Council split between two good candidates
The Twisp Town Council had what you might call a good problem last week when it had to choose between two worthy candidates for a vacancy on the town’s Planning Commission.
In fact, the selection of Art Tasker over Tim Matsui was settled by a 3-2 vote of the council members, with the tie-breaker cast by Hans Smith, who was acting as mayor pro tem in the absence of Mayor Soo Ing-Moody.
The vote came after the council publicly interviewed both candidates, who each offered their motivations for wanting to serve on the Planning Commission.
Coincidentally, both Tasker and Matsui live in the neighborhood there the proposed Orchard Hills Planned Development is being reviewed, and each said they would need to consider recusing themselves from Planning Commission actions on the proposal if they were appointed to the group.
Matsui, an independent visual journalist and award-winning documentary filmmaker who moved to Twisp several years ago, said he and his family have been building a house — which has helped him understand the planning process.
In his application, Matsui said “My interest stems from a desire to see Twisp grow in a well-planned manner, designed in collaboration with its residents, to create homes, opportunities, and community for all. … I am a journalist by profession, and I’ve seen elsewhere what I’m seeing here: a need to manage growth, develop a cohesive and forward-thinking plan, refine town codes for a future that balances recreation, culture, business and housing.”
Matsui told the council he is one of the “new people” in town who are creating pressure in the housing market, and he wants to help the town ensure it is prepared for coming growth that can be accomplished holistically. He said is “a quick study” and has made an effort to reach out to many people in the community to get their perspectives. The question that needs to be asked, he said, is “what is best for all of us?” The town probably should consider a full-time planner to help deal with anticipated growth, Matsui said.
Matsui said he likely would not participate in decision-making on the Orchard Hills project.
Housing Action Plan updateThe Twisp Town Council will hold a special meeting on Monday, April 10, to hear a status report from Tom Beckwith of La Conner-based Beckwith Consulting Group, which has been hired to come with a Housing Action Plan for Winthrop, Twisp and the greater Methow Valley. The Beckwith study and anticipated recommendations are funded by a $50,000 state grant that is being shared by the two towns.
Beckwith has been conducting information-gathering sessions with local stakeholders including nonprofits, architects, builders, contractors and others with a stake in housing solutions for the valley, and collecting relevant data. He connected online with the Winthrop Town Council earlier and reviewed the firm’s findings to date.
At last week’s Twisp Town Council meeting, council member Aaron Studen said Twisp representatives have met with Beckwith to review some of the data. After the April 10 Twisp council meeting, Beckwith will reach out to the community for reactions and input, and will also conduct a community survey, Studen said.
Studen said plan, which will include action recommendations, could be completed by June.
Check the Town of Twisp website for more information about the April 10 meeting, which starts at 5:30 p.m.
Tasker is retired after working 44 years for the state Department of Natural Resources in a variety of capacities including wildland fire, upland and aquatic land management, forest practices regulation, wildland recreation, surface mined land reclamation, civil engineering, and forest landowner assistance.
He also served on Pierce County’s Growth Management committee to provide input/recommendations into their first Comprehensive Plan and worked with counties and to ensure compliance with the Shorelines Management Act regarding timber harvesting and land clearing.
Tasker told the council that his experience and knowledge from a variety of perspectives would make him a valuable member of the Planning Commission. He said the biggest issue for the town is the potential impact of growth on Twisp’s infrastructure. It will be necessary to seek solutions that are well thought-out and based on the best possible projections, Tasker said.
Tasker said he would probably not vote on the Orchard Hills development but might seek a legal opinion. As to whether the town needs more planning staff help, he answered that “you need way more than you’ve got.”
Smith noted that the council was faced with choosing between two “great candidates” for “a fairly thankless job for the next year or two.”
“I wish we had two [open] seats,” council member Mark Easton said.
Council member Alan Caswell moved to nominate Tasker for the position, and was supported by council member Aaron Studen. Easton and council member Katrina Auburn opposed the motion, supporting Matsui. The left it at 2-2 with Smith in the position of casting the deciding vote.
Easton said Matsui would bring a “fresh perspective” to the Planning Commission, and Auburn said she appreciated Matsui’s forward-looking attitude. Studen and Caswell cited Tasker’s extensive experience in the public policy arena.
Smith said that in weighing the candidates he also gave the edge to Tasker’s background. Tasker’s appointment is good through the end of this year, when he will need to seek re-appointment if he wishes to continue on the commission.