After nearly two decades of waiting, the long-awaited development of the Bullfrog Flats property in Cle Elum might finally be getting underway.
Owned by Suncadia, the approximately 1,100-acres located west of the Cle Elum Cemetery between Bullfrog Flats Road, state Route 903 and Interstate 90 was originally known as the Bullfrog Flats Urban Growth Area. It was annexed into the city of Cle Elum in 2002, as part of a master plan and development agreement with Suncadia.
Flash-forward almost 18 years, Suncadia is now looking to sell around 825 acres to a company named Sun Communities, which has developed more than 380 manufactured housing communities and RV parks in the U.S. and Canada. Sun Communities came to the city with amendments to the master plan, but the changes are significant enough to require a formal amendment application, which is subject to public review, comment, a public hearing, a recommendation from the city’s planning commission, along with a supplemental environmental impact statement as well as another Washington State Environmental Policy Act process.
“I think (Sun Communities is) going to go through a lot of due diligence before they sign,” said Lucy Temple, the Cle Elum City Planner.
The original master plan approved by Cle Elum in 2002 agreed to the construction of 1,334 dwelling units, including 810 single family units and 524 multi-family units, a 75-acre business park and 7.5 acres for the construction of 50 affordable housing units, according to documents on the city’s website.
Over the years, several minor amendments were made, including dedicating 175 acres to the city in 2008 for the development of the Washington State Horse Park. Prior to that, 35 acres were dedicated to the Cle Elum School District in 2003.
Sun Communities’ proposed development, titled “47° North,” retains the same number of housing units, but in a different mix — 527 single family manufactured units, 180 multi-family units and 627 sites for RV uses. According to documents, the business park would be reduced to 27 acres, the ownership of which would be retained by Suncadia.
Because of the nature of the proposed changes, the next steps of the process will go down two different tracks — the environmental review and the land use approval process. All the review processes are paid for by Sun Communities, according to Temple.
The environmental review is required by SEPA and is managed by the city, following local and state rules and the Cle Elum Municipal code. It determines whether the project will cause “adverse impacts to the environment,” as well as propose ways to mitigate significant impacts, according to the documents. The SEPA process must be finished before the city can approve a revised master plan.
While environmental studies were prepared for the master plan in 2002, the entire review needs to be updated to account for the time passed and changes that have occurred.
Following the SEPA process, the Cle Elum planning commission will hold a public hearing, consider public comments, and make a recommendation to the city council, which will then make its final decision on the application.
The SEPA process began on Oct. 8, which triggered a 21-day comment period, where the public is encouraged to submit written comments and concerns that should be addressed in the environmental review. The comment period closes Oct. 29, according to the documents.
A meeting is scheduled from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Oct. 23 in the multi-purpose room at Walter Strom Middle School, where written comments can also be submitted.
“This is just the beginning of that process,” Temple said, who is encouraging the public to attend this meeting. “We’re going to hear from the city and the environmental consultants, the applicants will be there, Suncadia representatives will be there and then city staff and the environmental consultants.”
The city has selected a team of consultants, led by EA Engineering, Science and Technology to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement, which looks at water quality, plants, animals, wetlands, air quality, noise and more, and the team is working to gather data before winter weather sets in, according to the documents. A draft of the statement will be published next spring, where there will be another public comment period. Going along with this timelinle, the planning commission and city council could start its review process late fall or winter 2020.
“After the meeting, we’ll be able to share more of the info on the meeting on our website,” Temple said. “As the process moves a long, we’ll be adding more detail and more things to the website to look at, to see where we are in the process.”
For more information the project, visit www.cityofcleelum.com.