The Okanogan County commissioners revised the county code to clarify that certain land-use applications, including planned developments, will be heard by the county’s hearing examiner, not the planning commission.
Applications for preliminary and final plats and deviations from design standards will also come before the hearing examiner. Planned developments are larger projects that can allow greater density in exchange for open space.
When the county started using a hearing examiner in 2014, it was an oversight not to include these land-use decisions, according to Okanogan County Planning Director Pete Palmer, who explained the procedural amendment to the county code to the county commissioners on Dec. 20.
The resolution that created the position of hearing examiner in 2014 – after a one-year trail period – intended to have all these matters come before the hearing examiner, but some were missed, making the procedures in the county code inconsistent, Palmer said.
The hearing examiner conducts a public hearing and takes testimony from the proponents and any interested parties. People can appeal the decision.
The hearing examiner has already been hearing applications for conditional-use permits and variances, as well as appeals of decisions by the county’s planning and building officials.
For matters such as long plats and planned developments, the hearing examiner makes a recommendation to the county commissioners, who make a final decision. The hearing examiner makes the final decision on variances and conditional-use permits.
Legislative issues, such as updating and adopting the comprehensive plan, the Shoreline Master Program, and the Critical Areas Ordinance, still come before the planning commission.
The amendment didn’t require a public hearing because it didn’t affect zoning of any property, Palmer said.
The county has been contracting with Dan Beardslee as hearing examiner since 2013.