Thursday, February 22, 2024

Chelan Mayor Mike Cooney calls out to community angels


CHELAN – In a special interview with Lake Chelan Mirror, Mayor Mike Cooney opens up and speaks to his ultimate goals and desires for affordable housing in the community.
“I think it was a very good first step,” offered Cooney on his thoughts of the outcome of the town hall meeting for affordable housing. He began by expressing his satisfaction with the turnout from the meeting, which, by the time the meeting started, the seats were filled and walls lined with standing attendees. “That turnout, I looked throughout the crowd, and there was a very good mixture of youth and experienced people … there were people there who are searching for an answer, there were people there from an older set there saying that this is a community problem,” he explained, “from my standpoint, this is not going to get done from people outside of here. To a certain extent we might be able to get people who are second-home owners to help us out with contributions, but it’s really going to be solved by people within the community, it might be people donating land or even building houses.”
The next step, he said, will be the workshop and that’s where decisions will be made on what actions to take and what options are available. One of the options that Cooney will be bringing to the table for consideration during the workshop (Feb. 6, 6 p.m. at Chelan City Hall) is a proposed a one-tenth of one percent increase on sales tax, would the Chelan community vote for this minor increase if that money was earmarked for affordable housing, he asked.
“What’s really important,” Cooney stated, “is that my approach as a business owner and my approach as mayor has always been to do it by way of offering the carrot instead of the stick. I don’t think you can beat people into wanting to help you or others. It’s not a charitable undertaking,” he added, “it’s a critical need within our town right now, before our town evaporates too much more.” Cooney led into describing the number of people that are moving from the area, or who will not move here. “I really want to make sure that we build a first home for our people,” he emphasized, “before we build a second home for other people.” Cooney explained that the comment is not to create any tension or to create an ‘us against them’ mentality. The priority, as he emphasized, is to care for the members and workers in the community, first and foremost. “In my time here, I have noticed that Chelan rises up to the occasion,” he offered, “and helps those that need the help, and this, again, is not charitable, but that quote (from the meeting) is really stating that.” The quote, by Robert Kennedy, simply stated, “those that are advantaged have a responsibility to help those who are at a disadvantage.”
“The numbers are staggering,” Cooney voiced with dismay, “the median income is $36,000 yet the median home price is $300,000 or whatever the exact number was.” There are three factors that are leading this crunch in housing include the rising cost in second homes, said Cooney. “when they start getting $700,000, pretty soon the person that owns that little home (in town) is now that house, by way of market, is now at $300,000 and it was just $180,000 (value of the house), not that long ago.” The second factor is the number of homes that could go to long-term rentals instead of vacation rentals causes a ripple effect, “and I hope that came through last night,” he emphasized, “that we are not allowing another vacation home in the existing neighborhoods.” The third factor, he stated, his how strong the economy is right now, “the stock market is at an all-time high and people are investing in real estate again,” he added. “This also can’t be viewed, by any means, as us trying to hurt current businesses, such as real estate agents or legal vacation rentals.” The Feb. 6 workshop will allow councilmembers and the public alike to work through current obstacles the community faces in the housing dilemma.
“My biggest message,” Cooney voiced, “is that we need the help of those who have the means to help us retain our people. I’m looking for a couple angels in our community that can get us started, the angels are out there, we just have to make the call for them to help us, and those angels are the people who step forward to help.”

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