Some concerns raised about access road, water service at site
By Don Nelson
The Winthrop Town Council gave preliminary approval to a proposed 10-lot housing subdivision adjacent to Cascade Condominiums at its meeting last week, while acknowledging that questions remain about access and water availability.
The council acted on a recommendation by the Planning Commission to approve what is called a “long plat” for the proposed Mount Gardner Heights development, on property owned by Winthrop residents Richard and Julianne Hamel.
In a memo to the council, Town Planner Rocklynn Culp noted that the long plat application had been considered and approved in 2008, but that approval has since lapsed because the site was not developed.
The council earlier this year approved a similar request for the nearby Cascade Meadows housing development. Both Mount Gardner Heights and Cascade Meadows are immediately adjacent to the Cascade Condominiums site.
The Hamels propose to create 10 lots on the 9.56-acre property, with the access road culminating in a cul de sac. It is consistent with the town’s residential zoning and comprehensive plan.
Culp said that the site can be served by the town’s sewer system, but the town does not have enough water available to provide domestic water service. The site will be served by a Group B well system, she said.
The town received several written comments related to the proposal:
• Okanogan County Fire District 6 recommended that “due to the threat of wildfire and potential build-out of this area … the access road used by the Cascade Condominiums, Cascade Meadows Long Plat and Mount Gardner Heights Long Plat, and any future development, connect to Horizon Flats Road. This would provide the occupants and emergency services with an alternate route in and out of this area.”
• The Methow Valley Citizens Council urged the town to consult with the state Department of Ecology to ensure that use of a Class B group well is permitted.
• The owners of a unit in Cascade Condominiums expressed concern that only one road off of Highway 20 would serve the three developments, and urged the town to require that the three properties enter into a road maintenance agreement.
Culp said the town can’t compel the private property owners to enter into such an arrangement. In her memo to the council, she noted, “the developed roadway does not meet Town or International Fire Code standards, so it will need to be upgraded … the access from the highway must be widened and a new bridge installed across the ditch; the easement has a gap that needs to be corrected or the road moved … and overall the road needs to be widened and built to the standards set forth in the [planning commission] notice of decision.”
Cascade Condominiums has 32 units. Cascade Meadows has 16 lots with the potential of up to 32 new duplex units, and Mount Gardner Heights’ 10 lots could be developed with up to 20 additional duplex units, for a potential total of 84 units to be served by single existing sub-standard road.
In her memo, Culp raised the possibility of a connecting road to Horizon Flats. While reiterating that the town can’t require that connection, she said that “we can strongly recommend that the road be built for safety. This will require working with several property owners, and making decisions as to whether the road should remain private or ultimately be dedicated to the Town as a public roadway.”
The planning commission’s long list of conditions for the Mount Gardner Heights development includes the requirement that two lots be reconfigured to accommodate the possibility of a connection to Horizon Flats.
At last week’s council meeting, Culp spoke to the access concerns and possibility of a connection to Horizon Flats. “We urge all the parties involved to make it happen,” she said. “It’s a short hop, skip and jump to get it to Horizon Flats.”
Richard Hamel, appearing at the meeting, said he had no problem with the idea of a connecting road and can reconfigure lots to accommodate it.
As to the water supply, Culp said, the Hamels got approval from the county in 2010 to serve the development with a Group B well system. She added, “However, with the [Washington Supreme Court] Hirst decision, it is unclear whether that system would be allowed by the [state] Department of Ecology or Okanogan County.”
Hamel said that the Group B well system will provide adequate water for the development.
“It’s a beautiful property and will make some nice lots,” Culp told the council.
Final approval of the long plat will be considered by the council after the developer meets the Planning Commission’s conditions, Culp said.
In other business:
• The council authorized Mayor Rick Northcott to negotiate the terms of a contract under which the owners of Sixknot Taphouse, John and Betsy Sinclair, can pay an assessment of more than $12,000 in water system development fees over a two-year period. The Sinclairs said they were not told of the assessment before opening the taphouse.
Northcott said such an arrangement is permitted under town ordinances. Brian Sweet, co-owner of the building along with his wife, Amy, told the council that they would be willing to have a lien on the property pending payment of the assessment.
• Northcott noted that in the current water bills, residents and business owners are encouraged to check their water pipes and connections in preparation for possible freezing conditions this winter. Last winter, more than two dozen water services were disrupted when they froze up during an unusual cold snap.
• The council approved a month-to-month lease for Methow Recycles to maintain its facility on Horizon Flats until the town sells the property. Methow Recycles has been using the town-owned site for 10 years, but it is currently on the market. The existing lease expired Oct. 22.
Betsy Cushman, executive director of Methow Recycles, said in a letter to the council that the organization will explore whether it can continue to lease the site from the new owner after the parcel is sold.
Cushman noted that the Horizon Flats recycling location is popular with residents in and near Winthrop. She said that more than 147 tons of recyclable materials has been collected in the decade that the Horizon Flats site has been operating.
“We just want to keep a foot in the door with a prospective buyer,” Cushman said at the council meeting.
Earlier meetings start in November
The Winthrop Town Council will switch to winter hours for its regular meetings on the first and third Wednesdays of the month. Meetings will start at 6 p.m., beginning on Nov. 1, in the Hen House room at the Winthrop Barn.