CompPlan-postThose in the Methow contingent who spoke at the planning commissioners’ hearing asked for water protections and more specifics in the comp plan, but some citizens want the plan to be adopted right away. Photo by Marcy Stamper

 

BY MARCY STAMPER

Faced with voluminous input about the failure of the county comp plan to protect water quality or to identify specific goals for growth, a weary planning commission voted unanimously to continue the hearing on the plan at its July meeting – but not until the commissioners considered cutting off all future written comment.

The Okanogan County Planning Commission listened to verbal testimony from eight people at a hearing on Monday (June 24) before declaring that they were not prepared to send the current draft of the comprehensive plan to the county commissioners for approval, in light of all the new information presented.

“I am not going to be able to act on anything tonight without the opportunity to read the testimony,” said planning commissioner Marlene Rawley of Brewster, who made a motion to impose a deadline for reading more written comments. The motion failed for lack of a second, despite similar inclinations expressed by other commissioners.

“There comes a time when it’s time to shut it off and make a decision,” said Rawley. The commissioners and staff have been working on an update of the plan for seven years.

Thirty people, more than a third of them from the Methow, attended the hearing on what Okanogan County Planning Director Perry Huston optimistically called the “final draft” of the comp plan, which the planning commission is reviewing after the county commissioners made substantial changes.

Six speakers, five from the Methow, said the plan fails to protect water quality and quantity, as required by state law. They charged that the plan is so vague about lot density that it cannot be used as the basis for planning and zoning in the county.

The speakers also said the section identifying the Methow Valley as a “more completely planned area” is confusing because it is not clear whether it applies to the entire Methow Review District or only the area around Mazama. In the existing comp plan, the district and its environmental protections run south to Gold Creek.

“It must be clear that it encompasses all of the Methow Valley School District, or it would be abandoning protections in the Methow,” said Maggie Coon, chair of the Methow Valley Citizens’ Council. Several speakers urged the commissioners to extend the Methow Review District to encompass the entire Methow watershed.

“The plan is long on protecting water rights but low on water sufficiency. Water rights are only as good as the flows that supply water,” said Peter Morgan of Twisp.

Others questioned the adequacy of the county’s environmental analysis, saying it does not provide information about the impacts of the plan on future growth nor provide a range of alternatives to assess.

Only two of those providing testimony – Jon Wyss, president of the Okanogan County Farm Bureau and chair of the Coalition for Property Rights, and another speaker who belongs to both organizations – urged immediate passage of the plan with only minor changes.

When the planning commissioners have completed their deliberations on this draft, they will send the plan back to the county commissioners, who can adopt it or make further changes.

The planning commission will continue deliberations on the comp plan at its meeting on Monday, July 22. They have closed verbal testimony but written comments can still be submitted to smckenzie@co.okanogan.wa.us. The plan, map and environmental impact statement are available on the planning department website at www.okanogancounty.org/planning and at area libraries.