By Marcy Stamper

The Okanogan County planning commission is holding a special meeting on Monday (Feb. 29) to discuss amendments to the county’s zoning code. It is not a hearing and public testimony will not be permitted, but people can submit written comments at any time during the review process.

Okanogan County has been relying on an interim zoning code over the past year while planning staff, county commissioners, an advisory committee and the public have been studying the 154-page document and proposing revisions. The county last adopted a zoning code in 1978 and county planners are proposing significant changes to that version.

The zoning code provides specific guidelines for actual land uses, such as minimum lot sizes and where residential, commercial or industrial development can be. Since there are more than 20 zones and land-use designations throughout the county, there is a complicated patchwork of rural, residential and commercial zones.

The code sets out minimum lot sizes (which affect how many neighbors you can have and the impact on natural resources and built infrastructure like roads). It addresses the height and size of buildings, parking and signage, and the type of permits required for certain activities and businesses.

It also lists a wide variety of land uses, from professional buildings to kennels to dairy farms, and shows whether they are permitted, prohibited, or allowed only with a conditional-use permit.

Current zones in the Methow Valley include the Methow Review District (from Gold Creek to Mazama), which, in most areas, has 5-acre lots on the valley floor and 20-acre lots in the uplands. South of Gold Creek, zoning allows greater density. There are some opportunities for greater density throughout the Methow if buildings are clustered to preserve more open space.

The proposed code also addresses accessory dwellings, replacing the existing regulations — where one building can be only half the size of the other one — with specific limits in square footage. It also provides guidelines for how far a second dwelling can be from the main house, and from property boundaries, to avoid putting a bigger burden on neighbors.

Information about the zoning code is available from Senior Planner Ben Rough at (509) 422-7122 or brough@co.okanogan.wa.us. The working draft of the zoning code and maps are available on the Planning Department website at www.okanogancounty.org/planning Click on the link for “Draft Zoning Code document 10/16/2015.”

Comments can be submitted to brough@co.okanogan.wa.us.

The planning commission meeting is at 7 p.m. in the commissioners’ hearing room in Okanogan.