Conditional use permit hearing next week
Seventy home- and landowners in Methow have appealed Okanogan County’s environmental review for a gravel pit above the town, saying the industrial site would destroy their quiet, rural lifestyle and lower their property values.
Since most of their properties are high above the valley floor on the east side of Highway 153, the landowners say they’d be looking straight across the valley at a 149-acre gravel pit, which would be “large, intrusive, unnatural and visually unattractive,” according to the appeal filed by Winthrop attorney Mark Ryan on behalf of the Methow River Ranch Phase II Homeowners Association (HOA) on Nov. 1.
The appeal questions many of the county’s claims in environmental analysis for a conditional-use permit (CUP) for the pit, including noise and traffic impacts, water adequacy and the effect on endangered species.
Calculating the number of truck trips to and from the site based on numbers in the environmental analysis, the HOA says that the county’s original notice about the pit vastly underestimated the traffic. Based on updated figures, if the county runs the pit at maximum capacity, there would be 6,136 trucks coming and going each year, according to the appeal.
The HOA is concerned about noise from truck traffic and from the pit itself, particularly if it operates 24 hours a day, as described in the legal notice for the CUP hearing.
The appeal also questions whether there is enough water at the site to accommodate the needs of gravel crushing. The appellants won’t be permitted to withdraw water from the existing well when flows in the Methow River fall between a certain level, they say. The county’s proposal to bring in additional water from Pateros would only add to the truck traffic.
Appellants also say the description of impacts on endangered species is too vague. The environmental review lists several mammals and birds that live in the area. But because it says no critical habitat has been established for these animals, the review doesn’t support the county’s conclusion that no endangered species would be impacted, they say.
The Okanogan County code says any mitigations proposed to protect the environment “must be in writing and must be specific,” according to the appeal.
The appeal notes that the pit relies on obtaining state permits for dust control, stormwater and noxious weeds. Since these permits don’t currently exist, there is no way for the public to review them as part of the CUP, they say.
The appeal asks that the county withdraw consideration of a conditional-use permit for the gravel pit until all impacts can be carefully considered.
The county received other comments from the public and state and local agencies about the proposed pit. Some commenters said they supported the pit because the county needs another source of rock. Others were concerned by the lack of specifics in the proposal, saying the county should analyze the worst-case scenario before issuing a permit.
Need for pit
The county has been looking for a new source of rock and gravel for roadwork and winter maintenance because the two existing pits in the Methow Valley are depleted.
The county has a purchase-and-sale agreement to buy 540 acres for the pit for $1 million. Because the county needs only 149 acres, it hopes to sell the remaining acres for public access and wildlife habitat. The pit itself would occupy 81 acres.
The county will not buy the property if the CUP isn’t approved.
Public hearing on gravel pit
The county has scheduled a public hearing on the conditional-use permit for the gravel pit for Thursday, Nov. 14, at 10 a.m. in the commissioners’ auditorium in Okanogan. Hearing Examiner Dan Beardslee will review the environmental checklist and take public comment.
After meeting with area residents last month, Okanogan County Commissioner Andy Hover and Public Works officials said they would most likely amend the proposal in response to their concerns. The amended proposal would be presented at the hearing, he said.
Comments about the proposed pit and the land purchase can be submitted in writing up to the hearing date. People can provide verbal or written comments at the hearing.
For more information or to comment, contact Rocky Robbins at email@example.com or (509) 422-7117.