By Marcy Stamper

Okanogan County is proposing a new ordinance that would consolidate application, review and approval procedures for land-use and development projects.

The ordinance would cover projects such as subdivisions, development near shorelines, and polices like the comprehensive plan and zoning code that affect larger geographic areas.

Applications covered by the new rules also include water and sewer development, roads and bridges, and projects subject to review under the State Environmental Policy Act.

The new section in the county code is intended to clarify the process for building and development applications by listing the requirements and procedures in one place.

Depending on the type of project, the application would be reviewed — and decisions made — by  the county’s planning director, the hearing examiner or the county commissioners. The proposal outlines which official or body is responsible for reviewing an application and holding a public hearing.

For projects affecting the entire county or more than an individual parcel, the planning commission would hold a public hearing and then make a recommendation to the county commissioners.

In the past, some people have raised questions about the adequacy of the county’s zoning code to protect water and other natural resources. County planners and attorneys have said that these matters are covered by various county regulations.

Many of the procedures outlined in the draft code are not changes from existing policy. But by collecting them in a single section of the code, the county hopes that the procedure will be more straightforward.

“The objective is to encourage the preparation of appropriate information early in the permitting process; to process permit applications in a timely manner; to provide the general public with an adequate opportunity for review and comment; and to provide the development community with a standardized process and enhanced predictability,” according to the proposal.

The proposed section gives specific timeframes for the application and public hearing process and mandates pre-application meetings for some projects. It also lists the types of projects that are exempt from environmental review — such as single-family residences and boundary-line adjustments — and when a public hearing is required.

The county commissioners are holding a public hearing on the proposed code revisions on Monday, Sept. 26, at 1:30 p.m. in the commissioners’ hearing room in Okanogan.

People can provide up to three minutes of verbal testimony at the hearing or can submit written comments to Laleña Johns at ljohns@co.okanogan.wa.us.

A copy of the proposed ordinance is available on the Planning Department website at www.okanogancounty.org/planning (“Draft Title 20 Development Permit Procedures and Administration”).