The Twisp Town Council wants more information before it entertains a proposal to rezone commercial property along the Methow River at the south end of town for residential development.
Raw Otter LLC, wholly owned by Mike Port, has petitioned the town to rezone four adjoining parcels between Wagner and Marble streets, two with river frontage, from undeveloped commercial riverfront to R2 (single-family residential), which is consistent with adjacent residentially developed property.
According to the petition, Port intends to pursue residential development on the site.
Town Planner Kurt Danison said at last week’s Town Council meeting that the first step in the process is for the council to review the petition and, if it chooses to, refer it to the Planning Commission for review and recommendations. The Planning Commission would be required to hold a public hearing on the request.
Council member Hans Smith noted that it would be a “dramatic change in usage” for the property and added that he would like to know more about Port’s “intent and vision” for the site.
Danison said it is the council’s prerogative to ask for more information before it accepts such a petition. If rezoned as requested, Danison said, future development would be restricted to residential.
Council member Aaron Studen said he would like to know more about the history of how the property has been used, in case there has been infill on the site or contamination.
The petitioner will be asked to respond to the council’s questions, Danison said.
Orchard Hills postponed
In other business, the council indefinitely postponed discussion of the proposed Orchard Hills planned development to a “subsequent meeting.” Mayor Soo Ing-Moody said the town is working with legal counsel on how best to proceed in discussing the Planning Commission’s recommendation that the Orchard Hills request be approved — with conditions including improved access.
The mayor said the Orchard Hills issue would be postponed “until such time as we are prepared to address it properly.” The council earlier held a closed executive session, as provided for under the state’s Open Public Meetings Act, to discuss what was described as potential litigation.
The Planning Commission’s report to the council includes a letter from the law firm representing Palm Investments North LLC, the applicant for preliminary approval of the project.
As originally submitted, the Orchard Hills planned development proposed construction of 52 units on approximately 17 acres on the bluff west of downtown Twisp. The proposal has drawn considerable public attention and participation. The public input portion of the process is complete and the council will not be taking public testimony on the planning commission’s recommendations.
The council also appointed two town residents to fill vacancies on the Planning Commission, after interviewing them both publicly.
Rachel Levi applied for Position 5, which expires at the end of 2024. Ken Borg applied for position 2, which expires at the end of 2025.
Levi said he has been a resident for about five years. She said she’s interested in how the community can best use its resources for successful planning, especially in tackling issues such as housing and the viability of the town’s comprehensive plan. “I’m keen on finding solutions in a participatory way,” she said.
Levi’s background is in community health education and promotion, she said.
Borg said he was raised in the Methow Valley and returned to live here three years ago after a career in banking, finance and lending. He said he would like to help to develop a vision for how the town will move forward, with a focus on supporting the local economy.
Related to the planning commission, Ing-Moody told council members that a search is underway to replace Danison, who is stepping away from the Twisp job, with at least an interim planner. She said the new planner will likely be assigned more hours than Danison has been under contract to provide.
And the council heard from West Twisp Avenue resident Susan Ernsdorff, who said that a neighbor is raising pigs and the odor is a “neighborhood nuisance.” She noted that town ordinances don’t prohibit raising farm animals, and asked the council to consider changing the regulations.