CBC Efforts to Preserve Chelan Butte – Update #10 (10/11/23)

(emailed on October 11, 2023)

Hello supporters of the Chelan Butte,

A lot has happened in the five weeks or so since our last update, much of it related to the use of boundary line adjustments (BLAs) and exempt subdivisions as governed by the Chelan Municipal Code (CMC). Maybe not an exciting topic, but an important one in relation to the potential development of the Chelan Butte.

As discussed in previous Updates provided by CBC (note these are all posted on our website), the potential developer of the Chelan Butte (Raja Venugopal) intended to use iterative cycles of the BLA and exempt subdivision code to create a large subdivision on the Butte without going through the normal regulatory process for subdivisions. After the first BLA application was submitted for the Butte, the City put a moratorium on additional BLAs until the CMC could be examined for potential revision.

As the potential code revisions worked their way through the City’s review process, CBC and its board members advocated for changes that would preclude the future abuse of BLAs such as was intended for the Butte. Thanks to 457 of you signing our online declaration of support, we were able to demonstrate to the City (link) that the public strongly supported the changes to the BLA and exempt subdivision code.

Meanwhile, Mr. Venugopal’s attorney argued against the changes, which was strongly rebutted (link) after consultation with our legal counsel (Bricklin & Newman). In the end, while nearly 460 members of the public, the City Planning Commission, and City staff supported the changes, only Mr. Venugopal opposed them.

The good news is that on September 26th, the Chelan City Council unanimously approved Ordinance 2023-1612, changing the CMC so that the scheme envisioned by Mr. Venugopal for the Butte will not be allowed in the future anywhere within the City of Chelan. The bad news is that he and the property owner (Golden Gate Ventures) were able to complete one iteration of this scheme prior to the code change. This includes one iteration of the BLA (as we presented previously) and one iteration of an exempt subdivision that was completed on September 8th, just a few weeks before the code change was finalized. As a result, there are now 58 lots on the roughly 900 acres across the Butte (link).

The scheme could have been used iteratively to create hundreds of lots without any public input if not for the code changes, so it could be a lot worse.

Amazingly, local news sources (i.e., the Lake Chelan Mirror and All Things Lake Chelan) gave biased, one-sided summaries of the September 26th hearing, providing only the viewpoint of the developer while ignoring the viewpoints of the nearly 460 members of the public, CBC, the City Planning Commission, and City staff. CBC is currently trying to rectify this with the Mirror.

So, the current status is that Mr. Venugopal has created fewer lots than he had hoped for and still has to figure out how to provide utilities for these lots in a cost-effective manner. One significant issue is that City code requires that these lots be served by City water and sewer. Curiously, Mr. Venugopal has spent significant money to drill three “test” water wells on the Butte. To hit even minimal amounts of water, these wells had to be drilled very deep (roughly 700 to 800 feet, as shown in the well logs (link)).

Nonetheless, because we are wary that Mr. Venugopal will request a variance from the City to allow the use of water wells and septic systems for development instead of spending the money to connect to the municipal water/sewer system, CBC has preemptively asked the City to confirm that they will enforce their code on this issue (see our letter here). We have met once with some City staff members, but still hope for a more definitive response on this issue.

We are still awaiting the announcement of the first public meeting associated with the Chelan Butte Acquisition Feasibility Study run by the Trust for Public Land and their consultant. We will let you know as soon as this information is available.

Thanks to your generous donations, we have been able to utilize Bricklin & Newman to answer our legal questions and strategize on next actions, which has been extremely helpful.  We are grateful for your passionate support of this issue.  At this point, we have several different ways that we intend to fight this potential development of the Butte and instead preserve it for public use- we look forward to informing you of these efforts as we move forward.

That’s it for now, but as always please feel free to reach out to us with your comments and questions.

Brian Patterson
Chelan Basin Conservancy President

on behalf of the CBC board:

Lisa Garvich – Vice President
Tony Crosetto – Treasurer
Mary Bider – Secretary

Chelan Basin Conservancy
P.O. Box 1073
Chelan, WA 98816

www.chelanbasinconservancy.org

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