by Richard Uhlhorn
Wednesday, March 8
Chelan Fire & Rescue long range strategy meeting:
Chief Brandon Asher invited Chelan Community Development John Ajax and Chelan County Interim Community Development Director and Assessor Deanna Walter to address the Department’s staff and commissioners regarding the future of growth in the District’s area of operation.
Asher opened the meeting by stating that that there is a lot of growth happening within the District boundaries. “I reached out to the City and County to gain any nugget we can use regarding development,” said Asher.
“The challenge I’ve had is getting accurate population numbers. I get varied answers from a number of people.”
In 2022 Chelan Fire and Rescue responded to 54 fires, 771 EMS calls and 11 hazardous waste situations. “This year has been very busy for us,” said Asher who estimates a six percent increase in callouts.
Chelan Community Development Director John Ajax and Chelan Building Official Luis Rodrequez presented Chelan’s development history over the past three years and a general look into the future.
Ajax stated that within the past three years Chelan has seen incredible growth. “2022 was a record year,” said Ajax. “Between 2020 and 2021 we approved 150 home pemits. Most are moving into the rural areas.” Ajax added that development has slowed down due to higher interest rates.
Rodriquez stated that most of the applications are for residential buildings with some commercial thrown in. “We see a lot going on with single family buildings.” There are currently 300 lots not including multi-family applications.
With the approval for 720 units at Apple Blossom Center, Rodriquez doesn’t know if that is a reality. He said 280 apartment units will be built, but the developer has a 25 year build out.
The major concern in the valley is water. Rodriquez mentioned the upcoming TIF (Tax Increment Financing TIF is a powerful financing tool used to fund economic development and investment in infrastructure. • Principal behind TIF is based on “capturing” future increased tax dollars that are generated due to the development} Public Outreach meeting that will be coming up in the near future.
Most of the residential sales have been for second homes and Ajaz stated that Chelan is the second fastest growing community in Chelan County behind Leavenworth.
Chairman Phil Moller asked for a summary. Rodrequez said that there are 18 permits out not including applications. “There is still a lot of activity,” he said. This includes some commercial multi-family mixed use units that would include retail.
Moller asked for a five year view and Ajax stated that most developers had no plans to immediately turn around and start building. He mentioned Campbell’s Highland Farms 27 lots and Wagner’s Apartment development. “They are not looking to build anytime soon,” said Ajax. He also mentioned that affordable housing is a big subject now.
Ajax mentioned Chelan Butte which is under contract with a developer for the next two years. “They have asked for a boundary line adjustment,” said Ajax. ‘We haven’t seen a development proposal yet.”
Commissioner Russ Jones asked where the water project to the airport was and Ajax replied that the City is waiting on the legislature who will hopefully fund the final $1 million needed to construct.
Ajax also said that the Bluewater Terrace proposed project doesn’t have water and is asking to drill a well. “They would have to provide fire flow,” said Ajax. Bluewater Terrace development is currently under review by the City and has requested a permit to build 20 Short Term Rental duplex units under a Conditional Use Permit.
Ajax stated that Chelan and the County are waiting on official population numbers from the State. He said he would inform the Fire Department when he had more accurate numbers.
Chelan County Assessor Dianna Walters said that the County does not have any big developments currently. “We have nothing on the books,” she stated. “The Wenatchee UGA has one project. Home prices have impacted people,” she added. With lots priced between $400,000 and $500,000 people are reluctant to buy. The County’s highest year for building permits was in 2021 with 1,000 permits approved. Another 900 were approved in 2022.
“If I had a crystal ball… which I don’t, I’m seeing a reduction in material prices and interest rates up.” She expects to see more additions, remodels and ADU’s being applied for. “I anticipate building permits to go down.”
“We see people putting on brakes and asking what do we do with a 6,000 sq. ft. house.” She also remarked about the Mission Ridge expansion project. “There will be years before that sees fruition. It’s a huge project.”
Jones brought up Manson as having more buildable ground than anywhere else in the valley. Walter’s said that Manson has a large Urban Growth Area and that there are several small development outside of the UGA.
She mentioned the difficulties farmers are having making a living on 10 acres of land. “I don’t know how the County is going to deal with it.”
She put on her Assessor’s hat and told the commission and staff that in the first three quarters of 2022 assessed values were going up, but have now flattened out. “The market is flattening out.”
“We will never see the market back where it was in the last 10 years,” said Walters.
Walters put on her assessors hat and told the commissioners that their $1.10 permanent LID Lift in 2021 will see the 2022 level collecting $1.10. “Just because your levy rate goes down, your dollar amount doesn’t,” she said. “In one year, the permanent LID Lift values went up so high that the rate went down. You only have to worry when you get to the statutory $1.50.” She remarked that Chelan Fire and Rescue is in a good financial position.
Chief Asher started the long term strategic discussion by saying it was time to have a discussion on John Goyne’s retirement which is scheduled to begin on November 1 of 2023. “We need to keep that on the radar and find potential candidates for the position,” said Asher. Asher also stated that whom ever becomes the new mechanic would need to be a firefighter also.
Jones stated that the District needs to better understand where the growth is. He mentioned the Apple Blossom project as an example. “What can we do to prepare for that?”
Asher replied that the ABC area can be covered by Station 71 with backup. He mentioned the new station being built by Douglas County that would overlap the District’s five mile radius. “I’m more concerned with multiple calls,” said Asher.
Jones added that there is a marked growth in the Manson area, and Asher said he could see something going on in that direction. He mentioned Chief Baker approaching retirement age and said Chelan Fire is District 5’s backup.
Asher said that the new Douglas County Firehall across the river would allow the department to close down the Chelan Falls station. Moller said he is reluctant to close Chelan Falls because he sees growth continuing in that area.
Union Valley was also mentioned as a major growth area. “People keep moving deeper and deeper into Union Valley,” said Asher. Union Valley has the most active volunteer group of all the stations.
Assistant Chief Shaun Sherman remarked that the department needs to establish how it is going to continue using the current building. “We don’t have the storage space for gear lockers. We are out growing the space we have,” said Sherman.
He suggested putting up some out buildings for storage and training exercises.
Moller replied that there are a thousand “if’s”. “Where does the money keep coming from,” he asked.
Asher said that the volunteer numbers are down, but that the quality is up. “We are going to lose some of them to career positions this year,” stated Asher.
Sherman stated that he wants to increase the value of his training regime this year. “We have good applications and interviews are coming up.”
Asher said, “We need to get creative with staffing.” The department has four seasonal applications in but is only budgeted for three. Commissioner Oules asked what it would take to budget for the fourth seasonal?
The rest of the strategic meeting went through the department’s apparatus and station situations.
The Department’s beginning balance (carryover from 2022) was $747555.99.
Tax Revenue is projected at $3,485,762.44 and other revenue from grants and other sources is projected at $197,798.44. Transfers in will amount to $250,000.
After transfers out and expenses, the department is projected to end the 2023 year with a carryover balance of $,553,389.25.
One thought on “Chelan Fire and Rescue explores long range strategies… invites County and City perspective on development”
Please include manning the south shore facility with at lease one or two staff in order to improve response time and facilitate the needs, including insurance concerns.