Construction begins on ‘big boy’ project, Sunset Marina

McKellar, co-owner of Sunset Marina is all smiles as construction on the Marina has begun after a 13 year process of permits, mitigation work and other delays.

CHELAN - After 13 years of permitting, designing and mitigation work, phase one of construction on the Sunset Marina has begun. A project that will cost in the ballpark of $14 million when completed. 

Located adjacent to the Lady of the Lake on Woodin Avenue, the year round private marina will hold 168 boat slips, a clubhouse with a bar and both an indoor and outdoor fireplace, convenient store, game room, showers, laundry and restroom facilities. There also is the potential for 23 high end two and three bedroom condos that would serve as phase two of the project. For parking, the Marina will have about 25 on-site stalls and around 75 off-site stalls located next to Slidewaters. 

The biggest feature to the marina however is that it is year round. 

“The lake goes down during the winter and then back up in the spring months,” Sunset Marina co-owner Scott McKeller explained. “It goes a maximum of 21 feet out from the shore, but now they don’t take it out that far, so it is more around 15-16 feet roughly. Well, all of the slips will float year round. So if someone had their boat here, they could leave it in and then come over during Winterfest and they could stay on their boat over the weekend and then go home. Almost all of the slips run aground, but ours float all year, and there is a huge demand for year round boating, even for just the weekend.”

In addition to the year round floats McKeller is installing a breakwater that is 12 foot wide, to allow public access on the lake. 

“When we first started the permit process, we knew we would put a breakwater in and we thought ‘holy crap’ wouldn’t it be nice to have locals and other people walk onto the breakwater,” McKeller glinted as he was describing the structure. “We added several $100,000 to make it 12 feet wide instead of six to eight. We are giving back to the community to provide public access, and it will be solid because there are pilings driven in the middle of it.”  

Attached to the breakwater is a 80-foot long gangway that will allow people that use a wheelchair to get on the breakwater and connect to the Lakeside Trail being built by the City of Chelan. 

“We are also having a public sewer pump out station on the breakwater so people can come and pump out their sewage tank,” McKeller said. “I want to put three or four benches along it as well so I could walk my grandsons and grand daughters with fishing poles in their hands and watch them fish. Because of that though, I also thought it would be a good idea to put in a fish cleaning station, so you could clean your fish right there as well.”

So why did it take so long to get the project going? 

A couple reasons, first, “this is on Department of Natural resources (DNR) land out here, so I can’t sell property that we don’t own,” McKeller described. “So how it works is you sell a little square of land on the lot and you tie it to the long term lease on that slip area. We have surveyed all of these things and have it written up by a lawyer, but they are purchasing a one foor square of land next to the clubhouse that is tied to a DNR lease.” 

So that took some time, another reason is the size of the project. 

“Larger projects have a lot more scrutiny than smaller ones as far as permitting agencies. We had to do drilling and cultural artifact studies and then we had to do some mitigation work which took some time,” McKeller stated. 

Mitigation efforts included getting bilge socks, (one of the environmental measures McKeller has required all inboard boats to have) educating boaters about their benefits and handing them out at various boat shows. To complete the mitigation work McKeller took out the Howe Sound Dock and will install graded surfacing on all of the docks.

“Admittedly, in 2008 when the economy took a dump, we were just about ready to get our permits, but since permits are only valid for three years unless you do construction, I slowed it down as far as urgency,” McKeller conceded. “We could have probably got the permits in five to six years, but we slowed the mitigation process for several years until we saw the economy come back up.”

As far as boat size, Sunset Marina will house boats ranging from 24 to 80 feet - if combining two slips on the end of the 40-foot dock. 

“Something that we found out when we went to our first home show in Seattle, was that there was a huge demand for the large slips,” McKeller pointed out. “I thought I would make three of these docks dedicated to 24-foot boats, but In the first show we sold out of the 40-foot slips. So we came back and had our designers and permit guy alter the layout of this thing to reflect the market demand. So far, approximately 95 slips have been sold and then we have some reserved for condominium buyers also. Quite honestly, the 24-foot boats are lagging, we’ll sell them, there is no doubt about it, but thank god we didn’t just get our permits and then build it. We would be screwed will all of our short slips, so we refigured the marina.”

Prices for slips start at $82,000 for 24-foot boats, $79,000 for 30-foot boats and $119,000 for 40-foot boats, all over a renewable 30-year lease.  

Aside from the other amenities according to McKeller, the Sunset Clubhouse is what drives up the cost. 

“It’s going to feature a bar, nano doors that open up in the summertime when it is nice, an outside patio, an inside and outside fireplace, a flat screen and also a private convenience store where you can get beer, pop, wine, ice, fishing lines, chips, ice cream and sandwiches,” McKeller said. “There will also be a game room for the kids upstairs, showers and restrooms and a concierge staff upstairs to assist with guest needs.” 

Outside of the clubhouse, McKeller plans on putting a dog walk, barbecue pits and some landscape items to tie the place together. 

What McKeller is most proud about though is the environmental standards that will be monitored closely. 

“I want to do everything I can to keep the lake from being polluted. So the first thing we are doing is requiring bilge socks for all inboard engines to prevent oil from getting into the lake. The second thing is that boats are going to be required to have a environmentally friendly dye tablet in their sewage tank. As far as I know, we are the only marina that requires both of these features in the United States.” 

McKeller has also given approval for Phil Long to place his Keep It Blue water testing station at the end of the breakwater. 

“What other private marina would put a water quality station on the guts of their marina,” McKeller rhetorically asked. “If we have bilge socks and dye tablets and if we are good stewards of our marina, we have nothing to hide.” 

Phase one of construction is set to be completed in August, with the floats for the marina and breakwater expected to be finished in July. Depending on demand, phase two of constructing the condos should begin in the fall of this year or early next year. Although 210 people have expressed interest in buying a condo - which run between $850,000 to $1 million - McKeller is still unsure if the condos will be added to the site. 

Even without the condos, “this is going to be a really nice place, there is nothing like this that has ever been done in Chelan,” McKeller concluded. 


Zach Johnson can be reached at or (509) 682-2213

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