Okanogan County is getting closer to having an updated comprehensive plan — the dense document that helps shape the lifestyle and rural landscape residents want. The Okanogan County Planning Department has set a schedule for hearings and public comment on the revised draft of the plan, which is expected to be released within the week.
The county’s planning commission and staff in the Planning Department have been working on the plan over the past year, incorporating public input and research about growth, water supplies and the economy into a vision for the next couple of decades.
Comp plan schedule
• Wednesday, Jan. 27: Start of public comment period on draft 2021 comp plan and environmental impact statement (EIS). Plan will be available from the Planning Department at http://www.okanogancounty.org/planning or (509) 422-7160.
• Wednesday, Feb. 10: Close of public comment period.
• Monday, Feb. 22: Planning commission public hearing; public testimony.
• Next 45 days: Planning staff will review comments and revise plan and EIS.
• By April 22: Recommendation from planning commission to county commissioners for final decision on plan and alternative for growth.
The county has been operating under the comp plan adopted in 2014 — the first complete revision in 50 years — even though that document was almost immediately challenged in court for failing to address water issues (both quantity and quality), wildfire preparedness, and protections for agriculture. After a county judge agreed that the plan fell short, the county commissioners agreed to take another look at the plan and present a new draft by the end of 2018.
Although the commissioners, county staff and planning commissioners have been working on the plan, various hurdles — including turnover in the Planning Department — have delayed the process.
Now the county is prepared to release a new draft and a preliminary determination as to whether the development and protections outlined in the plan will affect the environment.
The comp plan is of great importance to the county’s future and to all its residents, because it sets out guidelines for how and where the county should grow. For example, do people want an economy fueled by agriculture, by timber, or by tourism? How close together should houses be? Is there enough water for new development? Should there be different guidelines for different parts of the county? Documents like the county’s zoning code apply these concepts on the ground.
The public will have a chance to review the new plan — which will contain several alternatives for how much growth the county wants and where it should be. The planning commission will hold a public hearing on the plan.
After the public input, planning staff will review all the comments and revise the plan as appropriate. The planning commission will ultimately make a recommendation — including the preferred alternative — and pass the document onto the county commissioners, who will make the final decision this spring.