The Chelan Butte is the iconic, undeveloped backdrop to the City of Chelan and surrounding areas. It is a geological feature that distinguishes Chelan from all other small towns in central Washington.
A 900-acre portion right in the middle of the Chelan Butte belongs to a single owner (Golden Gate Ventures). It is located inside the Chelan city limits and is primarily zoned for tourist accommodations. City code allows up to nearly 1,200 vacation rental homes to be built on this property.
Why Should We Preserve Chelan Butte?
There are two primary reasons why all Chelan Valley residents should want to preserve Chelan Butte:
- Preserved and undeveloped, it embodies the natural beauty and ecology of the area in which we live.
- If developed, the addition of more vacation rental homes in Chelan will further increase home prices, overwhelm lake access and use, and clog our streets with traffic.
Now may be our last chance to avoid the detrimental consequences of this kind of development. There may be no second chance.
According to the City of Chelan, the number of seasonal homes as a percentage of the total housing stock has risen from 5.2% in 1980 to 32% in 2014. Current estimates now suggest that 50% of Chelan housing consists of seasonal second homes (usually vacation rentals).
This is at the root of the housing crisis in Chelan and the surrounding area, driving up costs for residents.
In addition, each new vacation rental on the Butte would create approximately one additional vehicle trip per hour coming through Chelan during peak traffic periods and potentially house 10 or more tourists. So 100 new vacation rentals would create roughly 100 new peak-hour trips and house 1,000 new tourists, 200 new vacation rentals would create roughly 200 new peak-hour trips and house 2,000 new tourists, etc.
The following graphic demonstrates what the addition of 800 new vacation rentals on areas zoned for tourist accommodations and 61 residential homes on areas zoned residential (the easternmost 100 acres) on the Chelan Butte might look like. Note that this does not represent any specific development proposal and is provided for demonstration purposes only.
Slide the bar to see impact
What Will It Take to Preserve Chelan Butte?
In 2022, it was estimated that it will take roughly $7 million to purchase the Golden Gate Ventures properties. There are a number of ways these funds could be procured. Chelan Basin Conservancy has been discussing strategies with land trust organizations and others.
Because the property is within Chelan City limits, the City must demonstrate its support with its own modest financial contribution to preserve the Butte.
CBC believes a viable strategy can be developed if the residents of Chelan and the surrounding area are both passionate and vocal about their support for preserving the Butte. Let the Chelan City Council and mayor know your position!
(Note: as of November 2022, a potential developer (Raja Venugopal) signed an option to purchase and develop the GGV properties. Please see the Updates posted below for the latest status of his endeavors.)