CHELAN — The city is looking to buy 9.8 undeveloped acres off of Spader Bay for public access, a proposal that is controversial among residents.
The City Council on Tuesday authorized Mayor Mike Cooney to enter into a purchase and sale agreement with sellers Terri O’Neal and Linda Evans Parlette. The property is $400,000, but the city estimates the total cost, including improvements, would be about $1 million.
Chelan has 120 days before making a final decision, extended from 90 days after councilmembers and residents raised concerns about what they said was a rushed process. The council would also have to give final approval.
City Administrator Mike Jackson said the city could terminate the agreement for any reason within that 120-day period.
“The intent of that was to be able to make some commitment to the seller if they accept these terms and allow the city to expend the time and energy to develop plans for the site and to work toward securing easements, which is difficult to do if there is not some level of commitment on the city’s behalf,” he said.
The council on Aug. 27 approved a contract with J.A. Brennan Associates to assess potential lake access sites, including Spader Bay. Jackson said the city could add a trail, boat launch or pier, picnic tables and benches to Spader Bay.
Jackson said the property doesn’t have deeded access, so the city would have to negotiate for that. It would also have to determine a funding source.
According to information Jackson provided to the council, using city revenue is risky because the money might be needed later. Another option would be to use Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) funds, but those are based on real estate transactions and therefore are unstable.
Jackson said the debt service would be about $74,000 per year for 20 years. The city has also already committed to use REET funds on several other projects.
About 60 people packed the council chambers Tuesday evening, and 15 spoke out against the purchase. Only the real estate agent handling the sale raised his hand when everyone was asked who was in favor of the proposal, but a few hands went up when asked if they’d prefer for a developer to build homes on the property.
Wenatchee resident Alice Thompson said she and her two sisters, who also spoke at the meeting, now own the family home on Spader Bay Road. They said creating a trail would be a liability.
“It was our summertime go-to place on weekends,” Thompson said. “I know firsthand about the steep, hilly, rocky terrain on the backside of our property that the city is looking to purchase. Rocks and soil continue to move downhill. It sloughs off with a heavy rain or winter thaw or just because.”
She noted that Spader Bay would connect the new trail at Don Morse Park to the roundabout and would likely be accessible only by foot.
“Do citizens of Chelan want to spend a million dollars, plus interest for 20 years, for a trail?” she asked.
Thompson and her sisters stood outside of the post office Monday morning, she said, and most people they spoke with thought the cost was too high.
Her sisters, Connie Cooper Smith and Anita Rutter, also raised concerns about environmental impacts and a need for money for other projects like road and sidewalk improvements.
Councilwoman Kelly Allen acknowledged that Spader Bay residents would be affected but said the council had to consider the community as a whole.
Councilman Ray Dobbs, who with Councilwoman Erin McCardle voted against authorizing the purchase and sale agreement, said other organizations like the trails alliance or land trust could preserve the open space instead of the city.