Town asked to consider allowing on-site sewage treatment system
The topic of housing figured prominently at the Winthrop Town Council’s Aug. 2 meeting, where council members heard two requests to consider actions that could add to the town’s housing stock.
The council heard a presentation from Christian Kar, representing Live Work Play LLC, to consider on-site sewage treatment for a proposed 28-unit, dormitory-style affordable housing development on property directly above the town ballfield on West Chewuch Road.
The development would offer private bedrooms with baths, plus shared kitchen, dining, laundry and storage areas. The project would offer year-round, affordable housing or possibly seasonal housing, Kar said. Electric cars, bikes and scooters could be available for tenants to rent.
Kar said two adjacent properties totaling about 3.5 acres, each currently limited to one single-family home plus and ADU, would be used for the development. The building would be on one parcel; the other would be open space, he said.
Because it would be difficult and expensive to extend town sewer lines to the site, Live Work Play proposes to use an on-site treatment system that would allow some of the treated waste water to be recycled for use in toilets or for outside watering. Water service would be provided by the town.
The development would have a net-zero carbon footprint, Kar said, and “sit as lightly on the ground as possible.”
Similar on-site treatment systems are in use at many locations around the state, Kar said.
In a memo to the council, Public Works Superintendent Jeff Sarvis said the municipal code requires developments to provide utilities. “The proposed development site is constrained by distance to existing sewer and is in a very difficult and potentially cost-prohibitive area to provide the more-traditional/typical system upgrades required …,” Sarvis said.
Sarvis said at this point he is simply posing the question of whether “the town council would be willing to consider on-site treatment and re-use of wastewater if the developer, town engineer and other regulatory agencies prove the concept is approvable and safe for the existing and future residents?”
The council’s answer, in short, was “possibly” — with some questions and reservations about setting a precedent. Council members said they would like more information about how the proposal would work. “We have a ways to go” before the concept could be feasible, Sarvis said.
Live Work Play owns the nearby Mountain Annex building, which is outside the town limits, and is proposing to develop 60 housing units on a 2-acre site there. The development would also offer a variety of private bedrooms and shared common spaces. In a memo to the council, Kar said “the project aspirations are the same” for both proposals: high-density housing with nearby transit service and easy access to the town.
Separately, chiropractor Dr. Lawrence Delisi asked the council to amend the town’s zoning code to allow the building on Highway 20 that he has been using as his office for 33 years to revert to residential use. Delisi said he is retiring and the building is for sale.
Delisi’s office is in the town’s B3 business zone. The building, formerly used as a home, became designated a commercial space after Delisi purchased it in 1990. Town Planner Rocklynn Culp said residential use would not be allowed unless the council decides to revise the existing code to allow an exception.
Culp said she would prepare a memo for the council to review, outlining a potential process for a zoning code revision. The zoning would not change from B3, Culp added. She said the change would be in what other uses could be allowed in that zone, and could apply to all properties in B3, not just Delisi’s. Such a proposed action would require a public hearing, she said.
In other business, the council quickly adopted proposed revisions to the town’s parking code, designating the hours for enforcement of a four-parking limit on Riverside Avenue and Bridge from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Employees of downtown businesses will not be prohibited parking from parking on those streets during the day. The revisions establish penalties for violations of $50 for the first offense, $125 for the second offense and impounding for a third offense.
The council has been considering changes for several weeks, prompted by complaints that some downtown employees have been parking for more than four hours, taking up space that might be used by visitors. The Outdoorsman owner Lance Rider, who has been encouraging the council to enforce the parking code, had asked that the four-hour limit be reduced to two or three hours.
Mayor Sally Ranzau noted that there have been reports of more ATVs and ORVs — which are prohibited in Winthrop — parked on downtown streets. She said the town is working on stricter enforcement, and pointed out that signs indicating that ATVs and ORVs are not allowed in Winthrop are posted at several entrances to the town.
The council also heard a presentation by Megan Strom, who is interning with the town this summer as part of the Western Washington University Sustainability Program, on how the town might participate in the valley’s Climate Action Plan.
The council also awarded a $47,000 contract to Water Recovery Services LLC to assess the viability of one of the town’s existing wells.