Two Methow Housing Trust projects in the Cascades Condominiums neighborhood made progress at the Winthrop Town Council meeting last week.
The council approved a reconfiguration of the Housing Trust’s Cascade Meadows South development, technically converting it to a planned development from a previously approved long plat layout.
And the council set its next meeting, April 20, as the date to consider the Winthrop Planning Commission’s recommended approval of the Housing Trust’s Cascade Meadows North planned development.
Cascade Meadows South
The property had been developed by Jim and Gaye Pigott, and was approved as a long plat in late 2020. It created 15 residential lots and two habitat protection areas. Subsequently, the Pigotts donated the property to the Housing Trust for the development of affordable housing.
The Housing Trust then asked that the project be reconfigured as a planned development, creating new lot lines for 16 parcels on 7.57 acres but utilizing the infrastructure previously proposed for the housing. Under the planned development layout, the net density remains the same but the open space provided is greatly expanded, according to a staff report on the Housing Trust request. The expanded open space includes wetlands areas not previously identified.
The Planning Commission held a public hearing on the request to vacate the long plat on March 22. No public comment was offered.
The actions to vacate the previous long plat and approve planned development status were approved concurrently at last week’s council meeting. Council action excludes one parcel of the original long plat, which remains a separate property. Several homes are already in development on the property.
Cascade Meadows North
The council received the Planning Commission’s recommendation to approve the Cascades Meadows North planned development, following a March 8 public hearing where a substantial amount of public testimony was offered and an extended March 22 hearing during which more testimony was accepted.
The 8.4-acre planned development would create 26 lots for affordable single-family homes of one, two and three bedrooms, and a 22-unit multi-family complex being developed in partnership with the Housing Authority of Okanogan County. About 37% of the development would be open space.
According to staff report, one of the major concerns raised about the project in public comments was about access to the site area, which is currently by one road off of Highway 20. The Cascade Condominiums development occupies the area already, and the Housing Trust’s projects will add more than 60 dwelling units when completed. Many respondents recommended that a second access road to the site be required by the town, stressing the need for safe exit options in case of fire or other emergencies.
In response, the staff report states that “staff agrees that this property and all of the properties on this bench need a well-planned network of streets with multiple points of access. We agrees that this development would be better served with a second access to SR 20 and/or Horizon Flats Road. However, we find that we don’t have the authority to compel the applicant to assume the sole burden of constructing such an access. We will require the roadways serving the Planned Development to be built to standards that would be suitable should such a connection become possible in the future.”
According to the staff report, the Housing Trust will improve a fire access road to the site from Horizon Flats Road.
The April 20 Town Council meeting is not a public hearing. The council can adopt the Planning Commission’s recommendation as an administrative action.
Charging stations questioned
In other business, the council postponed action on a licensing agreement with the Irvine, California-based for-profit company Rivian LLC to provide two parking spots for electrical vehicle charging stations at the new library on White Avenue, because of concerns about the advisability of allowing a private firm to operate at the site.
The state grant that is partially funding the library’s construction requires that charging stations be provided on the site. In response to a request for his opinion, Town Attorney Scott DeTro said the town won’t be providing the electricity for the charging stations so there would be no gift of public funds.
Shannon Walker, representing Rivian during the council meeting, said the charging stations are a “turnkey option … at no cost to the town.” She said Rivian has similar contracts at other public facilities including state and national parks.
But council member William Kilby said he’s heard concerns about the town allowing a private firm to conduct business on the publicly owned library site. Council member Joseph O’Driscoll added that, while he’s not necessarily opposed to the arrangement, he had heard similar concerns from local businesses.
“It’s probably going to be workable,” Kilby said. “I just want to make sure it’s on the up-and-up.”
Charging stations are currently available at Pine Near RV Park and East 20 Pizza. In a letter to the town, East 20 Pizza owners Lucas and Lindsay Evans said that “we believe that a gift of public land/money to a large for-profit corporation from out of the area is inappropriate, in violation of Washington state law and not a public need.” Bart Bradshaw, owner of Pardners Mini Market, also objected to the proposal as inappropriate.
The council also:
- Revised the rental fees for the Winthrop Barn to provide free usage of the Hen House and Rooster meeting rooms to nonprofit groups. Those groups will still be required to pay full fees for use of all other Barn facilities. Mayor Sally Ranzau reported that the town is interviewing seven applicants to be full-time manager for the Barn and hopes to make a hiring decision. The town took over management of the facility from the Winthrop Auditorium Association last year.
- Agreed to contract with Spokane-based Varela Engineering and Management for its general engineering services, after a bidding a staff review process. Public Works Supt. Jeff Sarvis noted that the town has contracted for several years with Lacey-based SCJ Alliance (which has an office in Wenatchee) for such services, but is required to periodically call for contract bids. After reviewing six bids, Sarvis said he and Town Planner Rocklynn Culp recommended the Varela proposal. Varela also provides general engineering services to the Town of Twisp.
- Adopted a resolution expressing support for a federal grant request to provide funding for replacement of a 57-year-old water line that runs under the Highway 20 bridge over the Methow River. The line was temporarily repaired in 2021 but is still in bad condition. Cost of repair is estimated at $550,000. Sarvis said the town is also seeking other funding options.