By Marcy Stamper

Three years after the county’s comprehensive plan was last reviewed for any impacts it would have on the environment, the Okanogan County Planning Department is about to release a new draft, along with the planning director’s conclusions that the new plan will not have a significant impact on the environment.

After a comparison of the old plan—from 1964—and the proposed revisions, Planning Director Perry Huston has determined that “the new plan changes do not create a reasonable probability of more than a moderate impact on the environment.” Huston is the county’s designated official for review of the plan under the State Environmental Policy Act.

The county plans to release a new draft of the plan later this week, along with an interim zoning code for public review, but no details of the documents were yet available. Since the county’s planning commissioners and board of county commissioners worked on the 12th draft of the comp plan last summer, it has undergone further review by Huston and attorneys for the county.

Much of the focus in the last round of edits was about how to plan for the Methow Valley and the area around Mazama, which have different guidelines from the rest of the county. The new draft is expected to include clarifications to this section.

The county has withdrawn Huston’s finding from 2009 that the comp plan draft then under review would have significant environmental impacts.

The 2009 environmental analysis also covered other planning documents on subdivisions, critical areas and shorelines, which have since been separated and will receive separate environmental analyses.

Huston said the county will issue an “interim” zoning code that will assist people in understanding the practical applications of the comp plan on the ground. Nevertheless, following requests from the public and commissioners for a less complex review process, the final zoning code will still have to be prepared after the comp plan has been adopted.

The county plans to release the new draft of the comp plan and accompanying environmental checklist this week. There will be a 30-day comment period, with the deadline for comments on June 16. At the close of the comment period, a final environmental determination will be issued and a public hearing will be scheduled before the county commissioners. No date for that hearing has been set.

The plan and related documents will be on the county’s website at www.okanogancounty.org/planning. Comments may be submitted to phuston@co.okanogan.wa.us by June 16. For more information, call (509) 422-7218.