Grappling with a comp plan described as “disorganized and confusing,” a court order to fix the plan (and a missed deadline), no planning director, and divergent views from the public, the Okanogan County Planning commissioners unanimously voted to ask for a land-use attorney or qualified consultant to help them sort through the plan.
Someone with expertise in comprehensive planning could go over the state’s legal requirements for a comp plan. The person would also help the commissioners meet the terms of a court agreement, they said.
“You can paraphrase that — we said ‘Help!’” said Planning Commissioner Phil Dart, who represents northeastern Okanogan County.
At their meeting on Monday (Aug. 26), the planning commissioners created an initial list of omissions and inadequacies in the working draft of the plan: a section on land use, water resources, wildfire protection, recreation and affordable housing.
The plan should address roads and access — both as basic transportation and as part of wildfire and disaster planning, they said. An economic analysis of the proposed alternatives is another crucial tool for drafting a workable plan.
Inviting residents of different parts of the county to draft special subplans would be a constructive way to address the disparate viewpoints expressed by the public at last week’s hearing, said Gina McCoy, a planning commissioner who represents the Methow Valley.
What’s the minimum?
The plan currently has two “More Completely Planned Areas,” both in the Methow Valley — one from Winthrop to Mazama, and the other from Winthrop to Gold Creek. McCoy suggested that residents of some areas may actually want “Less Completely Planned Areas” that honor local needs and preferences.
“We need the legal minimum — what the comp plan was supposed to have and how the county is in violation of the law. What do we have to change?” said planning commission chair Al Roberts. The county’s existing plan was challenged in court almost immediately after it was adopted at the end of 2014. Agreements reached in court committed the county to review the plan and sign off on a new one by the end of 2018.
“The time frame has been violated,” said Planning Commissioner Dave Schulz, who represents the Methow. “It’s as if we’re not working in good faith, even though we’re working hard.”
Extra time to comment
People have until Sept. 19 to submit written comments on the comp plan and environmental analysis. Comments should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information, contact Interim Planning Director Angie Hubbard at (509) 422-7090 or email@example.com. The plan is available at www.okanogancounty.org/planning.
There’s a consensus that Firewise design and planning — which uses fire-resistant building materials and creates defensible space around buildings — would help the county address wildfire risk.
The comp plan can’t contain regulations, but Firewise principles could be incorporated in building codes in the update of the zoning code, the commissioners said. The zone code is based on principles in the comp plan and will be revised after the comp plan has been adopted.
Interim Planning Director Angie Hubbard will provide the planning commissioners with a copy of the county’s existing plan from 2014, the working draft from last November, maps showing public and private land and agricultural areas, and a list of interim zoning changes.
The commissioners’ homework assignment is to go through the current plan and working draft — line by line — to make recommendations and address points raised by the public.
Their next meeting is Monday, Sept. 23, at 7 p.m. in the commissioners’ hearing room in Okanogan, four days after the public comment period on the plan closes.