Contentious start to City Council infuriates Mayor

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Developments on old orchard land raises health questions


Mayor Cooney was not pleased with resident Tom Clark’s assessment that the City and its Council were becoming corrupt.

Tom Clark, a self declared public advocate signed up to speak during the Citizen Comment period at the last City Council meeting and ended up infuriating the Mayor and most likely, the rest of the City Council.


Tom Clark accused the City of not acting in the best interests of its citizens.

“I remember a time in this City when there was a very corrupt City government,” Clark said. “I see these problems developing again in Lake Chelan,” he added. He went on to say that the City government was not acting in the best interests of the citizens.

“I’ve been up here many times over the years as a public advocate. Living in Chelan is going to become more difficult,” said Clark. He talked about access to the lake, the Three Fingers, the State right-of-ways through town that he insists belong to the City, not the State, but never came out and specifically stated where he thought the City was being corrupt.

“Very seldom have I ever received a response from anyone on the council,” stated Clark.

During the Mayor/Council comments, Mayor Cooney said he wished Mr. Clark was still at the meeting. “That was unacceptable in my eyes,” said Cooney. “It was character assassination and it bothers me to no end. I know that the Council members are accountable.”

However, Cooney did see Clark at Julie Brunner’s presentation at the Vogue on Friday night and asked him what specifically he was talking about.

“I didn’t appreciate him castigating the Council who work hard for the citizen’s in the City,” said Cooney during a telephone interview. “I gave him every chance to tell me.” Cooney said that if a person has an issue, he or she should bring it directly to the City. “It’s unfortunate, but the Council has to just sit there and let them talk.”

Cooney stated that one of Clark’s major concerns is the City’s push for a waterline out to the airport. “He doesn’t want it and says we are pushing it for fire flow only.”

Councilman Ty Witt said he was puzzled by the comment and plans on reaching out to Mr. Clark and asking him specifically what is on his mind.

Public Hearings:

There were two public hearings at the Council meeting.

The first was a public hearing on the Chelan Fruit Annexation into the City. The annexation was accomplished through a Direct Petition Method and the Chelan County Assessor certified the 60 percent annexation signature requirement.

“This is a warehouse industry zone and single family residential area,” said Craig Gildroy, the City Planning Director. “The two other property owners were not opposed to this annexation,” he added.

The total valuation of the annexation is $72 million dollars.

Jim Colbert, Chelan Fruit representative, said the Cooperative is ready to go. The annexation has been in the works for quite some time, but the 2015 fires delayed the progress. The cooperative also has a $3 million dollar grant for affordable housing on its land.

Councilman Witt asked what might be in the waste water discharge that could affect the plant operation. Public Works Director Dwane Van Epps said the wastewater discharges have been well within the threshold for plant operations and that the Department of Ecology monitors these discharges.

The Council voted unanimously to authorize the Mayor to sign Ordinance No. 2018-1539 to annex real property into the City and to establish an effective date of the Chelan Fruit annexation.

The second public hearing was on the North Lake Division II Development Agreement which is owned by Whiskey Ranch LLC and Cascade Property Ventures LLC. The hearing was to change the original May 2017 agreement from 41 residential lots to 40 residential lots that will be developed in phases.

Phase 1 is for one residential lot; Phase 2 is for 22 residential lots; and Phase III is for 17 residential lots.

This development is across the Chelan Manson Highway from the Lookout on the north side and any action on the development will happen later.

Councilwoman Kelly Allen asked if Gildroy had looked into hillside development standards and Gildroy said he would have to look into that.


Councilman Ty Witt was concerned that a Determination of Non Significance has been used on two separate developments on old orchard land in Chelan.

Councilman Ty Witt asked if the development would apply to the new comprehensive plan which includes an affordable housing component. Gildroy stated that there would be affordable housing at some level. Mayor Cooney said he asked the owners and that they have not ruled affordable housing out.


Brian Patterson, a retired environmental consultant has raised the issue of arsenic and other soil contaminants on developments being approved on old orchard lands.

Brian Patterson, a Manson resident and retired Environmental Consultant, spoke to the potential environmental impacts posed by building on old orchard lands that have high levels of arsenic present. “It is important to stress that the concentration thresholds of 90% of the individual soil samples reach a threshold that has human health implications,” said Patterson. “The determination of non significance that there is no probable adverse environmental impacts for this development has not fulfilled the obligation of the law under the State Environmental Policy Act.”

Tom Clark also spoke to soil contamination but his remarks were more about DDT in the lake sediments than on orchard lands.

Prior to the vote on the North Lake Division II vote, Councilman Ty Witt brought up the subject of soil contamination on these developments including the proposed Holiday Hills project. He said to Craig Gildroy, “I really don’t understand why there is a Determination of Non Significance. It is my understanding that we are going to put that on to the developer that they have to meet these standards when they start breaking ground. All we are doing is approving the design of the plat.”


Planning Director Craig Gildroy was on the hot seat with a number of questions concerning his Determination of Non Significance on several new developments in the City limits.

Gildroy said that the Department of Ecology reversed its process and doesn’t want the soils disturbed. He mentioned the Key Bay project that required the topsoil to be removed. “That was the worse environmental thing we could do because it put all the dust up in the air where you get the most risk exposure from,” stated Gildroy.

According to Gildroy, the North Lake plat approval has a minimized grading requirement. “You can’t grade until you have a building permit (for each lot). Ecology is saying at this time… don’t touch the dirt… grass caps it.”

Witt argued that people are digging in their lawns and gardens all the time. Gildroy replied that it is up to the developer to test the soil and let the homeowners know… let the potential buyers know of the potential risk.

“Does the City claim hold any liability in that?” asked Witt.

City Attorney Quentin Batjer said, “I don’t think so. There has been a difference of opinion about this. Right now, as Craig mentioned it, the soil is not to be disturbed, but I’m not familiar with SEPA if anything happens.” Gildroy added, “There is not much we can do at this point.”

Councilman Ray Dobbs said that the City reserves the authority to oppose new regulations. “Dr. Patterson (says the) issues are a serious threat to public health. I think we have an obligation to deal with that.”

Gildroy replied that even with Holiday Hills the consultant said not to disturb the soils. “Do you have that in writing as a part of this document file,” asked Dobbs. “I don’t quite have it in writing for Holiday Hills,” replied Gildroy. “You do on this one (North Lake)?”

“Yes,” answered Gildroy.

Gildroy went on to say that Ecology has a voluntary clean-up program that they administer. “I’m going to be talking to Ecology about that and potentially require Holiday Hills to participate in that,” he said. “But again, requirements drive costs up.”

“Holiday Hills was tested… soils tested, right,” asked Witt”

“No, I would not say that,” said Gildroy. He added, “I’m not going to argue Holiday Hills because it is still under review.”

Councilman Tim Hollingsworth stated that he wondered if testing these old orchard sites was something the City should be requiring in the application process. “I’ll take a look at that,” said Gildroy. “One of the other things we are looking at is raising the SEPA threshold levels.”

Hollingsworth said soils was an issue of concern for potential home owners. “I know the County typically has a statement that it is old orchard and probably… possibly has contaminated soils.”

Gildroy said to require the City at this time to test, they would have to go back to the hearing examiner… go back to the process and “we can’t do that. The period (to do that) has come and gone.”

Hollingsworth said that at this point he trying to figure out how they would deal with it in the future.

Gildroy said he would continue to work with Ecology on the issue and use Best Management Practices and said if that changes, the City would take Ecology’s advice.

The vote to approve the North Lake Division II development was 5- 1 with Ty Witt voting No. Councilwoman Erin McCardle was absent.

Author: allthingslakechelan

I have been a journalist, photojournalist and reporter in the Lake Chelan Valley since 1988; first with the Wenatchee World, then 15 years at the Lake Chelan Mirror and another 12 years at GoLakeChelan. Currently, I am semi-retired but can't give up the media gig which is why I started All Things Lake Chelan blog. I also have two social media platforms; allthingslakechelan/facebook and lakechelansportsandrecration/facebook. I am also a professional photographer with many credits with major outlets around the world.

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