By Marcy Stamper
In proposed resolutions in the lawsuit over Okanogan County’s comprehensive plan, the county and the environmental groups challenging the plan differ as much about whether the plan adequately protects water and farmland as when and where these protections must be guaranteed.
At the request of Okanogan County Superior Court Judge Christopher Culp, Okanogan County and the plaintiffs, Methow Valley Citizens’ Council (MVCC) and Futurewise, submitted the suggested orders for his consideration on Friday (Jan. 15).
At the December oral arguments in the case, Culp urged the parties to work together to revise the comp plan — particularly to address water, which he called “a primary concern” — but Okanogan County declined to take that approach.
“The county seriously considered the request but concluded that such a process would give the plaintiffs a ‘special status’ in those proceedings,” wrote Sandy Mackie, special counsel for Okanogan County, in a letter to Culp accompanying their proposed order. “Such status is not available to all of the other members of the community who will be participating in the zoning … review process and that would appear unfair to those not included.”
The main issues in the case are whether the county’s new comp plan — and the accompanying interim zoning code — allow for more development than the county’s limited water supply can support, in terms of quantity and quality. MVCC and Futurewise also charge that the plan does not protect citizens and infrastructure from wildfire.
The county contends that the comp plan “is a blueprint for development and not a regulatory tool.” They say all these matters will be addressed “in the new zoning ordinance presently under review.”
But MVCC and Futurewise say state law requires the comp plan and zoning to be consistent. “The deficiencies in the comprehensive plan cannot therefore be ‘fixed’ in zoning,” the group said in its proposed resolution.
In the order presented to Culp, Okanogan County stresses that if the plaintiffs’ concerns are not addressed in the comp plan, they will be able to review those issues during the hearings and environmental review for zoning. “The Court will officially notice that this specific issue is to be addressed under the … pending zoning ordinance and would reserve any judgment on the adequacy of the County’s efforts until the adopted regulations are in place…,” wrote Mackie in the order.
Culp said he would issue a decision on Jan. 29.