by Richard Uhlhorn
The HDCA’s Downtown Revitalization Project hit a major speed bump at the Tuesday, November 23 City Council meeting. Prior to a motion consideration to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City and HDCA a Special Presentation was on the evening’s agenda to hear more Citizen comments.
Organized and put on the agenda by Councilman John Olson, a number of business and building owners came to the meeting and made a series of remarks that were not in support of the current revitalization plan.
The proposed MOU would outline specific roles and responsibilities between the City and HDCA. Because the proposed revitalization project is on City property, the City would end up being the contracting agency and owner of the project.
The HDCA project is aimed at providing a roadmap for future downtown upgrades that retain the downtown historic ambiance while enhancing its future viability and relevance.
Larry Hibbard, owner of the Ruby Theater told the council that he has concerns about the plan. His concerns was the plan to widen sidewalks, install up to five or more crosswalks which would, in effect, reduce the number of parking stalls by up to 10 percent. “Where are we headed,” he asked. “I think downtown Chelan is working very well.”
His other concern was the sustainability of keeping the Ruby open during a major downtown construction project. “We were closed with no income for 71 weeks because of the pandemic. It will take years to recover and the Ruby cannot afford or survive a major construction project.”
Tom Campbell, Campbell’s Resort, remarked that the revitalization project is a hot button, issue with downtown business owner and while he said he loves the energy, he added “Everyone needs to take an objective look at the project.”
David Weldy, building owner, remarked that the downtown was deteriorating and mentioned the City owned, old PUD parking lot as an example.
Garth Donald, Stormy Mountain Brewing owner, was the only individual who spoke for moving ahead with the MOU. He feels that wider sidewalks would contribute to the community’s quality of life. “It’s really important that we make the downtown better for both residents and visitors,” said Donald.
Once the special presentation by business owners was over, HDCA board president Steve Clark addressed the Council. He said the HDCA plan is a broad concept for the enhancement of the community. “It is focused on the community wishes,” he stated.
“We are providing the Council with a concept. It’s at a stage where detailed design would occur,” said Clark. He encouraged the Council to approve the development of a Memorandum of Understanding between the City and HDCA.
Councilmembers opened up for discussion with Ty Witt stating that an MOU was not committing to the project. He also feels that the City needs continued public input.
Servando Robledo remarked that there are a lot of concerns about the proposed package.
Clark replied that it is only the design phase. “What we are suggesting is that ore attention be spent on pedestrian traffic.”
Peter Jamtgaard said, “I think the plan needs a lot more work.” Tim Hollingsworth stated that there was a lot to like in the plan, but said he was not ready to move forward given the difference of opinions. “Let’s keep it moving,” he said. His concern was the fact that many business and building owners are at odds with the plan.
“I would like some of the folks like Campbell’s and others sit down and take the time to have a better dialogue,” said Hollingsworth.
John Olson agreed with Hollingsworth that the plan needs to ferment a bit. “There is a large gap… discord. I still hear (complaints) on the bridge modification. I suggest that this be tabled.” Witt agreed.
City Administrator Wade Ferris told the Council that the purpose of the MOU is to come up with some kind of concept in the next phases. “They have to be approved by the Council. You are not approving a plan to rip up sidewalks.”
Hollingsworth replied that the MOU outlines specific duties. “I don’t think we have a broad consensus (to move forward),” he said. Robledo replied that if the Council doesn’t move forward, they won’t know when it will back again.
Mayor Goedde said, “I can’t vote on this, but I’m not signing this.. the Mayor Pro Tem can.”
No motion to move forward was offered and City Attorney Quentin Batjar said if a motion doesn’t advance that it would die. Olson suggested tabling the motion until next year and this was approved by the Council.
Since Erin McCardle has resigned her position as executive director of the HDCA effective on December 31, it will be up to the board to find a new director and to address concerns with the plan.