By Marcy Stamper
After a seven-year hiatus — while Okanogan County focused on completing its comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance — county officials and planners have turned their attention to the guidelines that protect fish and wildlife habitat, wetlands and areas prone to erosion. Protections for these areas are included in the county’s Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO).
The county began updating its CAO in 2009 and the planning commissioners held several meetings and took public input from 2010 to 2013. In 2013, they sent a draft to the county commissioners.
When planning director Perry Huston first reviewed the CAO in 2009, he determined that it would have significant environmental impacts. But he has now revised that determination, finding that the draft would not affect the environment. The draft would apparently only be in effect for a short time, because the county commissioners have ordered further review of the CAO soon after they adopt this version.
The county is soliciting input on the current draft (which is dated 2013). “Adoption of the proposed revisions to the CAO will satisfy the procedural requirements” of state law, according to the new environmental checklist prepared by Huston. Starting another review soon after its adoption will satisfy a separate aspect of state law, according to the checklist.
The first portion of the law directed Okanogan County to complete its comp plan and development regulations by 2007. The second part directs counties to update these plans by 2018.
Because the county was still updating its comp plan in 2013 — when the commissioners first got the draft CAO — the commissioners decided to delay the review of the CAO to be sure the two planning documents were consistent, according to the new checklist. A great deal of the final environmental analysis on the county’s zoning code is also relevant, according to Huston’s checklist.
Once they approve the current working draft of the CAO, the county commissioners have directed planning staff to resume updating the critical areas regulations so they can meet the 2018 deadline.
The CAO also includes protections for areas that could be affected by shifting river and stream channels and earthquakes. Many aspects of the document help determine where it is safe to build.
Okanogan County is soliciting input on the new environmental determination through Oct. 14. Comments about the proposal and environmental review may be submitted to Huston at email@example.com.
A copy of the current draft of the CAO and the environmental checklist are on the Planning Department website at www.okanogancounty.org/planning. For more information, contact planner Angie Hubbard at (509) 422-7090 or firstname.lastname@example.org.