by Richard Uhlhorn
It was standing room only at Tuesday’s Hearing Examiner Public Hearing on the proposed 720 unit appartment complex at Apple Blossom Center.
Hearing Examiner Andy Kottkamp opened the hearing by explaining the rules for public hearings. The first order of business was to hear the city staff’s report on the project, then the applicants remarks before opening up to public testimony. “I want to remind everybody that this is not a question and answer hearing,” said Kottkamp.
He added that the applicants would have a chance to give a rebuttal to any testimony by opponents to the project. “There is a large number of people here. Let’s keep testimoney as brief as possible or I will put time limits on it.” He also said he has the option of keeping public comment period open for written testimony. Kottkamp also said that his decision could not be appealed. “The City Council will make the final decision.”
The issue before Kottkamp was to hear testimony on a major amendment to the Apple Blossom Planned Development which would allow for residential development. The original planned development called for industrial and commercial development only.
City Planner John Ajax told the assembled crowd that the hearing was to remove a cap on industrial and commercial development only to allow 720 multi-family apartments with 24 units per acre. The Apple Blossom area was designated 100% to commercial and industrial development in 2003 which was consistent with the City’s 2003 approved zoning criteria.
The proposed development would be served by the City’s sewer system and the Isenhart Water District, Chelan Fire and Rescue, Chelan County Sheriff, Chelan School District and the City’s Garbage Collection.
The Planning Department received nine written public comments and two agency written comments. Ajax said the City used SEPA to make a Determination of Non Significance and that a traffic and parking analysis was completed.
The applicant was asked to increase its open space and to make a provision for affordable housing. Non-motorized transportation needed to be established with a trail to the downtown core. Short Term Rentals (STRs) are prohibited.
Kottkamp stated that the development would have to be in harmony with the Sun Crest development and have adequate parking and open spaces, recreational ball fields and a 100 foot buffer between industrial/commercial operations. The need to provide roundabouts was also indicated to help with traffic congestion.
Ajax stated that the staff is recommending approval of a preliminary development plan.
Kottkamp thanked the staff for its work and said the development would address shortages in housing including five percent for low income residents (36 units out of 720).
“It doesn’t happen in a flash. We need to approve the format for development, a water system upgrade and additional water pressure,” said Ajax.
Scott Patrick addressed the water pressure issue and stated that a third pump has been installed. He said he is also concerned with traffic issues. “I haven’t seen a traffic study. What will be the affect of all these units on traffic,” he asked.
Mr. Franckoniak (sp), a retired police officer from Everett warned the Hearing Examiner about high density apartment complex issues for law enforcement. He remarked that he and other law enforcement units spent a lot of time in a South Everett high density apartment complex answering the call for service for a multitude of issues from domestic violence to robbery.
“I know the City needs affordable housing and this is a good plan, but the size will be a substantial drag on the quality of life,” said Franckoniak. He mentioned the lack of goods at WalMart already during the summer months. In addition he commented on the parking issues and said that most developments had space for 1.5 cars per unit. “I don’t know anybody that has a half-a-car. They will park wherever.”
People clapped after his testimony and Kottkamp warned the audience that this hearing was like a courtroom and that it is not an auditorium.
The next testifier was a women (I didn’t capture her name) who supported Franckoniak’s comments. “I don’t think it (the develoment) is going to be positive,” she said. She lives in the neighborhood and said there are kids riding bikes and other family quality of life issues that will be affected.
Tom Clark stated that Chelan has become a tourist town and that this development will not cause anymore problems than has already occurred. Clark feels there are solutions to the issues this development will bring but added, “This is a significant increase in population and traffic.”
Craig Egerman (SP) stated he wouldn’t expand on other testimony but brought up the issue of water pressure and felt that the water pressure issue could be resolved if the development put in a large reservoir at a high elevation. “My concern is the impact on the overall water pressure issue. I would like to see a timeline on water pressure and a reservoir.”
Margaret (last name not recorded) was concerned about the sewer treatment plant capacity with such a large development. “How far away from the maximum capacity are we?” she asked. Kottkamp encouraged residents with those kinds of concerns to call their City Departments to get those kinds of questions answered.
Virginia Buckley (sp) said the Lake Chelan Valley is easy to fall in love with. “We’ve moved from apples to grapes to wineries,” she said. “but 700 homes?” Her concern is how many people would move into a unit. “It is hard to find parking downtown now and there is only one way out of town.” She is concerned about the potential fire risks. “If a forest fire broke out above Walmart it could be disastrous. I’m not for this at all… it is ridiculous.”
At the end of the public testimony, Kottkamp asked questions raised by the testifiers and started with the water pressure issue.
City Engineer Travis Denham replied that the area currently has sufficient water flow and if it reached maximum demand the City would ask the developer to upgrade the current pump station. ‘We are not asking the applicant to add a reservoir,” said Denham “We are planning a large reservoir towards Darnell’s.”
The next issue answered was the sewer plant’s capacity which Denham said that the plant could handle any build-out from any development. Each development pays a facility charge to offset any capacity issues. “Currently we are at 40% capacity and are decades away from upgrading the treatment plant.”
Kottkamp thanked the audience and staff for their testimony and said it has been helpful.
I asked after the meeting when Kottkamp would make his recommendations and he replied within 10 days. “Probably sooner because I’m scheduled for a vacation.”
After the meeting and while walking out, I asked a local realtor what she thought about the development. She said she likes it, but it is too big. She mentioned the impacts it might have on the Suncrest development which is currently a very quiet and safe neighborhood.
You can visit the Apple Blossom Developer’s website at http://www.applblossomvision.com to see what their vision of their development is.