Steve and Tanya Tramp have applied to develop 17 lots on 13 acres of land they own above Skyline Drive, just below Wenatchee’s iconic Saddle Rock.
Their proposed housing development, called Black Rock Terrace, has been met with vocal opposition from community members. The state has repeatedly raised concerns about the project. It doesn’t take much imagination to see just how bad this could be for Wenatchee.
The development would pose extreme fire danger, not only to the people who would live there, but to the entire community. Let’s not forget that embers from burning houses in Broadview torched warehouses by the railroad tracks. Wildfires, once they hit the perimeter of town, can rip through entire cities. The Tramps’ property was burned by wildfire in 2014. Fire will come again.
The addition of 17 new households would increase traffic on Skyline Drive, that winding, narrow street of blind curves and recklessly fast drivers, with no sidewalks or shoulders.
The would-be subdivision sits on land identified as critical habitat for mule deer, and the Tramps have not done enough to mitigate the negative impacts on the animals, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
And the subdivision would chip away at what makes Wenatchee beautiful, our shared view of Saddle Rock. Not totally. Just a bit of degradation. Just a little less lovely. A little less open space for wildflowers and wildlife. A little less of what we love about Wenatchee.
As biologist Susan Ballinger wrote in a letter to the city last year, “The Black Rock Estates will forever change our collective view of our most defining landmark.”
And yet, despite these obvious problems, despite the public outcry and the continued objection from the state, the Black Rock Terrace project has sailed through the city of Wenatchee permitting process with seemingly little resistance, and with few opportunities for public engagement. The Tramps have checked all the right boxes, the city says. The zoning code allows for this, the city says. (Opponents dispute both of those claims.)
This is all a big shame, for however much property tax revenue those new, custom-built homes will mean for the city, the price our community will pay in the long run is too high. This development is at odds with our community’s vision for the foothills, articulated again and again in official planning documents, including the city’s own comprehensive plan. It is at odds with Wenatchee’s identity as a place of outdoor recreation and beauty, a place where civic leaders long ago had the foresight to set aside natural spaces for future generations of people and animals to enjoy.
While the city has approved the Tramps’ plan for development, nothing is certain yet. Parties of record may still appeal in Chelan County Superior Court for a few more weeks. The City Council could decide to take a look at this. Or the state may decide to continue fighting. The Chelan-Douglas Land Trust could play a role.
None of this is simple. None of this is black and white, because in this city, preserving the natural environment and growing our economy are not mutually exclusive goals. They are inextricably tied together. The question here is — What is our community giving up for the sake of these 17 new homes? The answer is, I’m afraid — Far too much.
Kelli Scott’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org