Thursday, February 22, 2024

Chelan council discusses curbside recycling, affordable housing at workshop meeting


CHELAN – The walls inside council chambers were covered with papers outlining the main concerns with the lack of affordable housing in Chelan during the council workshop meeting, Tuesday, Feb. 6. The key objectives and priorities on the affordable housing crisis, as well as the upcoming curbside recycling services, were the highlighted items discussed amongst councilmembers and staff that day.
Curbside Recycling Program
Public Works Director Dwayne Van Epps led the discussion on the purchase of containers for the curbside recycling program. “One of the key capital purchase items is the recycle dumpsters that we’re going to be using,” he began, “Chris Bell (of Bell and Associates) had provided us with a quote from the Toter Company.” The most recent quote provided by Bell, he explained, came in slightly lower than the amount listed on the agenda bill, lower by approximately $7,000. The intent of the agenda bill is for voting on and authorization to purchase the designated sized recycling containers explained Van Epps, and “in talking with Cheryl (Grant) we’re going to ask to do a different agenda motion then what is attached, for a number of different reasons.” Van Epps began explaining the current status of the sanitation fund, which is at the leveled anticipated, however, Van Epps suggests using an inter-fund loan “using one of the other enterprise funds (water, sewer) and use that money to make that capital purchase,” he explained, “then leave the beginning fund balance for contingencies. One thing I’ll say about this program is there’s still a lot of unknowns … there’s still a lot of stuff we need to find out before we have a comfort level in the spending of that cash.”
Van Epps also expressed his concern with prospect of using a private hauler to transport the comingled recycling to its designated center, without knowing what exactly the volumes and costs will look like. Because of the level of unknown expenses, he suggested to Council that the City handle the hauling of the recyclables, at least for the first year, then it can be reviewed and re-determined after a year or so. “It’s not an ominous picture by any means,” he emphasized, “I just don’t want to put the City in a position of overpaying or overcommitting without knowing to a higher degree of accuracy of what those are.” Before concluding his portion of the night’s agenda, Van Epps also stated that the public works staff’s intentions are to keep the rates as they are currently, and revisit them if necessary down the road, as well as recommending the purchase of a 96-gallon recycling container for residences. While larger containers than anticipated, this size will not only allow for the room to encourage recycling, but, are also designed to fit folded cardboards. Councilmembers approved the purchase of the 96-gallon recycle containers.
Affordable Housing
Moving into the final agenda item for the workshop, affordable housing, Mayor Mike Cooney took the lead, stating, “I’d like it to be known, and get the word out there, that Chelan is open for business,” he started, “and open for business for what products we are looking for, and that’s affordable homes, affordable rentals, anything that will bring us more housing in the Chelan Valley, we need to do something, and tonight will be the steps for what the City can do, to incent people to come here to build affordable homes.” After Cooney transitioned the meeting from recyclables to housing, Planning Director Craig Gildroy began by explaining the planning department’s role in the housing epidemic. So, what exactly is the Planning Department’s role in building homes? “The Planning Department doesn’t build houses,” explained Gildroy, “but we have the toolboxes to build those homes.” He began by listing out various statistics gathered from surveys conducted in 2014 for Chelan, although in referring to the growth rate, the actual anticipated growth rate is nearly double what the county predicted, he said. Pointing to the map displaying vacant and underutilized land that was placed upon a stand in the middle of the councilmembers, he stated, “one thing to look at on that map is our downtown core, there really isn’t any that much land in our downtown core for housing,” he expressed, “yet there are infill opportunities and our code does address that,” but with any development styles or plans, stated Gildroy, “you really have to consider long-term costs along with the initial costs of building.” In an effort to stimulate ideas and conversation among the councilmembers, he began offering some topic ideas, including adjusting General Facilities Charges (GFC) charges which would differentiate the charge based on the size of the build. “I know we say development must pay for development,” he stated to the council, then suggested “but in some cases no one can go first (referring to map of vacant/underutilized areas – some of which have no water/sewer hookups in place), maybe the City should go first and recover those costs from the developers as they come in, that way we can direct where we want to grow with this housing.”
Councilwoman Erin McCardle supplied her opinion on Gildroy’s suggestions, “all of these things we’re discussing are very expensive solutions,” she began, “these are all burdens or costs that are going to be picked up by somebody else in our community, I want to make sure that we’re looking at solutions that are going to effect on the most amount of people.” Mayor Cooney proposed a couple options for councilmembers to think about, “we’re being offered land,” he began, referring to land offered by members of the community after the January town hall meeting, “but it doesn’t have infrastructure on it. So, I’d like us to weigh in with Craig (Gildroy). Would you (the council) do that if it were deeded for affordable homes?” he asked, then continued, “the next one is something that has infrastructure to it, the land is being donated, they’ll do the design and development of it, and we’ll take a third of the cost out, as the land is already given to us, but is the council willing to reduce or waive the fees?” He expressed to the Council that answers to these questions are not needed that night, however, “these are real life things. There’s obstacles in the way of building affordable housing.” In response to Mayor Cooney’s prompting, Councilwoman McCardle stated, “my heart says yes but then my brain disagrees, because then who pays those fees?” she said, “it’s not like they just go away.” Cooney acknowledged her concern, but retorted, “you will not have your town if you don’t do something to incentivize,” then offering, “I think it’s the person on the opposite side of the spectrum that picks that cost up.” In this type of scenario, he explained, the GFC costs of a smaller build would be less than that of a larger, 6,000 sq. ft. home build, for example.
Because of the nature of the meeting, a workshop as opposed to a council meeting, action is not typical taken. However, councilmembers have a lot of scenarios to explore and ideas to ponder on from this workshop in preparation for upcoming meetings.

Chelan, council, recycling, housing, workshop, meetings


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