Town considers uses for several properties
The Okanogan County Fire District 6 fire hall in Winthrop is drawing interest from several directions as the town considers how to use or dispose of the property when the district moves to its new fire station on Horizon Flats Road later this year.
The town is also considering the future of other properties it owns, including the former public works shop on Bluff Street and the current Winthrop library building on Highway 20. The sites were all discussed during last week’s Town Council meeting.
The Fire District 6 station on Englar Street, which the town currently rents to the district, will be vacated later this year when the district occupies the new fire station now under construction.
The Winthrop Library, which is operated by NCW Libraries, will be vacated in June when the new library on White Avenue is expected to open.
The former public works shop on Bluff Street was replaced by a new facility on Horizon Flats Road. The old shop building needs to be removed before the property can be disposed of.
Mayor Sally Ranzau has suggested that the Winthrop Marshal’s Office, which now operates out of leased space on Riverside Avenue, could possibly move into the District 6 building on Englar Street when it is available. The fire district lease on the building runs through the end of this year, as does the Marshal’s Office lease for its current space.
The town has received several inquiries about buying or leasing the fire station on Englar Street, Ranzau said at last week’s meeting, including from the state Department of Natural Resources and from Aero Methow Rescue Service, which currently has a station adjacent to the former public works building on Bluff Street.
The town owns three small lots (about 5,000 square feet) on Bluff Street where it intersects with Corral Street, including the former shop building.
Ranzau said a big advantage of the fire hall building is that it would give the Marshal’s Office a place to store its vehicles inside, something it can’t do now. There is enough space in the building that other first-responder agencies might also be able to keep vehicles there, Ranzau said.
Aero Methow inquired about buying or leasing the fire hall building to replace its current facility on Bluff Street, which it is outgrowing. DNR said it might be interested in leasing the fire hall to have a presence in the valley.
The council discussed whether the three town-owned lots on Bluff Street could be sold with the proviso that they be used for affordable housing. Council member Bill McAdow said he would prefer to see market-rate rentals developed on the lots.
Town Planner Rocklynn Culp told the council that if the town sells the lots, it cannot stipulate what happens to them but can only respond to whatever development proposals are submitted under existing zoning. “Residential would be ideal, but we can’t dictate what is developed,” Culp said. The town properties are currently zoned for mixed use.
Ranzau noted that the lots must be “cleaned up” and the existing building torn down before the properties can be sold, which would likely be costly to the town. Culp said the lots are currently “unbuildable.”
The library building has in the past served as an information center. Ranzau said that might be an ideal use for it once again. Another town-owned building, the Visitor Information Center at the four-way stop, is used by the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce for its tourism-promotion activities. Ranzau said she hasn’t talked to the chamber about a possible relocation.
The library building was gifted to the town in the 1920s with the stipulation that it only be used for recreational purposes.
That deed restriction remains in force, Town Clerk Michelle Gaines said, which effectively rules out commercial uses.
The library parking lot gets a lot of use for activities at the adjacent Mack Lloyd Park and the town ball field across Highway 20, and for events in the downtown area.
In other business, the council approved a special events application for the return of the Methow Makers Market, a monthly “pop-up” market featuring local artisans selling their works in downtown Winthrop’s Confluence Park. This year’s dates are April 30, May 21, June 18, July 23, Aug. 13 and Sept. 10, from 2-7 p.m. each day. The market is organized by Phoebe Rudd, a local jewelry artist and salon owner.