By Marcy Stamper
The Okanogan County commissioners have slightly modified a proposal that would allow owners of businesses such as campgrounds and golf courses that charge a fee to receive a property-tax reduction if they allow the general public to use some areas for free,
The original proposal would have changed the county code so that charging a fee would no longer automatically make a property ineligible for the open-space/open-space program. The new proposal is similar, but eliminates the list of ineligible lands and replaces it with new language that would allow these property owners to apply.
The applicants would still have to meet the other requirements of the open-space program, including having resources that would benefit the public, such as historic sites or habitat for endangered plants or animals. Except in special cases, the property owner must allow public access.
The county uses a scoring system to determine if a parcel qualifies for the program, which can provide a property-tax reduction from 15 to 50 percent for the part of the property with the public benefit.
The changes to the open-space/open-space code were proposed by the county commissioners, who found that existing policy “unnecessarily penalizes landowners who provide recreational/tourist amenities by making their land ineligible for enrollment.”
The question of eligibility for the open-space/open-space program came up when owners of the new Gamble Sands golf course near Brewster inquired about applying for the program, according to Perry Huston, the Okanogan County planning director.
The new proposal also clears up a typographical error regarding the relevant section of county code.
The continued public hearing is Monday, June 8, at 4 p.m. in the commissioners’ hearing room in Okanogan. People may submit written comments in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org, or provide written or oral testimony at the hearing.