By Don Nelson

Downtown property owners, businesspeople and Town Council members recently got some reassuring words about the Riverwalk project from the Winthrop Westernization Design Review Board (WDRB).

The Riverwalk project envisions a trail along the banks of the Chewuch and Methow rivers, connecting with the Susie Stephens Trail. The Riverwalk is a town project that is utilizing state Recreation and Conservation Office funds for some of the work, which includes an underpass at the Chewuch River bridge to make pedestrian traffic safer. The underpass is supported in part by federal funds and the Washington State Department of Transportation.

One of the questions raised about the project is whether the backs of buildings on Riverside Avenue would have to meet the same Westernization requirements as the street-facing sides when the Riverwalk is completed. Property owners raised concerns about the potential cost of renovations.

In a recent memo to property and business owners, and to the Town Council, the WDBR said that “in short, little is required” of buildings that back up to the river.

“Standards for Westernization govern future activity,” the memo continues. “The WDRB will not force removal of lawfully established non-conforming features.”

The memo notes that property owners are welcomed and encouraged to make their property consistent with Westernization standards.

“The WDRB will work with any property owner or business making voluntary improvements,” the memo said. “All new development (roofs, decks, signs, etc.) must meet Westernization standards.”

In conclusion, the memo said, “the Westernization program  … is committed to code amendments that work for businesses and respect the significant community investment in Westernization.”