EAST WENATCHEE — Creating jobs and promoting tourism and recreation are the goals of developing Wenatchi Landing, the first phase being a $4 million project to extend sewer past 29th Street Northwest.
Half of the money would come from local funds and half from a state match, if approved. The state House of Representatives' proposed capital budget includes $1 million for the sewer extension, and the Senate's includes $2 million.
The site is near the Odabashian Bridge in Douglas County. Of the 317 acres, 283 can be developed; the rest is public right of way.
There are several private landowners, and the state Department of Transportation and Chelan County PUD also own land next to the river.
"It's about the last undeveloped area. It's kind of this little jewel waiting to be polished up," said Douglas County Sewer District Manager Bernita Landers. She added, "Having the sewer out there is what will spur the development to happen as it should. Instead of having a lot of septics out there that spread the development out, it will allow density and the most return on the investment."
She said the project, which has garnered much local support, would benefit the entire region and she thinks it could mirror Pangborn Airport Business Park. The park includes Port of Douglas County administrative offices and several other tenants.
Landers is also hoping for infill housing along the way to Wenatchi Landing. She said the project can be completed much sooner if the state allocates funding.
Sen. Brad Hawkins, R-East Wenatchee, has advocated for including the sewer extension in the capital budget. He thanked Reps. Mike Steele, R-Chelan, and Keith Goehner, R-Dryden, for working to secure funds.
"This whole northern end of Douglas County could see significant improvements and enhancements in the years to come if we're successful with what we're envisioning," Hawkins said. "Ultimately, I would like to see the sewer extended beyond the (Odabashian) Bridge up into the Baker Flats area."
Roads will also need to be extended in the Wenatchi Landing area later.
Port of Douglas County Executive Director Lisa Parks said the project has been discussed since 2012 or 2013.
"The reason we needed legislative help in terms of dollars is that infrastructure's very costly," she said. "At this point, it's kind of a chicken-and-egg situation. The property has sat vacant for many years, even though it's been identified for this type of commercial and economic development activity, largely because there isn't infrastructure."
Nothing's official, but Parks said options that have been discussed include hotels, restaurants, medical offices, a sports complex and an aquatic center. Housing would be a secondary use, she said.
Douglas County Commissioner Dan Sutton said he was glad to see the state Legislature prioritize a smaller, more rural county.
Easy access to the highway is just one benefit of developing the Wenatchi Landing area, Sutton said.
"That is a blank canvas," he said. "I would like to see a mix of commercial and retail. … I think it's really important to get some cornerstone businesses out in that area. It could be anything — the sky's the limit. It could be an apartment complex or a hotel. I'd love to see a hotel out there."
A wine village would also be a good idea, he said.
Hawkins said developing the Wenatchi Landing area is important partially because of a shortage of available land.
"It does seem like we're at a critical point in time as a community where we need to do this — and do it responsibly — before we lose the opportunity," he said.