Wednesday, May 29, 2024

A strong voice for Chelan County residents comes to life with new non-profit

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A new non-profit called the Residents Coalition of Chelan County, (RC3), has recently formed to give county residents a strong voice on the issues that matter most to them.

Many Chelan County residents have indicated that one of their biggest frustrations is their lack of a voice in local land use decisions. For example, while environmental impact analyses of development projects are required under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), such reports are often biased toward the developers, who select and hire their own consultants to do the impact studies. These studies are reviewed by local and state agencies that are understaffed and often lack adequate technical expertise. The result is that many SEPA documents underestimate the negative impacts of projects on neighborhoods and communities. Later, at public hearings, residents’ concerns about impacts on their community are ignored on the rationale that they are not “experts.”

RC3 exists to right these types of wrongs and to collectively give residents a voice in this and other local governmental processes that are skewed in favor of developers, at the expense of local residents. The website for Residents Coalition of Chelan County (RC3) is https://coalitionofchelancounty.org.

RC3 is a network of residents that was organized in 2019 as Residents United for Neighbors (RUN) in response to the increasingly negative impacts of short-term rentals on neighborhoods. Based on the work of RUN and its supporters, a reasonably good ordinance was adopted by the Chelan County Board of Commissioners in September 2021.

The new and expanded mission of RC3 is to work with residents and local businesses to ensure that future growth and development in Chelan County preserves and enhances the qualities that residents value the most—rural character, a strong sense of community, and a healthy and beautiful natural environment.

The local issues that RC3 will champion include:

  • Protection and enforcement of the Short-Term Rental regulations
  • Preservation of ecosystems
  • Land use planning and regulation
  • Affordable housing
  • Sustainable tourism

“As both the President of the Manson Community Council and a Manson resident, I have provided commentary on projects to the Chelan County Community Development Department. In most instances I have felt that my comments were not seriously considered. Most recently, the County and the Hearing Examiner approved the 66-lot Sundance Estates project in Manson without bothering to explain to the public the obscure regulatory basis of their approval. With an organization like Residents Coalition of Chelan County unifying our voices, the public will have a better chance of being heard.” -Kari Sorenson (business owner, Manson resident)

In Peshastin, a large residential development project called Pine Ridge was recently approved by Chelan County. The project, which is on 42 acres of land, will consist of 212 units. This will nearly double the population of Peshastin. According to Ken Hemberry of Peshastin Hi-Up Growers, the company was concerned that increased traffic from the development would result in a significant negative impact on its business and on the town of Peshastin.

“We provided traffic data to the County regarding the number of trips our trucks, customer trucks, and employees make in and out of our facility. Our data was derived from internal truck logs, shipping reports and employee censuses over an entire year. It provided a stark contradiction to the developer’s traffic study which was for a short period of time during our slowest part of the year. It is the opinion of the Board and Management of Peshastin Hi-Up that our concerns weren’t taken seriously. The County approved the project without addressing any of the issues we raised or offering any solutions to the impact of the increased traffic this project will bring.” -Ken Hemberry (Peshastin Hi-Up Growers)

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