County hears pros, cons for lot limits
By Marcy Stamper
A ban that prevents people in the Methow watershed from creating a new building lot from a parcel with an existing house on it will stay in place to allow the county to study the situation.
The ordinance commits Okanogan County to gathering more information about water law and water use that can help the county find ways to assure the availability of physical and legal water for future residential development. That process will also draw on watershed planning. It will require more input from the state Department of Ecology, the Okanogan County commissioners said at their public hearing on the ordinance on Monday (March 15).
The commissioners took written and verbal testimony from a dozen people. Some urged them to keep the ban in place to protect water supplies and ensure that the county doesn’t allow development without legally available water. Others encouraged the commissioners to address situations where people have already invested in land and now face obstacles to building.
The commissioners originally adopted the ordinance in January after receiving a legal opinion from the state on water law and the Methow Rule, which allocates a limited amount of water for specific uses.
In a discussion before their vote on the ordinance, the commissioners expressed concerns about people who have vesting rights because they have owned property for many years and now face hurdles to developing it.
They discussed historical priorities for different types of water use that have been set out in law, as well as subsequent court rulings. They also expressed concerns about potential litigation against the county as water law evolves.
Having the moratorium in place will put people on notice about the current situation and help protect the county and the public, the commissioners said.
A public hearing on another ordinance, number 2021-3, which puts a six-month moratorium on building permits on lots created by subdivision since 2002 is on Monday, April 5, at 1:30 p.m. For more information, call (509) 422-7218.