Happy New Year! January 2018 and I am halfway through my first term as your council representative. It's hard to believe it has only been two years because we have done so much, but at the same time it's really flying by.
I have heard from you through emails, conversations, phone calls, and through the survey I sent out during my campaign, asking what your goals are for Leavenworth and how you hope to improve our town. From all of this I heard you say these were the most important issues to you:
- More housing options
- Less expensive residential development standards
- More access for residents parking in town
- Employee parking in town
- Public recreation/Community center/community services
- More economic diversity
- Improved infrastructure
I went to work right away learning about how our city system works so we can improve these areas. The first thing I learned is our council does its work through committee, so I joined the committees that focus on these issues. All of these issues are easily divided into three categories and that is where I have focused my work.
1. Affordable Housing
This is a big topic that is complicated to define and complicated to solve. Thankfully our Mayor is also on board for working on this issue and started the Affordable Housing Task Force in 2016. Serving on this committee I worked with a diverse group of people to make a recommendation to the City for ways to diversify housing and create lower cost options. The committee lasted until June 2017 when we made our recommendation.
The City Council has now directed our Planning Commission to study housing and these recommendations as their top priority for this year. They will give us their recommendations for code changes and additions focused on meeting the goals from the Task Force. This work will also address some of the issues with challenging/expensive residential development standards.
There were a few recommendations that the Planning Commission is not able to work on - like regional partnerships and new financing options. I asked the Mayor to create a new committee that will work on these longer term, more complicated issues. I expect we will start this work in the next month or so.
Lastly, in 2016 we took a look at our short term rental code. This was a big project with lots of community input. Short term rentals bring in significant income for landlords, more like hotels and create a commercial enterprise in our residential neighborhoods. In order to maintain home prices and our community culture, we reaffirmed our Bed and Breakfast Permit rule. This gives homeowners an option for additional income through short term rentals, but keeps big money out of the neighborhoods. We also instituted enforcement and cleaned up the poachers.
Parking is a beast of an issue in our town. We just don't have that much square footage and we have a lot of people coming through, throughout the year.
Right away at our first Council Retreat in 2016 I asked if we could put it on our agenda, so we brought it to the Economic Development Committee. In committee we decided we needed to get some definitions about the subject and some recommendations for ways we can improve in the short and long term. So we hired a parking consultant who started working with us in the spring of 2017.
We are in the middle of the process with our consultant right now. Part of their role is to work with our community to better define both the issues and the solutions - so look forward to more information coming out from them, including a community meeting!
We will take the work done with the community and make improvements right away! And the longer term projects we will be able to start laying the groundwork for future development.
In the Economic Development Committee I have also focused on promoting diverse industries. The next big industry that is gaining traction in Leavenworth is Recreation. Since recreation is more of a regional industry that has specific benefit to Leavenworth, it takes lots of collaboration. I am working toward opening those doors for Leavenworth!
On the Parks and Recreation Service Area (PRSA) board I am working to investigate if we can provide more public recreation than just the pool. Since the City of Leavenworth serves only 2000 people, it is not easy to afford many recreation amenities. But the PRSA serves the larger upper valley and would be a great venue to open that door for more. Look forward to more community outreach and a public meeting coming this spring so you can let us know what you want!
In terms of improved infrastructure I was pleased to discover past council members and our staff have already been working diligently on this. We have a street repair and replacement program so that each year one or two streets are improved and we have a capital facilities replacement schedule. Currently our water and sewer plants are going through an upgrade plan, as is our public works facilities. Additionally, through community projects and a new bond you passed this year our parks have seen a new pump track and skate park and will see Enchantment Field upgrades and a new play structure in Waterfront Park. I am on both the Public Works and Parks committees so I can continue to help these projects along.
It's been a wonderful two years working to keep Leavenworth growing beautiful and strong! I am so thankful for you and this whole community. Thank you for all your involvement in making Leavenworth amazing, from coaching youth sports, to serving on non-profits, to your volunteerism! We are a loving community full of fun and adventurous people.
Please keep letting me know how to serve you better:
Have a coffee with me at my office hours: Thursdays 8:30a at Good Mood Food
Send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Give me a call: 509-888-1596
Cheers to the next two years!