By Marcy Stamper

A decision in the lawsuit over the whether the county’s comp plan adequately protects water and farmland won’t be issued for another month.

Okanogan County Superior Court Judge Christopher Culp had planned to issue his written decision on Friday (Jan. 29), but he informed the attorneys handling the case that he hadn’t been able to complete the decision before leaving town for a scheduled trip.

Culp said he hopes to finalize the written order by the end of February. He notified attorneys for Okanogan County and for the plaintiffs, the Methow Valley Citizens’ Council (MVCC) and Futurewise, by email on Jan. 29.

At the oral arguments in December, Culp made clear that he considered the issues in the comprehensive plan case to be complex and important, when he asked the two parties to propose orders outlining a resolution of the case. Culp said he had never made such a request but thought it would help him better articulate his decision in this case.

Culp had urged the parties to work together to revise the comp plan to address water issues. Okanogan County declined to take that approach, concerned it would accord the plaintiffs a “special status” in the proceedings, the county’s attorney said last month.

In his email about the delay, Culp said he intended “to deny the cross motions of both parties for summary judgment.” A ruling on summary judgment typically applies when there are no factual disputes in a case and a judge rules solely on legal questions, according to Tim Trohimovich, the attorney for MVCC and Futurewise.

The main issues in the case are whether the county’s new plan and the accompanying interim zoning code allow for more development than the county’s limited water supply can support, in terms of both quantity and quality. MVCC and Futurewise also charge that the plan does not protect citizens and infrastructure from wildfire. This is the county’s first update to its comp plan in half a century,

The county says the comp plan “is a blueprint for development and not a regulatory tool.” The commissioners say water, fire and other issues connected with growth will be addressed in the new zoning ordinance, which is currently under review.