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Decisions, Conditions, Funding
Winthrop Town Council news

The Winthrop Town Council wrapped up the year Wednesday (Dec. 18), by swearing in a new mayor, raising staff salaries, going $1.6 million in debt for upgrades to the town’s water system, and with some conditions attached, ruled in favor of a business owner in a dispute with residential neighbors on Horizon Flats.


At the request of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), the council also agreed to pay RH2 Engineering Inc. up to $31,125 for a preliminary engineering study to find out if the proposed RiverWalk Trail can be built under Highway 20 at Bridge Street without compromising the integrity of the bridge that crosses the Chewuch River.

Roughly half the cost of the work will be paid with a $15,000 donation from retired attorney Larry Therriault of Winthrop and Seattle, according to outgoing Mayor Dave Acheson. He added that Therriault at his own instigation already paid for an initial review assessing the feasibility of the long-discussed trail project.

Town Planner Rocklynn Culp told the council that the engineering study “represents sort of the big leap next step” in the effort to build the trail through downtown and credited Therriault, descendant of a long-time valley family, with “getting this off our back burner.”

photoOutgoing Winthrop Mayor Dave Acheson hands off his duties to Sue Langdalen, who ran unopposed. Photo by Solveig Torvik

WSDOT has expressed concern to the town that building the trail under the bridge could increase the risk of river scour by modifying the stream channel and that the soil retention walls could be vulnerable to scour.

“Excessive scour could damage the trail and walkway, which in turn could affect the integrity of the supporting bridge piers and embankment,” according to the WSDOT, which also cautioned that the path lies within a Federal Emergency Management Act (FEMA) floodway. Any modifications under the bridge must adhere to FEMA’s “no-rise” criteria, which prohibit any increase in the 100-year flood water surface, according to Culp’s report to the council. The firm’s report is to be completed within 45 days.

F&S Excavating Permit

The council approved a conditional use permit for F & S Excavating, owned by Andrew Oosterhof of Twisp, after neighbors adjoining his business complained about dust, noise, truck traffic and lack of sanitation facilities at his one-acre lot on Horizon Flats.

Oosterhof, who according to Culp initially had been operating at the site without a business license, runs a portable screening operation that turns fill dirt into topsoil and stores bulk sand, gravel and fill materials at the site as well as equipment. He recently has been erecting an eight-foot tall fence to screen his property.

After the complaints, Oosterhof volunteered to operate under a conditional use permit, which Culp said he was not required to have under existing town regulations. She told the council that his business complies with the town’s ordinances for Horizon Flats.

“I realize there are things I didn’t do,” Oosterhof told the council, who added that he has been making improvements in operations and wanted the permit to make use of his property.

Raquel Rhinehart, who said she lives 80 feet from Oosterhof’s business, wrote in a letter to Culp that “It has completely ruined my living experience in this neighborhood and decreased my property value,” a sentiment shared by several other residential owners who complained to the town.

Chad Patterson, owner of Cascade Concrete, testified in support of Oosterhof. “We need to have a place where we can do this,” said Patterson, adding that “Andy’s material is not waste material. It has value.”

Among the conditions imposed by the council is that water be used for dust control and that the screening operation be limited to eight days per month and restricted to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. Heavy truck traffic to the site is limited to 10 round trips per day between 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.

In an unusual arrangement, Horizon Flats was zoned decades ago as both a residential and industrial neighborhood. It adjoins the area’s dominant industrial business, Cascade Concrete, which excavates gravel on its property.

“It’s definitely a tension that is not readily resolved,” Culp said of the conflicting concerns of the area’s residential and industrial property owners. She told Methow Grist that there are “not clear enough details in the code” that governs industrial uses at Horizon Flats, and this can complicate efforts to address concerns of property owners there.

She said Oosterhof does not face any penalties for operating without a license. Oosterhof did not know he needed a license, said Culp, and she added that this is not uncommon. The civil penalties for operating without a license are limited to a minimum of $25 and a maximum of $100, she said.

Sewer Upgrade Funding

The council also voted to borrow $1,698,321 from the state’s Public Works Board for 24 years at one percent interest to replace 2,800 linear feet of six-inch and four-inch pipe with eight-inch pipe in conjunction with the upcoming Bluff Street reconstruction project.

In addition, 1,600 linear feet of six-inch pipe will be replaced with 12-inch pipe along Highway 20 and eight-inch pipe will be installed along 100 linear feet at the intersection of Highway 20 and White Avenue. A loop water delivery system also will be created at Horizon Flats, where 3,930 linear feet of pipe will be replaced or newly installed.

Salaries and Committees

In other business, the council appointed Lynette Westendorf and Ron McCollum to the Westernization Committee and voted to add $200 per month to the salary of acting marshal Ken Bajema, who was temporarily appointed to fill the vacancy of David Dahlstrom, who resigned.

Sue Langdalen, who previously has served as the town’s mayor, was sworn in for a four-year term. In conjunction with salary increases approved for staff, the mayor’s monthly salary was increased from $700 to $1,000.


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