CHELAN — Dale England wants to keep Chelan County’s economy strong by focusing on tourism, while still preserving the industries and lifestyle that give the county its identity.
England is running for Chelan County Commissioner in District 3 against Tiffany Gering; both are Republicans. England won the primary with 41.6% of the vote and Gering came in second with 29.9%. Only voters in District 3 — Chelan, Manson, Entiat and Olds Station — participated in the primary. The Nov. 3 general election race between England and Gering will be decided by voters in the entire county.
Tourism is important for the future growth of the county, but people want to visit the area because of the lifestyle of its residents, England said. He supports simplifying the county’s building permit process for developers. But he also recognizes that while economic expansion is good, it needs to be managed.
“I think we can grow too much, too fast, and lose sight of the simpler life that’s here,” England said.
One area where that management needs to occur is with short-term rentals, he said. England and Gering disagree on short-term regulations, something the Chelan County Commission is currently working on creating.
England said he isn’t against short-term rentals, but he does think the large number of rentals in the county is having an impact on the affordability of housing. Short-term rentals shouldn’t be located in residential neighborhoods unless the owner lives on site, he said.
“We’re having a building boom and we’re having a real estate boom, because of short-term rentals,” he said. “But I’m also concerned how that changes the landscape and how it’s making it more difficult for the locals to find housing.”
In that same vein, England also has a concern about changing regulations that could impact the agricultural industry. It can seem like a good idea to allow increased density in rural areas to improve housing availability, but that can have unintended consequences on farmers and orchardists.
County zoning doesn’t allow residential properties to build within so many feet of a commercial agricultural property line to avoid problems with spraying or other farm activities, he said. If the county made changes to its zoning in areas like that it could lead to conflicts between neighbors.
In addition to agriculture, tourism is a very important industry for the health of the county, according to England. The two industries, he said, are connected in Chelan County, though, because people visit the area to enjoy the rural lifestyle.
“People come to Chelan County not only for the beauty of the lakes, the mountains and hiking and all of that, but they come for the people that live here,” England said.
Tourists want to ask their servers and hotel workers what they do for fun and where to take their kids, he said.
“And if we price our working-class people out of living here — whether it’s because there’s no affordable home to buy, there is no long-term rent available — then those workers are going to be from some other area coming in here and their reply is going to be, ‘I don’t know. I don’t live here,’” England said.