After nearly two decades of waiting, some movement on the long-awaited development of the Bullfrog Flats property in Cle Elum started moving forward last September.
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.
Fast-forward to today, 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.
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 are going 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 city planner Lucy 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.
A full house voiced its concerns over proposed changes to the 2002 Bullfrog Flats site master plan and development agreement during an open house in October at Walter Strom Middle School in Cle Elum.
People were able to get some of their general questions about the process answered by representatives from the city’s environmental consultant team, Suncadia and Sun Communities. A main concern that arose multiple times was the absence of commercial development in proposed changes.
In the original master plan and development agreement, 27 acres are to be put aside for a business park. That land is not part of the acreage Sun Communities might acquire, and would be developed in the future, either by Suncadia or potential third parties looking to purchase that land from Suncadia.
Upper County residents raised concerns that adding a considerable amount of people to the area without additional shopping centers would put a strain on the already limited retail and grocery options.
Sun Community representative Howard Fingeroot said retail usually follows quickly after houses are built.
Fingeroot said if approved, the development would take around 10 years to completely build out, which would allow plenty of time for the commercial land to develop.
The city’s environmental consultant Gregg Dohrn said the scope of the Environmental Impact Statement will investigate and address a majority of people’s concerns, including traffic, buffer zones from the roads, affordable housing, infrastructure and public services like police and fire.
In December, the city of Cle Elum issued a report and summary of the scoping process for the 47-degree North Master Plan Project Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.
From this point forward, the SEIS process will continue toward a Draft SEIS document for public review and comment. Meanwhile, the city is anticipating a formal application from the 47 degrees North Master Plan Project team, which is anticipated in early 2020.