11/6/17 | Cle Elum | Central Washington Sentinel by Bruce Coe~
This is NOT what should scare you…
- The fact that a multinational builder and developer like Sun Communities (Bull Frog Flats) has moved in right next to another multinational land developer and is now developing another huge project.
- Not the fact that REITS (Real Estate Investment Trust…the entity that will “hold” the land and improvements) and their governing boards are notoriously unpredictable,
- Or that the seat of power lies thousands of miles away from their development sites.
- Or that they are a 15 billion dollar business with 133,000 individual properties under their management.
You should NOT be afraid that the City of Cle Elum…
- Will double in size in the next ten years
- Or that the management of this developed property may well go through several ownerships, each less concerned with the promises that the previous owner made.
- Or even that the infrastructure existing in the Bullfrog Flats area is not up to the task or that the City’s sewer lines are constantly leaking raw E.coli into the Yakima River.
- All of that is first off, apparent, and secondly, solvable. Except for the REIT part!
What SHOULD terrify you…
- Is that this style of development is exactly what the Growth Management Act has in mind for Kittitas County and rural counties in general. Sprawl compressed into Urban Growth Areas.
- And why, oh why is 10 houses to the acre, not sprawl, yet one house every three acres is sprawl?
The process of providing housing in the GMA manner encourages unimaginative housing design:
- Single-use developments
- From RV ‘resorts’ all the way to high-end golf communities.
- The GMA prohibits any significant growth outside of the cities. When cities need some land for growth they can always annex it.
- Where are the easiest areas to annex? The 903 corridor.
- Why? The utilities and transportation infrastructure is there and easy to get to.
- And, oh yeah, the cost of mitigating a thousand-unit development is a no-brainer.
“We live in a big valley and we are captive to our geography. We are lucky enough to live in an area with unparalleled recreational opportunities and vast physical beauty. We are also unlucky enough to be the center of the west side’s attention. They love our land and want to move here. That’s not bad but it does present some issues, like where are they all going to live?
It also presents some issues with the kind of economy we are developing here. We are becoming a service economy, subject to the whims of the general economic health of the region, much like the traditional economic bases we have had in the past. Resource extraction and service industry economies are both cyclical high-end. Construction is dependent on those swings. Does anyone remember the early 2000’s?
So say what you will about 47°N. The scary part is that this is just the beginning. In 20 years any land with a less than 15% grade that lies along the 903 corridors will become high-density housing. Think the San Fernando Valley north of LA, or any area contiguous to cities that have become engulfed by expansion.
And how about the income and civic disparities between the people who live in the flats and the people who live in the hills. We’re in the process of creating that mess right now and the central planners at the state level can’t, or won’t, admit that. Hint: Shove a bunch of people together and strange behaviors appear.
One final thought.. Kittitas County is also a huge wind tunnel that runs basically NW to SE. Our prevailing weather comes from the NW. Can you say, “Paradise, California”?