September 7, 2021
To: City of Cle Elum
City Council Members
From: Larry Stauffer
2661 Lower Peoh Point Road
Cle Elum, WA 98922
RE: 47 Degrees North Application- Written Comments
Please consider this correspondence my response to the Sun Communities Notice of Application for Major Modification of Bullfrog UGA Master Site Plan and Development Agreement dated August 12, 2021.
I am strongly opposed to the Sun Communities proposal, as are the vast majority of the citizens of Cle Elum and the upper county. The proposal is an abomination and if allowed to be developed in the manner submitted would have wide-ranging negative effects on the community from both an economic and cultural basis. It is not hyperbole to expect that if built, it will destroy the community as we know it.
The Bullfrog Flats area will ultimately be developed into housing. I am not opposed to development, I am opposed to the Development Proposed by Sun Communities. The originally approved Master Plan had flaws, but it represented a more typical neighborhood approach; with fee simple land, individualized stick-built structures, a preclusion from RV’s after the build-out and expectations for the use of a local construction workforce and locally supplied materials.
There are many reasons to reject Sun Communities proposal:
Major Modification Not appropriate.
- The proposal as presented by Sun Communities does not represent a modification to the Master Site Plan and Development Agreement. It is a whole different animal and should be treated as such.
- The application should be considered a new land use action and the City’s review should be consistent therewith.
- The proposal should be vested under the regulations currently in place.
- Sun Communities has presented an incomplete application. The Applicant submitted the following statement in its application: “Please consider this a partial submittal to the Major Modification to the master Plan for 47* North. The Conditions of Approval, Additional Development Standards, and supporting documents will follow in the coming weeks.”
- Sun Communities failed to provide details as required in CEMC 17.45.080, Application for mixed use approval. Specifically:
- 17.45.080, A. A statement summarizing how their planned development meets the purposes and objectives of the planned mixed use district.
- 17.45.080, C.2. A statement specifying the program for development, including phasing or completion schedules, if any, and the anticipated project completion date.
- 17.45.080, C.10. A statement identifying applicable policies of the Cle Elum comprehensive plan, any subarea plan and any annexation and or development agreements, and demonstrating how the development proposal meets such policies and the objectives of this chapter.
The application fails to include all documents and statements required to be considered a complete application. The citizenry is allowed to comment on a complete and comprehensive application rather than a partial submittal. As a result of the applicant’s failure, the City should determine that the application is incomplete, require the applicant to re-submit with all supporting documentation; and once all supporting documents have been submitted and available for public review, initiate a second comment period.
Notice of Application
The Notice of Application on the City Website sets out an overview of both the Required Permits and Approvals and the Application Review Process. The process is not well defined or clear about the steps to be taken and provides conflicting statements as to the process of approval.
- Required Permits and Approvals: The proposed modifications are subject to City Council review and approval. If approved, a new Development Agreement between the City and Sun Communities will also be prepared for City Council review and approval.
- Application Review Process: The requested modifications are being processed as a Type 4 application which includes an initial 15-day public comment period. All comments received by the City will be posted on the City-website and the Project Sponsor will be provided with an opportunity to review and respond to the comments received by the City. The City Development Review Team will then review the application materials an all comments received and determine whether the application is consistent with the Development Agreement and the regulations under which the project is vested. A written Staff report with recommended Conditions of Approval will be prepared and made available for public review and comment. In addition, a public hearing will be conducted to receive further comments. All comments received by the City will be reviewed and a recommendation will then be made to the city Council, who will decide whether to approve the modified Master Site Plan and New development Agreement.
The steps outlined within the section Required Permits and Approvals statesthat the City Council must review and approve the proposed modifications in ADVANCE of the preparation of a new Development Agreement. The Application Review Process set-forth an entirely different set of steps. The document is confusing to the public and creates a sense of disarray as it relates to how the application is to be processed.
Bifurcate the City’s Consistency Review and Staff Report process.
Because of the complexities of issues presented as a result of the applicant’s proposal, the amount of research, legal review and analysis required by the City review staff will be enormous. The City should bifurcate the process into two parts in order to minimize time and expense, and provide the appropriate level of public insight necessary for a proposal of this magnitude as it relates to the determinations made by City staff.
Zoning and Code review.
- The proposed project should first be reviewed against all current zoning and Cle Elum Municipal Code. A staff report outlining the City’s determination as to whether the proposal conforms to all of the City zoning and municipal code should be presented to the applicant, public, and if necessary, to a hearing examiner for consideration. Only after citizen review and comment, and if necessary, a hearing examiner’s opinion is rendered, should the second phase of the review be considered. If it is determined that the proposal is not consistent with current zoning and all applicable code, the proposal should be rejected. If it is determined that the proposal is in conflict with code or zoning, the City has the right to propose zoning or ordinance changes to the City Council. It is not appropriate however, to modify zoning or code within the context of a Development Agreement.
- Once the review outlined above is completed and only in the event that the proposal was determined to be consistent with all current zoning ordinances and applicable municipal code, the City staff should initiate the second stage of the review process, including the drafting of the appropriate Development Agreement. While it may be possible that differences of opinion exist as it relates to the interpretations of specific regulation(s); the City staff owes it to the community to interpret such regulation(s), in all cases, to the benefit of the community and with ample consideration to the desires of the public.
Zoning, PMU Planned Mixed Use District
- 17.45.010, Purposes and objectives.
- Sec.A.3. To encourage building design that is in keeping with the climate and the traditional rural, small town, mountain character of the Cle Elum Area;
- Sec.A.5. To ensure that all development gives adequate consideration to and provides mitigation for the impacts it creates with respect to transportation, public utilities, open space, recreation and public facilities….
- Sec.B.2. To create attractive, pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods with a range of housing types, densities, costs and ownership patterns
The afore mentioned purposes and objectives stand in stark contrast to the proposal submitted by Sun Communities.
- 17.45.050, Uses Permitted
- Sec.A. All principally and conditionally permitted uses in this title may be allowed in the PMU district…
Permitted uses include
- R-Residential District; and
- RM- Multiple Family Residential District
- 17.16, R-Residential District; 17.16.010 Outright Permitted uses; Sec. A. One single-family dwelling per legal lot of record (including manufactured homes) and duplexes with not more than one duplex per street frontage per block.
- 17.20, RM Multiple Family Residential District; 17.20.010 Permitted uses; Sec. A. Single-family dwellings, multiple-unit dwellings and townhouses.
Single-family dwellings are allowed within the Planned Mixed Use District because they are allowed in both the Residential District and the Multiple Family District. However, the code clearly and unambiguously states that each single family dwelling must be placed on a single tax parcel, “One single-family dwelling per legal lot of record (including manufactured homes)”.
The applicant’s proposal is to construct a traditional manufactured/mobile home park. All single-family residences are proposed to be placed on “un-plotted lots” under the ownership of and management of the park developer. The Cle Elum zoning ordinance does not recognize manufacture/mobile home parks a permitted use within Any zoning district of the City.
Mitigation and Economics
The Applicant should be required to mitigate 100% of the negative impacts associated with the proposed development. All mitigation should be made concurrent with the actual build-out of the development. Mitigation should be addressed relative to all City, County, State and local associated special district impacts. All details associated with such mitigation requirements and agreements should be detailed within a newly created Development Agreement and subject to public review rather than in separate stand-alone agreements as proposed by the Applicant. CMCU 17.140 specifically authorizes the City to include affected public service providers as legal parties to the Development agreement at the City’s discretion. In the interest of transparency and comprehensive mitigation of this unique and far-reaching project, the City should exercise such discretion.
The Applicant’s proposal will generate substantially less revenue in the form of taxes than the original Master Plan approved in 2002. Some methodology should be imposed upon the Applicant and/or its future renters to ensure that all of the fiscal impacts associated with the development are paid for by the Applicant and/or its renters rather than the other tax payers in the upper county.
Too Large to Fail
Sun Communities’ proposal envisions a huge RV and Manufactured/mobile home park that would nearly double the population of Cle Elum and the surrounding area. This private resort which is isolated from the rest of Cle Elum is nothing but a large business attempting to set-up up a for-profit-company disguised as housing. If the economics of this company fail, and the company defaults in respect to its obligations, the City will end up holding the bag. The City of Cle Elum does not have the capacity to take on such a burden and is not in the financial position capable of taking on such a risk.
Predatory Housing Practices
The only beneficial party to the Sun Communities proposal are the Sun Community investors. The citizens of Cle Elum and the upper county will be robbed of the tax base initially contemplated within the Approved Master Plan and will be saddled with increased traffic, decreased public services, over-stressed schools, a decrease in recreational opportunities and a giant trailer park plopped within what was once our small-town mountain home. The owners of the manufactured houses will face annual increases in lease payments, higher mortgage rates than with traditional housing, devaluation and deterioration of the actual structures and no opportunity to build equity in what they thought was their home. Individuals that can least afford to be taken advantage of are the ones that trailer parks feast upon. Modular housing parks are a scam dressed-up as entry level housing.
The Community has spoken loud and clear. It wants no part of the 47* North development. The Mayor and the City staff have a substantial amount of discretion as it relates to the interpretation of the City zoning and municipal codes. Their interpretations will constitute the basis for the Staff Report which is expected to include a recommendation for approval or rejection of the Applicants proposal. It is the responsibility of the Mayor and the City staff to protect the interests of the community at every available opportunity and as such should exercise such discretion wisely.