by Richard Uhlhorn
Public Works Director Dwane Van Epps attended his last City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 22. Dwane is retiring after working for the City since 1983. Mayor Mike Cooney recognized his service to the City and lauded his achievements, integrity and class. Dwane’s last official day is May 31, 2018.
City Council meetings are generally boring affairs where the Council members pass or table motion considerations. At the Tuesday, May 22 meeting, the Council quickly passed four Motions including, the 2018 AWC Annual Business Meeting Voting Delegates and Flag Bearer; an amendment to the City’s Towing Services code (10.38.060 and 10.38.080 which then moved to a motion to authorize the Mayor to finalize and execute City Towing Services with Stormin’ Towing which operates out of Entiat; unanimously passed a motion to execute an Interlocal Agreement with the PUD for the LED Relight Project; and to authorize the Mayor to finalize and execute the Professional Services Agreement with SCJ Alliance for construction administration and inspection for the upcoming Woodin Avenue Bridge Project that begins this Spring and will run for 105 days.
The last motion under consideration was to authorize the Mayor to finalize and execute the Lookout Winery District Phase 2 Final Plat. This is where things got interesting.
On February 9, 2016, the Hearing Examiner conducted an “Open Record” public hearing to receive public testimony on the preliminary plat. On March 24, 2016, the City Council considered the Hearing Examiners recommendations at a “Closed Record” hearing and passed Ordinance No. 2016-1508 adopting the Hearing Examiner’s recommendations.
The Lookout’s Phase 2 consists of 42 residential lots and four open space tracts, and connects Bighorn Way to the No-See-Um intersection, the required open space and extends the public trail system for No-See-Um to the final plat boundary along Bighorn Way and Bluebell, Lane as per the Lookout’s agreement with the City.
The project area was formerly established with orchards, vineyards and undeveloped land. The City Planner or his staff issued a Determination of Non Significance on January 13, 2016 with a comment period ending on January 28, 2016.
Most of the comments received were concerned primarily with water quality issues and water runoff.
Gildroy told the Council that the opportunity to challenge any conditions had come and gone; that the Plat was bonded and all conditions and requirements for development had been satisfied.
City Planner Craig Gildroy outlined the process of approving the Lookout’s Phase 2 Plat which includes 42 new residential lots just east of the Lookout and
west of the Vin du Lac Winery
“This is not open for additional public comment at this time,” said Gildroy.
Gildroy said that the sub-division administrator, which was him, reviewed the request and that all plat conditions and development agreements have been met. “I have done that. I have had a couple of meetings with staff and Public Works.”
He went on to say that the City Council has the final say on all of the items. “This is the time for you to make sure that all those things have been satisfied.”
Council woman Wendy Isenhart raised the question about contaminated orchard land and whether or not the Lookout project was tested for lead and arsenic.
Councilperson Wendy Isenhart said, “The question that keeps coming up is what about this orchard land. What’s the answer to that? The last time you said leave it alone… that’s the best policy.”
Gildroy replied that in 2016 the Department of Ecology provided consultation and sent a letter. “In that letter it recommended soils testing, and if there’s levels above what is kind of the minimum level the property owner is to be notified.”
“Unfortunately, that plat condition didn’t require that (testing), so at this point we can’t do anything about it,” added Gildroy.
The Department of Ecology will be attending a City Workshop on June 5. “We will all be better informed after that meeting.” Gildroy said the City may want to do something in the City Code, “but my caution there is that best management practices for lead and arsenic have changed over the years. I’m going to let Ecology speak on those issues. I don’t want to mess it up, so hopefully the June 5 workshop will educate us.”
Councilman Ray Dobbs stated that on January 21, Ecology did recommend soils be sampled and asked if this letter was part of the documentation presented to the Hearing Examiner?
Councilman Ray Dobbs stated that a letter from Ecology in January recommended that the orchard land be tested. He asked Gildroy if this letter was a part of the documentation presented to the Hearing Examiner.
Gildroy replied that it was. “I was not the Project Manager on this site and cannot tell you. We consult with Ecology. I’m not saying it couldn’t have been overlooked, but it was just a recommendation and I think I need to let Ecology speak more on it and the potential litigation.”
Dobbs asked if Ecology is a liable party, the City and/or the Property owner.
The issue of arsenic and lead contamination has a history in the development of residential properties in the Lake Chelan Valley. One individual keeping a close eye on the issue is Brian Patterson, a retired Environmental Consultant. He sent the following letter to the Mayor and City Council on the day of the January 22 meeting.
The letter Councilman Dobbs was referring to follows:
Dear Esteemed Mayor and Council Members,
In lieu of attending tonight’s Council meeting to provide comments on the approval of the Lookout Winery District Phase 2 Final Plat, I’m sending this quick email. My reasons for this approach are two-fold: 1) This item was not included in the agenda I reviewed last night, so I made other plans, and 2) I note that the new meeting format reflected in the agenda does not allow for public comments until after items are voted on, making any verbal comments I might make at the meeting moot.
I realize that the approval of this development is well down the road so to speak, but to be consistent, I must point out that once again I believe the City did not follow proper State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) procedure in evaluating this project. I would point out the following:
1) The Lookout Winery District Phase 2 project in located on historical orchard lands sprayed with lead arsenate pesticides. I have confirmed this.
2) In more than one letter to the City related to the Lookout, the Washington Department of Ecology specifically noted that the project was located on historical orchard land and recommended that the soil be tested for lead and arsenic (see attached letter as an example specific to the Winery District – my highlighting added).
3) If soil testing were to find lead and/or arsenic concentrations greater than the Method A threshold concentrations provided in the Washington Model Toxics Control Act (as expected based on testing in other historical orchard lands in the Chelan Valley), a Determination of Nonsignificance (DNS) could not be issued in accordance with SEPA regulations.
4) There is no evidence that the City required soil sampling as recommended by the Department of Ecology. Nonetheless, the City issued a DNS for the project, without any requirements to specifically address potential lead and arsenic contamination. To be clear, the primary issue related to lead and arsenic contamination that the Department of Ecology is concerned with is not related to dust created during construction (although this is an issue that needs to be addressed), but rather the potential for incidental ingestion of soil by people living in the homes at the Lookout after they are built, particularly children.
So as I’ve noted for other existing and proposed developments, the issue of lead and arsenic soil contamination has not been/is not being correctly addressed as required by SEPA law.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions (via responding to this email or by phone at 503-998-4265). Thank you for your time.
The January 21 letter from Ecology states the following on the issue of lead and arsenic:
Based upon the historical agriculture use of this land there is a possibility the soil contains residual concentrations of pesticides. Ecology recommends that the site be sampled and analyzed for lead and arsenic, and for organochlorine pesticides.
If these contaminants are found in concentrations above the Model Toxics Control Act Cleanup levels, Ecology recommends that potential buyers be notified of their occurrence.
Isenhart said that these issues are something that the Council needs to know about and then made a motion to approve.
Council people Erin McCardle and Cerando Robledo immediately recused themselves from the vote. McCardle’s husband works for the Lookout as a construction manager and Robledo works at the Lookout.
This brought up a question of whether or not a quorum was present. City Attorney Quentin Batjer told McCardle and Robledo that they could go ahead and vote on the motion because it was an administrative issue to approve a plat that has met all conditions of the City.
City Administrator Mike Jackson stated that it was up to the council members to determine if they recuse themselves because of ethical question. McCardle said, “I’m not comfortable voting on this.” She stated that public perception was important to her and she had been under that microscope before.
In the end, after a discussion about quorums raised by Councilman Ty Witt, he seconded the motion and the vote was 4-1 with Councilman Tim Hollingsworth not in attendance.
The Lookout Phase 2 Project is on the road to development, but the concerns over contaminated soil raises the bar and potential property owners should be told of the potential risks.
Another project getting additional scrutiny is the huge Holiday Hills Project that has proposed subdividing three large parcels into 250 parcels consisting of Residential Multifamily and Tourist Accommodations over its 89.79 acres.
The City Planning Department gave this project a Determination of Non Significance, but the community has raised so many concerns that the project has been put on hold until the Developer answers a number of questions.
There will be a Community Meeting on this project on June 13 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Chelan Senior Center at 534 East Trow Avenue.
If you are unable to attend the meeting, but would like to relay your ideas about the project, please email Mr. Loren Combs at email@example.com
Note: This meeting is not a public hearing, nor is it sponsored by the City of Chelan. It is informational only and not a part of the public review process.