by Richard Uhlhorn
The Chelan Basin Conservancy’s (CBC) president Brian Patterson gave another presentation to the City Council at its Tuesday, September 6 workshop in an effort to encourage the City to pay $500,000 towards the purchase of the 875 acres of Butte property owned by Golden Gate Ventures.
Patterson told the Council that there were three critical initial actions from the City.
- The Trust for Public Lands and the Chelan/Douglas Land Trust would require full engagement and commitment from the City before becoming involved;
- That the City pledge $500,000 towards the purchase of the property; and
- That the City prioritize the Butte project as its top goal.
The Butte property under the ownership of Golden Gate Ventures was annexed into the City of Chelan during the now defunct Daybreak Project that was planned for a gated community with a golf course. The annexation was zoned for Tourist Accommodation (TA).
In addition to the 875 acres the CBC would like the various players to purchase at an estimated cost of $7 million dollars, there is 400 acres above the Golden Venture property that was purchased by golf investors at $5 million. The surrounding area also includes a huge section owned by the Holiday Hills group.
Patterson stated that the CBC didn’t know how the 875 acres might be developed, but that the current City codes would allow up to 775 dwellings (possibly up to 1162) and tourist related businesses on the property with 100 acres at the east end of the property held out for affordable housing.
If developed as a high density residential and TA business area, Patterson stated that the impact on the City’s infrastructure would be huge.
“Chelan is becoming a City of visitors, not a City of residents,” said Patterson. He talked about traffic issues and the City’s requirement to maintain both water and sewer not covered by the developer.
He said that if it is developed it is an irreplaceable iconic piece of property that offers huge recreational opportunities like trails and that it borders a wildlife area on the upper reaches of the Butte owned by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Natural Resources and the Bureau of Land Management.
“Once developed it is forever lost as a part of the uniqueness and beauty of Chelan,” Patterson told the Council.
He named the Trust for Public Lands, the Chelan/Douglas Land Trust, the CBC, the Lake Chelan Trails Alliance and potential other partners in acquiring the land. “There are multiple funding sources to come up with the $6 to $7 million dollars needed to purchase the property.”
Patterson stated that the CBC would advocate for the project, but that the City “must lead this effort… the partners will be there for support.”
Erin McCardle told Patterson that the City was just preparing to enter into its annual budget discussions and it would be working on the new budget for 2023 until the new year.
She also commented that the potential Tourist Accommodations worries her even more.
Peter Jamtgaard said he supported project but asked if the CBC was willing to apply for grants or do grant research for the City. “You could point us in some direction.”
Tim Hollingsworth said he supports the acquisition of the property, but was concerned about staff time. “Staff is already shell shocked with the workload. The downside is huge. We have a willing seller and should cooperate with him.”
John Olson said he would like to hear from the City of Wenatchee regarding how they worked the Foothills project. He added that the City already put out $400,000 for the nine acres at Spader Bay
Patterson said that Wenatchee had a number of funding sources for its Foothills project and continues to seek more funding. It was noted that several millionaires in Wenatchee put up a million apiece to move the project forward.
Chris Baker asked if the City Parks Department could handle the acquisition. Parks Director Paul Horne said it would require more personnel.
The Council will consider the CBC’s proposal over the next several months as they begin the process of setting the 2023 budget. More discussions will take place and a decision will be forthcoming sometime in the future.
In the meantime, Chelan Butte is up for grabs by any developer who wants to spend the millions it would take to bring in water/sewer, streets, sidewalks and curbs as per the City’s building codes.
A low density rural development has also been mentioned over the last several months that would essentially allow only approximately 40 home sites on the property.
Time will tell. Chelan Butte has gone through a number of iterations from the original Snowcreek project to the Daybreak project.