Not to sound flippant, but the first reaction to the new proposal to develop Cle Elum’s Bullfrog Flats area is: That’s a big RV park.

The land in question was purchased by Jeld-Wen from Plum Creek Timber Company in 1996 as part of the master planned resort property. It was never designated for the master planned resort (now known as Suncadia), but was intended for different types of development, notably affordable housing and a business park.

One significant change, in 1996 that land was in Cle Elum’s urban growth area. It has since been incorporated into the city.

From the start, Jeld-Wen and those that followed, did not intend to develop the property themselves. A short 23 years later, Sun Communities has stepped forward with a plan for 825 acres of the property. It should be noted that Sun has not yet purchased the property, but it is going through the environmental review process with the city of Cle Elum to alter the master plan for that property. The company wants to know what it can do with the land prior to signing on the dotted line.

Sun is going to the city with its plan, which brings us in part to that RV park. The 2002 plan included 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.

Sun Communities’ proposed development, titled “47° North,” retains the same number of housing units as the current master plan, 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.

Even from a layman’s perspective, that does seem like a good location for an RV park — great freeway access surrounded by a beautiful setting.

The question comes back to whether it meets the vision the community has for that property. Obviously, this is private property being developed by private sector businesses so it would be helpful if the community’s vision also made sense financially.

The switch to 527 single family manufactured units is an interesting concept. In theory, the manufactured units would be more affordable than stick-built houses. The Upper County has a strong need for affordable housing (as does the remainder of Kittitas County). The plan also calls for 180 multi-family units. While the single family and multi-families numbers proposed represent a decrease from the original plan, if and when built out it still would significantly increase the area’s housing stock.

The “in and when” is a bit of wildcard.

Keep in mind that while Suncadia looks well established, it still is being built out — not just homes but resort facilities as well. These are long processes.

The community can and should get involved. 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.


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