By Don Nelson
The Winthrop Town Council has approved amendments to the town’s zoning code that will loosen existing restrictions on manufactured homes, “accessory dwelling units” on residential lots, and setback requirements in residential zones.
Town Planner Rocklynn Culp said the amendments were recommended by the Winthrop Planning Commission after a couple of years reviewing the code requirements. The goal was to increase the potential for more-affordable housing, Culp said.
The changes “make it [the code] considerably more flexible for manufactured homes,” she said. For instance, mobile or manufactured homes are no longer required to be double-wides.
“We’re trying to strike a balance between affordable and still have them be real houses that fit in with our neighborhoods,” Culp said
Homes as small as 320 square feet will be allowed with a foundation required, “which gives some people an option,” Culp said, “while retaining a nice neighborhood quality.”
Accessory dwelling units will not be permitted to be used as overnight rentals, Culp added.
Some residential setback requirement that “have been a concern” have now been eased, Culp said.
In other business at last week’s council meeting:
• The council discussed the town’s possible annexation into the Okanogan Conservation District, which will enable town residents to have access to conservation support and other programs such as wildfire preparedness. The district, a non-regulatory agency, charges a fee of $2.65 per real estate parcel plus 5 cents per acre for included property owners.
Craig Nelson, the district’s executive director, said conservation districts are subdivisions of state government devoted to providing a variety of programs and assistance to property owners. He said the district has been closely involved with property owners who suffered damages during recent destructive wildfires.
Nelson said the district is predominantly grant-funded and operates with a budget of about $1 million a year. The small fees — which he said are not ad valorem taxes — collected throughout the county generate revenues to take care of costs that grants don’t cover.
The Firewise program, which advises property owners how to best prepare for wildfires, is not currently available to Winthrop residents but would be if the town is annexed to the district, Nelson said.
The council agreed to consider action on the proposed annexation at its May 2 meeting.
• The council authorized town staff to initiate the application process for state Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) grants, which are available every two years.
“These applications allow us to get our foot in the door [for grants],” Culp said in a memo to the council, “but do not commit us to projects if we later decide they are not feasible.”
RCO grants have been used for several town projects such as the Winthrop Rink and the Susie Stephens Trail. Culp said the current round of grant applications will focus on three projects: the next phase of the RiverWalk project to create a recreational path along the river behind buildings on the south side of Riverside Avenue, eventually connecting with the Susie Stephens Trail; creating improved water access to the Methow River at Mack Lloyd Park; and open space park acquisition.
• The council agreed to adjust staffing for permit administration and public works. The permit administrator position will be increased from 24 hour to 32 hours per week. Mayor Sally Ranzau said the increase will streamline the permitting process and free up time for other functions. The public works job will be a maintenance position, which will increase from part-time to full-time, to look after town facilities including the library, Winthrop Rink, Winthrop Barn and public bathrooms.
• Ranzau told the council that the process for replacing retiring Public Works Director Rick Karro is continuing with interviews. Karro’s retirement is effective at the end of April.