by Richard Uhlhorn
City Council approved its 2022-23 Legislative Priorities after a lengthy discussion concerning amendments proffered by Councilman Tim Hollingsworth (also board member of the Chelan Housing Trust) on Affordable Housing.
Hollingsworth was not able to attend the Tuesday, January 25, meeting but was on a Zoom Call to the Council. His letter requesting amendments to the language was based on the fact that a lot of communities are struggling with affordable housing needs. “I don’t think we should ask for an additional tax on Short Term Rentals,” said Hollingsworth who felt it would become a divisive issue.
Councilman Chris Baker asked what it would be. Hollingsworth replied that it was based on a proposal by Senator Hawkins to utilize 1 percent of the 3 percent bed tax. John Olson said the entire county has been behind on affordable housing needs. “I’m personally not opposed to a new tax on STRs,” said Olson. He stated Mayor Goedde’s remarks that an additional 1 percent on a $300 a night room at Campbell’s or elsewhere would not upset any renter because it would only added $3 to the bill.
Mayor Goedde added that he didn’t want this tax, if approved, to affect the residents.
STRs pay the same 3 percent tax that the hotel/resorts pay. Planning Director Craig Gildroy stated that if you are a registered and licensed STR, you pay the 3 percent.
It was pointed out that if the City wanted to have a new 1 percent tax on STRs they have no authority to do so.
Hollingswoth’s amendments include:
- Broadening eligibility requirements to allow for a larger range of incomes to purchase affordable homes;
- Legislation to give local jurisdictions more flexibility to implement possible solutions to include land donation and use of local tax revenues;
- Use a housing affordability index rather than median income as a basis for funding eligibility;
- Impose an additional tax on short term rentals (this was removed from the list); and
- Allow more local control of building and planning codes to make it easier to construct dormitories and short-term rentals for additional worker housing availability.
With affordable housing being a major issue within the City, it supports the efforts of non-profit organizations like the Chelan Valley Housing Trust and Habitat for Humanity. It also will support proposals that assist in creating rural residential housing for communities like Chelan, including the efforts of Representative Mike Steele and Senator Brad Hawkins.
Lake Chelan is one of the finest bodies of fresh water on Earth that attracts visitors from around the State and the World. The Chelan Valley economy is based on tourism and agriculture; both are dependent upon the lake. Visitors don’t come here for major professional sporting events, or fine museums and art galleries, they come here for the lake!
To keep the Lake the unique, valuable asset it is, the City Council supports legislative funding for the following:
- Increased/improved waterfront access. This includes existing park improvements and development of new public access areas (Road ends projects within the City).
- Enhanced safety on the Lake (More marine patrols, buoys, etc.)
- Water quality monitoring, including the efforts of Lake Chelan Research Institute.
Support for Chelan’s Youth The Chelan City Council strongly supports providing opportunities for our young people to engage in outdoor activities and securing funding for the following:
- New, improved skate park
- Ice rink for winter activities
- More outdoor basketball courts
- A pump track
- Support for the new community center (under construction)
Traffic & Pedestrian Safety:
Traffic and Pedestrian Safety City Council strongly believes that Chelan needs improvements to both its traffic and pedestrian safety. To accomplish this, funding is needed for the following:
- Adding well marked and visible crosswalks (rapid flashing beacons, etc.) on Woodin Ave and Saunders between the bridge and Woodin, as well as in front of our schools.
- Building round abouts at busy intersections (Johnson and Saunders, Woodin and Saunders) to improve traffic flow and safety.
- Upgrading sidewalks and crossings to meet ADA requirements.
- Strategic Planning Priorities Improved traffic flow/safety Support for youth activities/development Improved downtown parking