The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Council completes sewer rate appeal, lifts moratorium


September 20, 2018

Members of the Cathlamet Town Council worked their way through an appeal of a sewer rate for a business, lifted a building moratorium and handled other business at their monthly meeting on Monday.

Steve and Paige Lake, owners of the Bradley House, had appealed a town decision earlier this year to charge them a monthly rate of $276.58 based on an assessment of 2.8 equivalent customer units (ECU) because it was a residence doubling as an antique shop and bed and breakfast.

The Lakes appealed, noting that they are open for antique sales very few days per year and that they have only two lodging units that are used occasionally during the summer season.

At the council's August meeting, council members, after hearing the Lakes and an analysis from Public Works Director Duncan Cruickshank, agreed to hold the Lakes' assessment at 1 ECU until they could hold a workshop and discuss the matter thoroughly.

The following day, August 21, Cruickshank prepared a memo recommending a charge based on 1.3 ECU.

"Given the relatively low customer burden placed by overnight guests, with a residential single family charge and a rational 0.4 unit charge for two rental units (which is borne by other customers in the town), it seems fair that the charge should be 1.0 ECU plus .4 ECU per rental room or a total of 1.8 ECU," he wrote. "1.8 ECU charge is what I recommend be assigned to the Bradley House owners for their residence and bed and breakfast business. It is because the antique sales are occasional rather than ongoing that I do not recommend an additional charge for that use."

When the matter came up on the agenda, Council Member Laurel Waller pointed out that the council hadn't held the workshop or discussed the issue. She moved to hold the workshop, and Tanya Waller seconded. The motion failed with Ryan Smith, Jean Burnham and Sue Cameron voting against it.

Burnham moved to accept Cruickshank's recommendation. The motion was seconded and passed with Burnham, Smith and Cameron voting in favor and the two Wallers opposed.

The issue seemed settled, and the council moved to other business.

At the end of the meeting, however, Steve Lake asked the council what specific recommendation they had approved.

He pointed out that the only recommendation on record from Cruickshank was to hold the rate at 1.0 ECU until there had been a workshop to discuss the issue.

Discussion ensued.

"There is no way I would ever agree that an airbnb should pay the exact same rate as I do," Burnham said.

Another motion came to set the rate at 1.8 ECU, and it passed with Burnham, Smith and Cameron voting in favor and the two Wallers opposed.

The decision will hurt their business, the Lakes said.

"If we have to pay that much, it would be better for us to move," Page Lake said.

In other business, the council provisionally approved lifting of a moratorium on building permits for the Columbia Ridge Estates Development on Columbia Street.

The council imposed the moratorium in 2010 because the owners' association hadn't followed through on paving a street and because residential parking patterns inhibited emergency vehicle access. Phase 1 of the development came into compliance last year, and the moratorium was lifted for those lots.

Homeowners association member John Arens asked the council to lift the moratorium for Phase 2. The association had met almost all requirements. Parking/fire lane signs have been ordered and will be installed soon to achieve final compliance. The town required two fire lane signs, he said, and in place of a required second sign, he asked that the council allow the association to paint the street and curb to show the fire lane.

When asked, Fire Chief Vernon Barton said his reading of the National Fire Code would permit the painting in combination with the existing sign.

The council unanimously approved a motion, based on suggested language from Fred Johnson, the town's new attorney, to lift a moratorium October 1 provided the association had complied with the requirements from the fire chief and public works director.

Cruickshank reported the public works crew is making progress in fighting water system leaks.

One leak under SR 4 near Messinger Hill is still not repaired and losing 20,000 to 30,000 gallons per day. They're still searching for funding to replace a damaged main near the River of Life church.


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