WENATCHEE — The Wenatchee School Board has tentatively agreed to sell 2.2 acres of property to the city as part of a proposed street connecting Springwater Avenue to Maple Street.
The task of negotiating the price and terms of the sale for the strip of land will fall to new Superintendent Paul Gordon, whose first day on the job was Monday. The board, at its June 25 meeting, formally directed Gordon to pursue negotiations following up on a June 18 in-depth discussion with city officials.
Board members declined to make a similar move on the two other pieces of the city’s package deal that would have the district sell off another 4.9 acres of buildable land for housing lots and 26.1 acres of hillside property for a park.
The 70.1-acre school district property, which the city obtained as a potential future school site, sits west of the Washington State University Tree Fruit Research Center, bordering Springwater Avenue to the south. The eastern half of the property, which is split by the irrigation canal, is relatively flat and buildable. The western half, or most of it, is a steep hillside.
The basic plan, presented by the city in January, and again last month, is to build a street across the property at the base of the hill, following the existing easement for a Chelan County PUD waterline. The road would provide a needed connection — for safety, fire and traffic flow — for the 1,500 existing and 1,200 future homes in the foothills, city officials said. It’s all part of a larger $22.2 million foothills road connections and improvement project.
For this piece, the city is trying to put together a public-private partnership with a developer interested in building the connector road across the school district property. That deal would be more likely if some of the estimated $750,000 in costs could be offset by turning the 4.9 acres of buildable land between the road and the hillside into 10 building lots. A third part of the city’s proposal to the school district is to turn the 26.1-acre hillside into a city park.
“We propose that the hillside property becomes part of the city. We are interested in it remaining open space,” said Wenatchee Economic Development Director Steve King.
The city, though, was not proposing to buy the hillside property outright. Funding for that project would come from other sources, most likely grant funds, working through a nonprofit.
“We own a lot of open space, none of which we have paid for, though the city does maintain it,” Mayor Frank Kuntz told the school board at the June 11 meeting.
The advantage for the school district, according to the city, is it would save on road construction costs later and reduce liability for maintaining the open hillside.
School board members said they see the need for the connecting road, but were not entirely sold on the other parts of the package as presented by the city.