WENATCHEE — A downtown beautification project will not happen next year, no matter how much it would cost.
Thirty-three of 42 downtown property owners that would have been taxed to pay for the project did not support the project, said businessman Dave Gellatly.
“Speaking for 85 percent of the private ownership of the affected properties … do whatever you have to do to kill this LID (local improvement district),” he said.
The Wenatchee City Council on Thursday declined to form a new taxing district for a $720,000 project in the downtown. The cost had ranged as high as $900,000, and in recent weeks business owners were mulling a scaled-back $280,000 project.
The taxing district would have paid for the work.
The Wenatchee Downtown Association and city staff have been working for two years to come up with a plan for sprucing up the downtown. The streetscape project, funded by property owners, was going to take place at the same time the city repaved the four-block area and made necessary improvements to irrigation lines, and underground water, sewer and fire lines.
The city had delayed its project to allow downtown property owners time to pull together their project.
The beautification project included a menu of possibilities, including new sidewalk planters and benches, expanded sidewalks to shorten the distance pedestrians have to cross streets, removing and replacing some trees, and repainting light poles and traffic signal poles.
But after cost estimates were finalized and property owners learned what their portion of the project would cost, many of them began speaking out against elements of the project.
With deadlines for the city’s roadwork looming, the City Council gave downtown property owners until Thursday to come up with an alternative plan — or their streetscape project would be eliminated.
Gellatly said a majority of the affected property owners met on Sept. 30 for nearly three hours to hash out their concerns.
Most agreed that they didn’t want more concrete features.
“It wouldn’t hurt us to have a little more greenery and color downtown and less concrete,” he said.
He said they thought new benches and bike racks “seemed like a waste of money.”
And he said property owners were widely divergent on the issue of trees. Some wanted all the trees taken out and replaced with new ones, and some wanted to leave them all.
He they also agreed that $200,000 to repaint poles (and replace light globes) “is a heck of a high price.”
In the end, he said, there wasn’t enough agreement among the group to come up with a revised improvement plan.
So he asked the council not to form the taxing district.
“If we’re going to buy something, we want to buy something that people really want to see done,” he said.
He told the council that some business owners have committed to meeting over the winter to develop an improvement plan that they can all live with.
The only other downtown property owner to speak on Thursday was David Rodstahl, who said he did not support Gellatly’s position.
He wanted the streetscape project to go forward. But added, “Enough time and money has been spent and wasted over the last two years.”
Council members Mark Kulaas and Karen Rutherford offered to meet with downtown property owners as they work on a new improvement plan for the corridor.
Linda Haglund, executive director of the Wenatchee Downtown Association, did not speak at Thursday’s council meeting. But afterward, she said she respects the decision by a majority of the downtown owners not to support the streetscape project.
“We thought it was a good project,” she said. “But at the end of the day, they pay the bill.”