The City of Chelan Planning Commission held a public forum on May 17, 2017, to hear testimony from the community. The testimony centered on the Comprehensive Plan Update which has been in the works since November 2016.
“This is the final draft. Tonight is just to hear public testimony, we are not going to go back into the proposal phase itself,” City Planner Craig Gildroy stated.
The city hired Berk Consulting of Seattle, Washington to handle the project. The Growth Management Act (GMA) requires the City to review and update, as necessary, the Comprehensive Plan for GMA Compliance.
“It’s highly important,” Gilderoy said of gathering public input. “This is a community comprehensive plan and it couldn’t happen without the public. Of course, we have to meet GMA compliance. Things like lower density on the Butte; we have to make sure that’s in compliance under the Growth Management Act. We want to retain more open space and move the urban space down.”
Community members have taken part in workshops to address potential land use changes to allow the increase of workforce housing, and proposed amendments to city code. The final workshop took place in early May allowing a period for public comment, the planning commission presentation, and the proposal to the City Council Members.
The public meeting was standing room only with City Council Chambers filled with both residents who had taken part in the workshops as well as those new to the issue.
Lisa Grueter from Berk Consulting opened the meeting with a brief recap of the project before inviting community members to make their testimony.
John Olson spoke first with help from Steve Klein. Olson proposed two issues. “Currently the plan does not address future growth. It is conceivable that the summer population who would use services in some way, is approaching 75,000.”
The Comprehensive Plan works off a number of 25,000. The second issue Olson addressed was a lack of water access such as a new lakeside park. Olson stated that a solution lies in purchasing the land known as the three-fingers which is owned by Goodfellow Bros., Inc.
Lars Clausen added his comments, “I would like to see the next generation of kids have more water access than we did.” Clausen offered Coeur d’Alene as an example for how residents, businesses and tourists can enjoy a city together.
Michael Gibbs, who is on the board for Chelan Valley Hope, a non-profit which provides assistance to those who have been displaced for either financial or situational reasons, pleaded with the Planning Commission to look beyond the paperwork.
“I hope that we go beyond just words in our municipal codes and comprehensive plans and look at true affordable housing,” Gibbs said. “It is a great need for the people who serve our meals in the restaurants and work in the orchards. We aren’t just talking about migrant workers.”
Gibbs is also part of the committee advisory board for Chelan County PUD. “I am glad to see that addressed in the plan is the need for our new wiring to go underground. It relates to the aesthetic of our community.”
Clint Campbell spoke on the merits of the No-See-Um Orchard rezone proposed in the update. “We believe it is in sync with good planning,” Campbell said. “It is also an opportunity to get out in front of the tourist accommodation issue. We believe the TA zoning should be connected to existing TA. It should be city centric, adjacent to downtown and have ready access to utilities.”
Campbell also added that TA zoning should support the downtown region.
Jon Eberle of Development Partners of Wenatchee spoke in support of the rezoning of the industrial zoned area north of Apple Acres. Eberle made the point that as a broker he has sold industrial property for under $4 per square foot in Wenatchee. When analyzing the space north of Apple Acres Road, Eberle found that the cost to make the land useable for warehouse industrial is so inhibitive that it has not received any serious interest from any buyer.
“You could give the land to them for free, and at $6 per square foot they could not afford it,” Eberle stated. He recommended that the area be rezoned for workforce housing as it is close to the new Columbia Valley Community Health clinic and future Lake Chelan Community Hospital as well as Wal-Mart.
Eberle also offered the data provided by a privately funded engineer to the commission for additional information to aide them in their decision.
The next step in the Comprehensive Plan Update is a June 14th workshop for the Planning Commission to review the details and public comments before making their recommendation to Chelan City Council.
(By Jillian Foster)