Monday, May 20, 2024

News from Residents Coalition of Chelan County


We continue to be active in monitoring development activity especially in the Leavenworth (98826) and Manson/Chelan areas. We also are keeping an eye on short term rental related activity.

Leavenworth Area News

In Leavenworth, the amount of development going in, both commercial and residential, continues at an almost unbelievable pace. If you have never checked the City’s permit portal, it is worth a look. Each orange dot represents some type of land use activity, from a new housing development to a hotel to a new sign to a grading permit. Here is a link:

 Leavenworth has recently approved two large residential projects: Leavenworth Meadows and Alpenglow. Leavenworth Meadows, located between Titus Road and Chumstick Highway, consists of 300 units, both apartments and townhouses. Alpenglow is a cluster subdivision north of Pine Street that will include 172 residential units at full buildout. RC3 provided detailed comment letters on the SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) environmental documents for the Alpenglow project. We found the environmental analyses and proposed mitigation lacking and addressed our concerns in formal comment letters to the City. Despite our objections, the project has been approved with essentially no mitigation for its impacts on traffic and infrastructure. Similarly, the traffic mitigation for the Leavenworth Meadows project was also lacking.

There have been approximately 300 residential units (single family homes and apartments) approved in the city over the past 4 years and with the two above mentioned projects and various infill housing, over 500 units will be built in the next 5 years. This totals about 800 units. According to the 2020 census, Leavenworth had 1,210 housing units. While this amount of growth may be shocking, the real story is that very few of these units will be affordable to families making at or below the average family median income for our area ($60,982). Despite all the talk about affordable housing, we are not building it here in Leavenworth.

It is also worth mentioning that there is a new hotel proposal working its way through the permit process. A 129 room La Quinta Hotel is proposed to be built behind the Safeway store.

Manson/Chelan Area News

In the Manson/Chelan area, there has been a significant amount of controversy over the City of Chelan’s proposal to use tax increment financing or “TIF” to raise $18 million in order to build water infrastructure in east Chelan with the goal of enticing new development. The way a TIF works is that the City would issue bonds to build the improvements to the water system, and as the new private development occurs, property values will rise and Chelan will use the property tax generated by that development to pay back the bonds.

The development that the City aims to attract with the construction of this new infrastructure is overwhelmingly new housing. In fact, a whopping 868 new homes are proposed to be constructed in Apple Blossom Center and the HiLand Farms subdivision in North Chelan.

The Chelan City Council voted on May 24, 2023 to form the “Tax Increment Area” which the TIF would serve, but deferred a final decision on whether to utilize TIF until December 1, 2023. On that date, the Council will revisit the May vote and either reaffirm it or rescind it, depending on their final decision on TIF. Only Councilmember Chris Baker voted “no” on creating the TIA, reading from a prepared statement explaining the reasons for his vote. Chief among those were (1) concerns about the enormous risk inherent in using TIF as a financing mechanism and (2) the overwhelming community outcry in opposition to TIF, including the voices of numerous prominent leaders in the community.

Chelan Falls News

In other news from the Lake Chelan area, Wenatchee Petroleum of Wenatchee, WA has received approval to install two 30,000-gallon propane storage tanks at 20 Chestnut Street, Chelan Falls. The property in question, while zoned industrial, is a narrow (330 foot) strip situated at the confluence of the Chelan and Columbia Rivers and is approximately 500 feet from an established residential neighborhood. The sliver of property is also sandwiched between two beloved Chelan PUD parks, Powerhouse and Chelan Falls. While propane is non-toxic, according to Dr. Brian Patterson, PhD, the risk to the adjacent properties and those who live in or frequent them is from the potential of an explosion.

We commented on this project raising concerns about public safety. And, we have pointed out to the Chelan County Community Development Department that the application falsely states that the adjacent PUD property is “undeveloped.” Property developed as a park (as is the case here) is not undeveloped. Despite our concerns, the project was approved.

Short-term Rental News

Things have not been quiet on the short-term rental front. A somewhat obscure part of the county zoning code has come to light as a possible loophole which could allow large STRs in all residential zones with a conditional use permit (CUP). A land use category called Small Scale Recreation and Tourism allows tourist oriented uses such as retreat centers, lodges and cabin rentals. The zoning code is not clear in making a distinction between lodges and short-term rentals. Both allow transient occupancy for periods of less than 30 days. While the Small Scale Recreation and Tourism is intended for uses that have minimal impacts on the surrounding area, there is currently not enough clarity in the code to ensure that large short-term rentals don’t try to exploit this confusion in the code to try and put so-called “lodges” in residential neighborhoods.

This matter is under discussion before the Chelan County Planning Commission now. We have testified and continue to monitor their discussions. Stay tuned….

We hope you find this newsletter informative. While the work of the Residents Coalition is all done by volunteers, we do have expenses involved in maintaining a website and the capability to send you news and alerts. We urge you to consider making a donation on our website.


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