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Not ready for prime time

Dear Editor:

After a convoluted multi-year process, the Okanogan County Commissioners have released their purported final draft of the county’s comprehensive plan. It includes an “interim” zoning ordinance with many missing elements, an incomplete shoreline review and an attempt to jam as many lots and uses as possible onto productive farmland, sensitive natural areas and open space.

The implications of this document are mind-boggling. As an example, while the proposed Okanogan County Comprehensive Plan map designates the orchards northeast of Brewster and the farmland in the Okanogan River Valley as “Rural,” the proposed Okanogan County Interim-Zone Map zones these same areas Rural 1—meaning they are dividable into one-acre parcels.

Besides single-family homes, the following uses would be allowed on these “rural” parcels: multi-family apartment buildings, compost manufacturers, air cargo terminals, aircraft hangars and airstrips, auto parking lots or garages, auto rental services, auto sales, banks, exercise clubs, indoor swimming pools, food stores, maintenance shops, warehouses, gravel pits less than three acres in size, stadiums, auditoriums, hospitals, laundromats, manufactured home sales facilities, light manufacturing, marinas, meat packing plants, medical and dental clinics, mini-storage warehouses, petroleum service stations, professional office buildings, quarries less than three acres in size, restaurants, retail stores, and commercial sawmills. Note, this is only a partial list. None of the impacts of paving over the orchards and farmland for all of these uses are ever analyzed or disclosed.

Just do the math. Here is the ultimate build-out of apartment buildings possible using the 2014 Okanogan County Interim Zoning ordinance combined with the number of lots and apartments proposed for the unincorporated areas of Okanogan County: in Low Density Residential Districts, 52,150 apartments would be allowed; in the Methow Review District, 54,726 apartments; and in the Minimum Requirement Districts 3,027,843 apartment buildings would be allowed! And this is supposedly the plan for our county’s future?

Please take some time to familiarize yourself with the proposed comprehensive plan.  Send in your comments to phuston@co.okanogan.wa.us by June 16. This plan is definitely not ready for prime time.

Jim Brennan, Twisp

Don’t forget lower valley

Dear Editor:

Did the News really mean that “More Completely Planned Areas” of the revised comprehensive plan will include “the Methow Valley” and the “Upper Methow Valley”?  And that School District 350 boundaries are synonymous with the Methow Valley”?

Pardon me, but some folks own property in the “lower” Methow, south of Gold Creek, stretching along a third of the 63 miles between Lost River and Pateros — and consider themselves Methow Valley residents. There is even a school district there, attended by Methow Valley students! This area is protected by no planning documents like the northern Methow and is designated almost entirely for a maximum density of over one dwelling per acre.  It is yet to be seen how protected the upper and middle Methow actually are.

Southern valley residents may not be as enamored of tourist dollars and intense recreation as folks further north, but their deep feelings about the land and values are held just as dearly: rural quality, rich and beautiful landscape, small-scale agriculture, open fields, abundant wildlife, peace of mind, and low population density.

For years, the southern Methow was just the last few miles on my journey home to Mazama. Later, I found quiet drainages where people live without electricity, hardy souls skiing home for miles, moose, lynx, cougar, bobcats (and now wolves), and a silence broken only by rushing streams and the chickadee’s beep.  

Let’s not let county government minimize any part of the Methow or its human values. Each area deserves a suitable plan established by its own people.

Valleyites could soon discover a common problem: Incompetent commissioners have squandered seven years of “planning,” not to mention costs. They reveal a comprehensive plan with outdated attachments for upper and middle Methow, no provision for update and adoption of these plans until after adoption of the unsupportive comprehensive plan, no timelines for advisory group appointments, and requirement for a petition signed by landowners representing over two-thirds of the acreage in question in order to form an advisory planning group (which the commissioners “may” appoint) for other areas, including the lower Methow.

Make your thoughts known.

Isabelle Spohn, Twisp

An injustice

Dear Editor:

Mike Wilson has been informed that the Methow Valley School District has no interest in ever considering renewing his contracts. I understand that school districts are 100 percent risk averse. When these situations arise the lawyers step in, and humanity and common sense step out. I thought it might be different here in a small community. But the district kicked common sense out the door, and is hiding behind the lawyers who now run the show.     

I have to ask the question: Is this really what we want for our community? Is this what we want to teach our kids? That someone can devote 19 years of his life to teaching, coaching and mentoring kids but it only takes one person to make an allegation and this someone’s career, reputation, finances, credibility, and life are destroyed?

I want it known that after months of investigation no charges have been laid against Mike Wilson. I want it known that Mike Wilson took a polygraph, denied the allegations and passed the test. I want it known that even though the school district chose to turn its back on him, Mike continues to help those who quietly come to him with questions.  I am writing in support of Mike because his record and years of service inspire me to speak out against this injustice.

I would like to go on record publicly that I am deeply ashamed of our school district’s choice of action.

Mary Lee Moseley, Winthrop

Ensure water for future

Dear Editor:

Better drill that well and sell your undeveloped lot now, before all the water is gone. Your water rights and property values are at risk under the county’s new comprehensive plan.

The county continues to ignore warnings about how much water we have left and is plowing ahead with a dangerous plan that ignores realities. The state Department of Ecology has concluded “most if not all of the available water has already been allocated” in the Methow and Okanogan watersheds. Unless we plan for growth within the limits of our water supplies, Ecology may be forced to step in. That’s what’s likely to happen in the lower Methow—including Beaver Creek and everything south of Twisp.

In 2011 and 2013, the Methow Watershed Council advised the county that the lower Methow is already over-allocated — 1,092 existing undeveloped parcels won’t be able to have a well. Under the existing zoning, more than 20,000 parcels could be created that wouldn’t have water. The Watershed Council warned “property values and development potential in the undeveloped lots … will be adversely impacted once Department of Ecology determines” available water has been fully appropriated. 

This means, once the water has been used up by your neighbors or a developer who got there before you did, that extra lot you own could be worth a lot less than it is now. You might not be able to build on it at all—even if it’s a 100-acre parcel and the zoning says you can put one home per acre on the property. 

The county should work with the Methow Watershed Council to fix this problem. It should show, in the comprehensive plan, how it will use zoning, subdivision regulations and other measures to ensure we all have water in the future. We should demand that the county work with the council to find water for the 1,092 existing lots in the lower valley and tell them to stop creating new lots until this problem is solved. 

Preserving one-acre zoning is not how to protect our property rights. Making sure we have water is.

Ruth Dight, Gold Creek 

Facts lacking in Walking D coverage

Dear Editor:

This is in response to the April 9 and May 30 articles by Marcy Stamper regarding the Walking D zoning amendment: The recent article compounds her nonfactual and biased journalism. I’d like to ask to whom she came for information? The story states the Doran family plans to build 10 homes; where did she get that erroneous information?  It was not in the petition to the county — I know, I authored the petition. Marcy did not contact Ken Doran, nor any of the board of the Walking D. It would seem she gleaned information from the legal notices and hearsay. She quotes no one and misrepresents the application that was submitted to the county. The application clearly states, “for a few residences to be built further back off the irrigated fields rather than extending into the current graze/irrigated area.”

There are no inconsistencies. The maps show the lines the proposed change would accommodate. Moreover, in order to accomplish the CE, several Dorans gave up their right to develop on land gifted to them in the uplands. Finally, to intimate that there is litigation against the property without investigating the litigants or the case is negligent reporting. To be fair and balanced and truly informational to your readers, your reporters should obtain all the facts from sources involved and report correct and complete information.

The Doran family has been in the valley since 1957 with Daniel Doran Sr. a prolific contributor to the Letters to the Editor, with a strong stance on conserving our precious valley. That position has been carried forward with the second and third generations of Dorans. Please, report the facts — all of them!

Judy Doran McBride (second-generation Doran), Twisp

 

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