By Marcy Stamper
Oral arguments in the lawsuit over Okanogan County’s comprehensive plan and zoning code—the suit claims the plans fail to protect water quality, don’t address wildfire risk, and don’t protect wildlife habitat—were heard in court recently.
Okanogan County Superior Court Judge Chris Culp heard arguments on May 1, from attorneys for the Methow Valley Citizens Council (MVCC) and Futurewise, who challenged the county’s plans.
Because the Okanogan County commissioners have committed to reviewing the comp plan to see if it can be improved, Culp initially considered imposing a stay in the case to allow the commissioners’ process to play out.
After listening to about an hour of oral arguments from attorneys for each side, Culp decided it’s important to have finality in the long-running dispute. MVCC and Futurewise first challenged the comp plan in 2014, and the update of the plan itself was in the works for eight years.
Tim Trohimovich, the lawyer for MVCC and Futurewise, argued that the comp plan and zoning code allow for more development than the county’s limited water supply can support. He said the record before the court amply demonstrates this point.
Sandy Mackie, the attorney for Okanogan County, urged Culp to dismiss the case, contending that the plaintiffs don’t have standing to sue and that the lawsuit had not been filed under the proper statute. Mackie also argued that the county has permitting procedures in place that will safeguard water and address other environmental concerns for individual development projects.
After the oral arguments, Culp said he would decide by mid-June whether to grant the county’s motion to dismiss. If he determines the case should proceed, Culp could either rule on the existing record or could ask for additional evidence.