More changes needed before preliminary OK
After more than a year of discussion and public hearings, and the accumulation of hundreds of pages of documents, the proposed Orchard Hills planned development neared preliminary approval at last week’s Twisp Town Council meeting.
Neared, but not quite there. The council sent the recommendation for preliminary approval of the planned development back to the Planning Commission and staff for several revisions to the 29 conditions included in the commission’s report.
Notably, the council recommended more definitive wording for a requirement that a proposed second access to the development via Isabella Lane be built to international fire code standards. The lack of a second access to the development’s neighborhood was a major concern of residents who commented on the proposal.
The council agreed to strike as redundant a requirement that the emergency access road cannot be blocked or barricaded.
The council also struck a requirement that “prior to final approval the applicant participates with the Town in the amendment of the adopted Comprehensive Emergency Response Plan that sets forth a plan for traffic control in the event of a wildfire or other emergency that necessitates evacuation of the May Street neighborhood.” Council member Hans Smith said it’s the town’s responsibility, not the developers’, to come up with such plans.
Similarly, Smith recommended striking a requirement that “the Town amend its Capital Facilities Plan and Six Year Transportation Improvement Plan to add a second point of access from the May Street neighborhood to the Twisp Carlton Road with the intent of completing the project within 5 years,” again because that should not be the developer’s responsibility.
Council members did not agree with the need for a 100-foot-wide buffer along the western boundary of the development as part of fire mitigation efforts, because of existing fire-protection codes and other measures cited in the list of requirements.
Much of the discussion was about provision No. 18, which would eliminate any townhouses in the planned development and require a 30-foot separation between buildings. The proposal would accommodate six to eight townhouses. Council members agreed that it would be permissible to allow at least two townhouses.
The council also modified a requirement that none of the dwellings have fireplaces, to allow for propane or electric fireplaces.
As to a recommended requirement that the developer deed three open space parcels to the town, Smith instead suggested that the parcels remain in the developers’ ownership for now, with donation to the town a future possibility.
And council members agreed to take out a requirement that exterior lighting must adhere to “dark sky” standards because the town has not adopted an ordinance specifying dark sky compliance.
The recommendations were approved by a 4-1 vote, with council member Alan Caswell opposed. Smith noted that the final approval will include the details of a “mitigated determination of non-significance” (MDNS) related to potential environmental impacts of the project. The MDNS has gone through several appeals and revisions.
The town staff will develop a revision document for the council to consider, and perhaps approve, at a future meeting.
The Planning Commission concluded its report in May, but council discussion was delayed by council members’ desire to review the proposal thoroughly, and two executive sessions to discuss potential litigation related to the proposal.
Last week’s meeting was a quasi-judicial “closed record session,” meaning that no more public testimony will be accepted and the council must make any decisions based solely on the information provided in the commission’s report.
After preliminary approval, the developer may proceed with project but cannot ask for the council’s final approval until it satisfactorily addresses all the specified requirements.
As proposed, the Orchard Hills planned development calls for the construction of 52 units on approximately 17 acres on the bluff west of downtown Twisp. The proposal was submitted by Palm Investments North (owned by Jerry and Julie Palm). Orchard Hills was first submitted to the town in May 2022 and has undergone several revisions. The Palms agreed to additional studies of potential traffic impacts and access challenges.
In other business:
• The council endorsed a Twisp Chamber of Commerce grant application for a State of Washington Tourism grant to support development of a three-day, annual Fall Festival. Nicky Krost, co-owner of 1908 BBQ & Bourbon who represented the chamber, said the organization is in the early phases of the planning process for such a festival. The chamber is requesting a $16,000 grant and hopes to put together a local match of funds from the chamber, vendors, sponsors, and in-kind donations.
• The council approved a grant application to the state Recreation and Conservation Office for a one-time award of up to $100,000 for parks maintenance, which would require no local match. Public Works Director Andrew Denham said the funds would be use for equipment purchases, and for repairs to the bandshell, picnic shelter and barbeque in the town park.
• Mayor Soo Ing-Moody said that Thom Vetter is now being trained by Kurt Danison to take over from Danison as the town’s planner, on an interim basis at least through the end of the year. Vetter, who is a consultant under contract with the town, will have office hours in the Twisp Civic Building on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Ing-Moody said.
• Okanogan County Sheriff Paul Budrow reported that the county had placed a radar speed detection sign on Highway 20 near Hank’s Harvest Foods to remind motorists of the 25 mile per hour speed limit, and it appeared to be having some impact in slowing traffic. He said the sign is capable of taking photos of speeding cars but has not been programmed to do that yet. The sign will be moved around to different locations, he said, and will continue to collect data.