18-acre Winthrop site would suit future needs
Methow Trails is taking an ambitious step towards its future with the proposed purchase of an 18.22-acre parcel in the middle of Winthrop that would be used as the organization’s headquarters.
Methow Trails Executive Director James DeSalvo discussed plans for purchase of the parcel on Horizon Flats Road at last week’s Winthrop Town Council meeting, as part of an application by property owner Lavern Gray to have the site annexed to the town.
Currently, the land is in the county but is entirely surrounded by the town — a “donut hole” within town limits that, under existing county zoning, could be divided into 5-acre lots.
Although the proposed purchase and requested annexation are separate transactions, DeSalvo said Methow Trails supports the owner’s request and hopes to have the parcel zoned B3 (which allows office buildings, shops, parking lots, parks, exercise facilities and single-family dwellings) if the sale and annexation go through. Methow Trails would seek connections to the town’s water and sewer systems, DeSalvo said.
Methow Trails’ intent would be to move its headquarters to the site from the current leased location on Riverside Avenue, and to consolidate several other maintenance and storage facilities, DeSalvo said.
The roughly rectangular property extends east from Horizon Flats Road nearly to Highway 20 across from Pardners Mini Market and abuts an irrigation ditch. The site, a former homestead also known as the White property, currently has a one-bedroom, 1,090-square foot house built in the 1960s and described in its MLS listing as a “fixer upper,” several outbuildings and a log cabin. It was recently listed for sale at $595,000 (reduced from $750,000). Methow Trails did not reveal its offered price.
The Town Council was not required to take any action last week. Town ordinances provide that after being notified of a proposed annexation, the council must set a meeting date to discuss the application within 60 days. The proposal came to the Wnthrop Town Council on Methow Trails letterhead with signatures by Gray, DeSalvo and listing real estate agent Lee Miller. DeSalvo said Methow Trails has a 120-day contingency offer agreement with the seller.
DeSalvo said the organization, seller and real estate agent approached the council together to assure transparency. “Everyone knows exactly what we’re doing from day one,” he said. “We’re beholden to the community for everything we do.”
DeSalvo told the council that the decision to pursue the property was initiated by the Methow Trails board of directors in anticipation of future growth and facility needs. He said Miller met with Methow Trails to discuss possible recreation trail connections, and the meeting evolved into a discussion about buying the property.
The property is well-situated for possible connections with the Susie Stephens Trail and Community Trail, DeSalvo said, and might also serve as “a potential puzzle piece” toward creating a long-envisioned trail connecting Twisp, Winthrop and the Methow Valley School District campus. It could also serve as trailhead parking or satellite parking for visitors, DeSalvo said.
DeSalvo said Methow Trails is outgrowing its current spaces and has been contemplating another site for some time. “It’s not efficient for us any more,” he said.
DeSalvo noted that Winthrop’s comprehensive plan suggests that the property be considered for annexation because of how it is situated within the town. Town Planner Rocklynn Culp affirmed that annexation would be “an opportunity to accomplish something we identified in the comprehensive plan as desirable.”
Culp said that annexation discussions will include considering a development plan for the parcel. Despite a tight time frame, she said, “it’s doable … we’ve done annexations in fairly short order before.”
The proposal is subject to Planning Commission review, which was schedule to take place this week during the commission’s regular meeting. The council will next consider the proposal at its July 3 meeting.
In his presentation the council, DeSalvo offered a list of reasons that Methow Trails is considering the action, notably citing the scattered and undersized facilities it now uses and the fact that its primary maintenance shop at the Winthrop Rink won’t be available in the future. Consolidated sites will help increase staff efficiency, he said.
“It’s a unique parcel that fits our needs better than any current alternative,” DeSalvo said.
In an interview last week, DeSalvo said “I thought long and hard about what we need to function efficiently.” A recent board and staff retreat helped solidify expansion planning and action, he said. “It’s a vision,” DeSalvo said of the Methow Trails proposal. “We know what our needs are and they connect with the community’s needs.”
Methow Trails has never made a property purchase before, DeSalvo said. The organization has reserve funds on hand, generated over years of careful budgeting and frugal operations, to cover the cost of the purchase, he said.
“We feel comfortable that we have that amount of funding,” DeSalvo said. “We’ve had successful winters and built up our accounts so we could sustain ourselves.”
He said Methow Trails may reach out to the community to support some aspects of future development, but not the property purchase itself.
“This would centralize everything,” he said of the proposed acquisition. “We’ve been siloed.” He added that Winthrop would be a “good hub” for Methow Trails’ operations. “It geographically makes sense.”
As for the buildings on the site, DeSalvo said they may have some short-term utility but “don’t meet our current needs.”
The dreamed-of recreation trail from Winthrop to Twisp emerged as the No. 1 priority for future trails projects in a recent community survey that Methow Trails conducted, DeSalvo said. He said that because of the complexity of such a project, Methow Trails will proceed slowly and talk with anyone who might be affected — although it’s not yet clear who that might be. “We don’t have a line drawn on a map,” he said.
Methow Trails is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Its system includes over 120 miles of cross-country ski trails in the winter months, and is recognized as one of the finest trail systems in North America for Nordic skiing, mountain biking, trail running and hiking. It was formed in 1977 as the Methow Valley Family Sports Club, and eventually was known as the Methow Valley Ski Touring Association and the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association before adopting its current name in 2014.
According to the Methow Trails website, the network of trails generates about $4.5 million directly, another $4.1 million indirectly, and another $2.7 million annually through related industry earnings in the Methow Valley. Some 49 full-time jobs and 159 seasonal full-time and/or part-time jobs can be directly attributed to the network of trails and adjacent lands, according to the website.
“We’ve been around for 43 years,” DeSalvo said. “It’s time to put some roots down.”