By Marcy Stamper

The Okanogan County commissioners will hold a public hearing on Monday (March 14) to consider whether a proposed land swap in the Mazama core is in the public interest.

The land exchange, proposed by Pasayten Peak LLC, is one component of a larger plan for the area. The project proponents, headed by Bill Pope, owner of the Mazama Country Inn, have already redrawn boundary lines and sought the county’s permission to rezone some parcels in the area to allow two-story buildings for commercial, residential and tourist use, according to Okanogan County Planning Director Perry Huston.

The current proposal would exchange 1.84 acres of county land for 3.34 acres of private land, according to a letter by the county commissioners. The aim is to create a new Mazama Corral trailhead that would include additional parking for Methow Trails and tourist activities.

The county land was acquired in 1998 through a grant from the state’s Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) to provide trailhead parking. The commissioners have asked RCO if the land swap is permissible under the terms of the grant.

While the county hasn’t received an official response, Huston said it appears the trade would not violate the original terms of the grant.

Mazama residents and the Mazama Advisory Committee have been working for the past seven years to acquire more land for parking, according to the commissioners’ letter.

Swapping the parcels would not provide the go-ahead for new development or a new parking lot. Each project would have to be evaluated separately, said Huston.

Even if the commissioners determine the land swap is in the best interests of the public, the deal would have to be approved by a superior court judge, said Huston.

Among the matters to be considered by the commissioners is whether the trade would be in the best interests of the public and whether the value of the private land the county would get in the trade is of equal or lesser value, said Huston.

The public hearing is at 4 p.m. in the commissioners’ hearing room in Okanogan. People can testify at the hearing or provide written input to ljohns@co.okanogan.wa.us.

For more information, contact Huston at (509) 422-7218 or phuston@co.okanogan.wa.us.