City takes steps towards Spader Bay 'green space' purchase

Many in attendance at last weeks Chelan City Council meeting included residents of the Spader Bay area on Lake Chelan’s north shore.

Mike Cooney, mayor

Ray Dobbs, councilman

Skip Morehouse, former city councilman

Guy Evans, realtor

Erin McCardle, councilman

Kelly Allen, councilman

Servando Robledo, councilman

Ty Witt, councilman

Wendy Isenhart, councilman

Mike Jackson, City of Chelan administrator

John Olson

Marilyn Sargent

CHELAN - On Tuesday, Sept. 10, the Chelan City Council meeting room was standing room only. On the agenda was a potential acquisition of undeveloped property located on Spader Bay for the purpose of open space and public access.
"I think it would be safe to say that 95 percent of the testimony before the council opposed moving forward," said Jerry Isenhart, in an exclusive interview with the Lake Chelan Mirror.
Isenhart, himself a former mayor, said one of his concerns was "there is no access or egress from the property, and no real understanding of how it would be used for the total community benefit."
Isenhart, related through marriage to Councilwoman Wendy Isenhart, stated, "Personally I was surprised at the vote - as the presentations of the audience were all rational and full of valid, unanswered questions.
I suspect that this is still not a done deal," Isenhart said.
After nearly two hours of debate and citizen comments, the motion went on the floor: Voting yes - Wendy Isenhart, Kelly Allen, Ty Witt and Servando Robledo. The two no votes were cast by Ray Dobbs and Erin McCardle. Councilman Tim Hollingsworth was not present.
The offer to the sellers, the former State Senator Linda Evans Parlette and her sister Terrie O'Neal, is $400,000, but the reality is closer to one million dollars to actually develop the lakeside land into a public green space suitable for a walking trail, park and/or other recreational uses.
Thanks to Councilman Ray Dobbs' insistence, the 90-day clause for action on the steep, nine-plus rocky acres, was extended to 120 days for due diligence to be exercised as there are eight different properties to be looked at by the city.
Former mayor Bob Goedde was one of the last of the public speakers, and argued that the land purchase was questionable from the "actual use" point of view. "How many citizens will use this property?" he asked.
Early on in the packed-house meeting City Administrator Mike Jackson told the city council that the agreement can be negated "for any or no reason" as several councilmen expressed a mood of angst in the room and among the general Chelan population.
Mayor Mike Cooney made an effort to assure the audience that "there is no agenda, no done deal" as has been surmised by more than one observer in regards to the proposal.
Former city councilman Skip Morehouse started his talk by saying he knows and works with Realtor (and Parlette's son) Guy Evans, but still thought the purchase and agreement proposal was being rushed.
Morehouse pointed out that the property lacked "practicability" and could be a fire danger and also has a dangerous rocky shore.
Evans, when he spoke earlier, said the topography was "challenging," but that he had just shown it to a client three weeks earlier.
He expressed his conviction that, in the right developer's hands, 14 possible home-sites could be fashioned despite the rugged landscape if the city didn't take the opportunity to purchase the property that he called the "remnants" of his grandparent's pioneering farm.
Councilman Witt agreed saying the property will be built on eventually if not purchased by the city while the opportunity presents itself.
Many in the crowd expressed a desire to see new homes developed than to see the city make the purchase.
Several speakers argued that the city has many other projects that could use the money towards completion. Some items have been on the "to do" list for years, such as upgrading Don Morse Park.
Mayor Cooney pointed out that the Spader Bay "neighborhood was here and that's great, but not the entire community" and promised to get a larger room the next time the issue was brought before the council.
He said that there was no behind closed doors "consensus" about the purchase. The list of properties being eyed by the city for greenspace and potential lake access was whittled down from 18 to the current eight.
Other suggestions from within the council and from the attendees, included buying the infamous Three Fingers landfill from the Goodfellow Brothers and having additional workshops to further study the proposal.
At one point Councilman Witt stated the city could buy the land and do nothing with it, "just leave it like it is."
"Personally I believe that Councilman Servando Robledo should have excused himself and stepped down from that discussion, given he is employed by The Lookout, the adjacent property owner, who has the most to gain if the property in question becomes a park, immediately adjacent to The Lookout, a commercial development. I am amazed that City legal counsel did not advise the councilman to step down. And I am amazed that no one including the Mayor, pointed the conflict out and ask him to step down," said Isenhart.
"In my day as Mayor of Chelan he would not have been allowed to participate in that discussion nor vote. One reason is that his participation could later become a legal challenge by someone unhappy with the decision. It’s a matter of being safe and the 'appearance of fairness' at all times," Isenhart said. (See Apples to Apples" column regarding this issue.
Keep reading your local, family-owned community newspaper, the Lake Chelan Mirror, for updates on this important story.
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