WENATCHEE — Downtown property owners have just a few more weeks to agree on what they are willing to pay to make Wenatchee Avenue more attractive — or the work won’t be done next year.
The Wenatchee City Council voted 4-1 on Thursday to set an Oct. 10 public hearing to consider forming a downtown taxing district.
The Local Improvement District would pay for “streetscape” work like new trees and landscaping and bulbed-out sidewalks at intersections. The work would be done at the same time the city does paving and utility upgrades next year.
The city delayed its road project by a year so downtown property owners could come up with a plan for the beautification work. But council members said Thursday that they will not approve the LID next month if a majority of the downtown property owners don’t agree on a plan before then.
Right now, most of them do not appear to support the latest proposal, a $700,000 menu of projects. The cost would be divided among the property owners based on their square footage of land along Wenatchee Avenue.
Councilman Bryan Campbell, who opposed setting the public hearing, said he only knows of one downtown property owner who supports the current proposal.
Councilwoman Linda Herald said many of the property owners “feel like it’s really been pushed on them at the last minute.”
The city has been working with the Wenatchee Downtown Association on the streetscape plan. Over the last several months, the proposal has been whittled down from nearly $1 million to $721,000.
City Engineer Gary Owen told the council that he’s reached a point in planning for the paving and utility project that he needs to know if the streetscape project is going to go forward. That work would affect parts of the city’s project, such as where irrigation lines and electrical wiring is needed.
He said he had hoped the streetscape plan would have been settled in July.
“I understand we’re up against a timeline. Apparently the way you get a property owner’s attention is to throw numbers at them,” said downtown property owner Dave Gellatly, who is opposed to the current streetscape proposal. Property owners were recently notified how much their portion of the LID might be.
He told council members that he will try to get downtown property owners together for a meeting soon to see if they can come up with a plan. But he said he isn’t sure an agreement can be reached by the Oct. 10 hearing.
“We’re not against spending some money to do some stuff downtown,” Gellatly said. “But there are pieces of the project we are very much against.”
Councilman Jim Bailey said that if downtown business owners want improvements beyond the city’s paving and utility work, they need to do it now. He said he’s not interested in coming back in a few years and tearing up downtown to do another project.
“Our project is going to go forward one way or another,” he said. “To me, it makes sense to do these other things while we’re doing it.”