of the building's design.
Council members said they were concerned about what might happen with the building's existing structure if the council voted against the terrace roof portion of the ordinance.
The owners of the building would be required to remove it and might appeal the decision, City Attorney Craig Ritchie said.
The Planning Commission initially granted the three-year variance in 2009, but no plans were made as to what would happen to the rooftop terrace cover after the variance expired.
“So at best, it's a gray area,” Councilman Ted Miller said.
The council also appointed Marc Connelly, a former Port Angeles parks and recreation director, to an empty seat on the Planning Commission, with a term expiring in January 2016.
Current commission members Olaf Protze, Sita Thompson and Barbara Sanford were reappointed to their positions for terms expiring in January 2017.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.