Okanogan County has a draft agreement to purchase 540 acres just north of the town of Methow, with plans to use 149 acres for a gravel pit.
The county has been in discussions with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), which is interested in buying the remaining 391 acres for wildlife habitat with public access, according to Gary George, road maintenance manager for Okanogan County.
Under the terms of the draft agreement, the county would pay $1 million for the entire 540 acres. It would sell 391 acres to WDFW for about $725,000, said George.
George provided additional details about the county’s plans this week. While the legal notice published by the county about the proposed purchase says the property is 546 acres, George said the four parcels that make up the entire sale come to 540 acres and couldn’t explain the discrepancy.
The gravel pit would be on one of the upper benches of the property, on the west side of Highway 153, and will not be visible from the valley floor. The county plans to use an existing road that branches off Danzl Road and wouldn’t build any other infrastructure.
Okanogan County Public Works has been looking for a new source of rock, sand and gravel for road construction and maintenance in the Methow Valley. Currently, Public Works trucks gravel a long distance to the Methow, which increases the overall cost of road maintenance and contributes to wear and tear on equipment.
The four parcels are owned by Claude Miller and used primarily for agriculture. Total appraisal by the county assessor for all four parcels is $434,500, including a pole barn valued at $24,600. The land was reduced in value in 2014 after being burned in the Carlton Complex Fire.
Operating a gravel pit on the site would require a conditional-use permit (CUP), which would have to be approved by the county’s hearing examiner. After taking input from the public, if the Okanogan County commissioners ratify the purchase-and-sale agreement, there will be a 180-day feasibility period, which includes the CUP application.
The county’s planning director determined that the land purchase is exempt from environmental review. The application for use as a gravel pit will undergo its own environmental review. The purchase is contingent on soil testing for contaminants, which would be paid for by the county.
The county commissioners are holding a study session and public hearing about the proposed purchase and land use on Monday, July 8, from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. in the commissioners’ auditorium in Okanogan. People can provide up to five minutes of verbal testimony. They can also submit written comments at the hearing or in advance to Laleña Johns at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is also a public meeting about the gravel pit on Wednesday (June 26) from 6 to 8 p.m. at the community center in Methow.
Information about the proposal is on the Planning Department website at www.okanogancounty.org/planning.