by Richard Uhlhorn
City Council was handed an incomplete Legislative Priority list to discuss and give City staff some direction to develop the final 2022-2023 document for approval at the January 25, 2022 City Council meeting.
The first item up for discussion was Affordable Housing. Chelan, like many Washington communities is struggling with a lack of housing options which makes it too expensive for many local workers to live in the community.
The City supports Senator Hawkins proposal to utilize one percent of the three percent tourism tax to help fund affordable housing projects in the region. One percent of the three percent tax taken in by Chelan is approximately $300,000 a year.
The City also supports the creation of a tax on Short Term Rentals that would also be dedicated to funding affordable housing.
Erin McCardle opened the discussion with concerns of imposing a tax on Short Term Rentals (STRs) with no opportunity to talk to the STR community. “I’m concerned about the unintended consequences,” she said. “We need a more in-depth discussion about this.”
Chris Baker agreed with McCardle’s points. Mayor Goedde remarked that such a tax would be an easy way to generate money for affordable housing. He supports Senator Hawkins proposal but said, “This is a good opportunity to do it.”
Tim Hollingsworth said, “In general I support Senator Hawkins proposal.” However, he would like to see the priority simplified. “Make it brief bullet points of specific things we would like to address… highlighting specific thing we are asking for.”
Hollingsworth also liked the one percent STR proposal, but said the Council would need to figure out how to apply a lodging tax. “The money coming in is impacting our town.”
John Olson said that the Senator Hawkins legislation proposal would be awesome.
Erin McCardle segued away from affordable housing to water safety issues. “We’ve been pushing the can down the road with people on the water that shouldn’t be driving a boat.” The Parks Department’s ‘white sheet’ has allocated $400,000 to this issue which would include new swim lines with larger buoys delineating authorized swim areas in Lakeside Park and Don Morse Park.
To Erin’s comment, water safety is more than swimmer safety as pointed out in Park Director Paul Horne’s white page. Safety on the lake has become an increasingly big issue. The Sheriff’s Department only has so much funding to provide on-water law enforcement. However, with an ever increasing presence of visitors on the water, the City needs to seek ways of securing more funding for on-water law enforcement.
She brought up the “Keep It Blue” campaign and would like to see a larger emphasis on educating the public and getting more buy-in.
Phil Long, director of the Lake Chelan Research Institute told the Council that there was an interest in doing this. He stated that no body of water in the State has the highest level of protection, but felt that the upper Lucerne Basin could qualify because of its federal status. “It would be a hard lift for the lower end of the lake,” said Long.
he was asked why there wasn’t more activity by the Department of Ecology on the lake? Long said that would be a legislative matter.
Chris Baker segued away from the lake issue and remarked that the building of a skate park/pump track would be a good thing. “We need the City to support youth,” said Baker. “COVID 19 has affected our youth greatly,” he added.
Councilman John Olson read a prepared statement during the Council comment period and stated that Chelan was currently experiencing “negative” trifecta. His statement called out the aging and failing infrastructure (roads, water and sewer systems) and all the other services the City is responsible for.
“For years, the City has not kept up with repairs and/or upgrades to these services; it was far easier to push those expenses down the road when another council would have to make the decisions and another generation would have to pay the costs,” wrote Olson.
He mentioned failed sewer and water lines and the escalating costs of repairing or renewing City infrastructure. This is along with the highest growth rate in the history of Chelan.
Olson stated that it was time for the City to buckle down and begin looking for solutions. He pointed out Chelan County PUD’s strategic planning project titled, “Funding Growth.” The PUD has a plan to establish system impact fees assessed to new customers to help recover the costs for new infrastructure. (www.chelanpud.org/fundinggrowth).
The PUD expects to spend $15 million annually to support growth in the County and Chelan’s Public Works Department expects the City expenditures to exceed $5 million annually for its infrastructure needs.
Olson stated that it is neither reasonable nor equitable for the current City residents to pay for new growth and it should initiate its own impact fee structure. “A simple 1% impact fee on a $600,000 home with 200+/- new homes in the valley each year would result in over $1 million to help meet the City’s needs,” wrote Olson. “I therefore challenge our administration to investigate this (potential) new source of revenue to meet the future.”
Citizen Comments: Lisa Garvich requested that the City’s Public Works department will flag the City’s fire hydrants so snow removal equipment won’t bury them. Both Mayor Goedde and Public Works Director Jake Youngren thought this was an excellent idea.
The City unanimously extended the Interlocal Agreement between the Lake Chelan Research Institute and the City of Chelan for one year so the Research Institute can use the remaining $15,000 on lake research.
Council unanimously approved a motion to allow City Administrator Wade Ferris to sign and execute a $32,000 funding grant for the Lake Chelan Airport. The funds will be used to help with airport operations.
Council unanimously agreed to an easement for the installation of the proposed storm water infrastructure for the Downtown Alley Utility Project. It involves the relocation of primary Chelan County PUD power conduits.
City Council agreed to a new air space lease with Crystal View Estates which was needed to marina infrastructure being constructed within public right-if-way that is needed to provide access to the marina. The term length of the agreement is for 10 years and can be automatically renewed annually for up to 10 years unless terminated by either party. The rent is $839.85 per year plus $107.84 in excise tax.