The Twisp Town Council had a jam-packed agenda at its regular meeting last week, including public hearings, discussions of some major ongoing issues, and new information about a proposed housing development that a lot of people are watching closely.
In each case, the topics were simply at check points in the process — and civic process is something you need to have a lot of patience with, as anyone who watches governments operate will tell you. It’s detailed, time-consuming and requires perseverance.
But to the extent that process represents progress, things are in motion in Twisp.
The council, as expected, extended the existing six-month moratorium on nightly rental conversions for another half-year, as a more over-arching study of the community’s housing needs and possible actions continues. While review and possibly revision of the town’s nightly rental policies is a high-interest topic, it’s only part of the considerations that must go into a long-term plan for assuring the availability and affordability of local housing.
The council is awaiting results of a community-wide housing needs survey that is being conducted in conjunction with the Town of Winthrop. A well-regarded consulting firm has been gathering data for several months and will conduct public meetings shortly to solicit citizen input. Twisp Council members are waiting for a report, expected early next year, that will provide context for any decisions on overnight rental conversions. It’s worth the wait for that information, and there’s not exactly a clamor for conversions at the moment.
The council also received a final set of recommendations from the Planning Commission for revising the town’s sign code. It’s been said that either God or the devil is in the details, and how one feels about the proposed changes probably depends on their point of view. The Planning Commission’s work was thorough — you could say exhaustive — and definitive, while leaving the council with some room to maneuver. There are still some tough decisions to be made about how to modify the sign code, but the toughest will be coming up with practical means of administration and enforcement. Otherwise, everyone has been wasting their time. And since the commission did all that work at the council’s direction, wasting the effort is not an option.
The proposed annexation of properties owned by Hank and Judy Konrad, who intend to combine them with a parcel they already owned to develop an affordable housing complex along Highway 20, has been in the works for a while. Last week the council saw, for the first time, some tangible details about what is proposed for the 10-acre site. It’s likely Twisp has never seen anything quite like it in terms of imagination and ambition.
The project would include an array of homes from multi-family units to bungalows to larger houses, grouped in sections of the development and linked by open spaces and resident-friendly streets. The intention is for residents to move from smaller to larger homes, staying within the neighborhood, as they are able to or desire to.
The Konrads and their developer Gary Scott told the council that they are looking at all means of keeping costs down. To that end, they are asking the town for some considerations — you could call them variances or exceptions — to existing development standards. The council seemed amenable to considering those requests as a means of keeping the long, bureaucratically dense process of annexation moving forward.
Community interest in the Konrad project is likely to be keen, as residents have lately been paying close attention to any development proposal that the town is presented with. As they should. Questions about how services will be provided and impacts not just on neighborhoods but also on the community as large should be part of every discussion. The mundane details are as critical as the grand ideas.
Another topic that was not on the council’s agenda but was raised during the committee reports section of the meeting was about replacing Police Chief Paul Budrow, who will become the new Okanogan County Sheriff in January. It won’t be easy. Budrow has been a popular figure in Twisp for more than a decade, bringing stability to a force that badly needed it. Finding capable law enforcement officers is a major challenge these days, and the council seems determined to take however long is required to find the right person.
There were other noteworthy actions at the council’s meeting, so much so that it required four stories in this week’s newspaper to cover it all. There will be much more coverage to come as the town multi-tasks its way toward a sustainable future. Now that the new Civic Building is open and the council is meeting in a very accessible public space, the opportunities for citizen involvement, participation and observation in the decision-making process are better than ever. Be part of the progress.