Developer proposes 56 homes near Methow
Developers have submitted a revised proposal to Okanogan County to develop 56 homes about 2 miles south of the town of Methow on the east side of the Methow River.
The project, known as the Copperstone Planned Development, has been in the works for at least 15 years. Over that period, developers have submitted and withdrawn plans to the county several times. The project has also been called Burma Shores.
The current Copperstone proposal is for a planned development of 56 single-family homes on 277.5 acres with recreational facilities such as a clubhouse, trail system and pond, and a storage facility.
Houses would be clustered in three zones, with the majority along the river in the smallest parcels, according to drawings submitted to the county. A dozen lots would be on larger parcels in two zones at higher elevations. One description in the application materials says all the units will be detached and another says 10 will be attached.
At least 75% of the area — about 207 acres — is required to be left as open space. Half of that will be for use of residents. An existing picnic pavilion on the Methow River will be retained for use by residents.
The project’s preliminary plat was originally approved by Okanagan County in 2008, but those permits have expired, according to the Copperstone application submitted to the Planning Department this April 3 by senior planner Ian Faulds at LDC Inc., on behalf of developer Portal West Corp.
The developers resubmitted the preliminary plat approval in 2020 but withdrew it because Okanogan County had adopted a new comprehensive plan and made zoning changes, Faulds said in the project narrative.
Previous plans for the project called for 46 residences in one and 52 homes in another.
Water will be provided via a Group A water system, which is regulated by the state Department of Health. The property owner has submitted proof of a water right that has been converted from agricultural to domestic use and placed in the state’s water trust program.
The developers say the water right can supply up to 56 dwellings, but the water right from the Washington Department of Ecology submitted with the application says it provides water for 48 homes and irrigation for 21 acres.
In the project narrative, Faulds says that the developers have enough water for 56 homes. The developers also submitted documents from Ecology regarding a six-year extension of the donation to the water trust for groundwater preservation through 2028.
The application materials don’t address the discrepancy between 48 homes and the 56 now proposed.
Okanogan County Planning Director Pete Palmer and two county planners reviewed the Copperstone application to be sure it was complete, Palmer told the county commissioners last week. They found some discrepancies, the biggest being the water right, since Ecology has already determined there isn’t enough water for 56 houses and for irrigation, she said. There are also discrepancies in acreage between the county assessor’s files and the application, Palmer said.
According to the Ecology documents, final plans for water systems and mitigation must be submitted to Ecology before construction. Irrigation is restricted to lowland areas and water use would have to be metered.
Each parcel will have its own septic system.
In 2021, when the developers submitted plans to the county to build 52 homes on 46 lots at Copperstone, the proposal drew more than 100 pages of comments, nearly all outlining concerns about the impacts of the project.
Many people were concerned that much had changed since the county’s first environmental review of the Copperstone proposal in 2008, with the weather growing hotter and drier and wildfires more frequent. Some noted that the lower Methow Valley is already one of the most arid areas in the Methow watershed.
But before there could be a public hearing on that proposal, the developers asked that it be canceled, according to the county planner then working on the project.
Okanogan County originally approved the Copperstone project in 2009 for 46 lots, open space, trails and a pond. But the developers didn’t try to sell any of the lots because the housing market had crashed, one of the partners told the Methow Valley News at the time.
In the project narrative, Faulds addresses public comments submitted to the county during previous reviews of the development.
Many people questioned whether there’s enough water to support that many homes. They were also concerned about impacts on fish and water quality, and about converting irrigation water rights to domestic use. Faulds said that the developers have proof of water rights for 56 homes.
The extension on the water-trust donation was granted to allow the developers to work with Okanogan County on the long plat for this development, irrigate the area, record water use, and continue to recruit partners to raise capital for the project, according to the Ecology document.
In the previous review of the project, people also raised concerns about impacts of development on wildlife and migration routes. The developers note that the majority of the site will be maintained as open space, with designated mule deer habitat in the eastern portion of the project area.
The shrub-steppe habitat on the parcels is of low quality overall, according to the Fish & Wildlife Habitat Management and Mitigation Plan submitted with the application. There are some forested areas.
The proponents submitted a traffic analysis to address concerns about impacts to Highway 153. The analysis anticipates approximately 506 new daily trips on average, with 37 new peak-hour trips in the morning and 49 in the afternoon.
Access to Copperstone will be from two points off Burma Road. The developers plan to pave all roads to control dust.
The developers don’t anticipate significant costs to Okanogan County for services because “the proposed development is not expected to provide significant permanent housing for families as these are proposed to likely be used as vacation homes.”
Some of the land was formerly used for fruit orchards and there are high levels of lead and arsenic in the soil where remediation could be required, according to the application. All fruit trees have already been removed.
The property owners received a reduction in value from the Okanogan County assessor after some of the land was burned in the 2014 Carlton Complex fire. They also put some land into open-space status, which provided an additional reduction in property tax.
Because the Copperstone application is so extensive, Palmer and two planners reviewed it to ensure everything was complete, but they missed the 28-day deadline for the review, Palmer told the commissioners last week. The applicants pointed out the missed deadline immediately, she said. The county has vested the application and scheduled a 30-day comment period.
The Planning Department doesn’t have the capacity to evaluate these complex proposals within 28 days while also handling other applications and responsibilities, Palmer said.
The Planning Department will request documents and corrections to the Copperstone application that are necessary before they begin the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review, Palmer said. There will be a separate SEPA comment period.
Palmer is soliciting consultants who might be interested in handling planned-development applications for the county to ensure they can be handled in a timely fashion.