Town will develop its own strategies from findings
The Twisp Housing Action Plan (HAP) got something of a demotion, or at least a new moniker, at last week’s Twisp Town Council meeting.
Going forward, the document will be treated as a “preliminary housing analysis” that will be used as the basis for developing affordable housing policies. If there is to be a housing plan, it will be derived from information in the lengthy report, not from its recommendations.
The town was required to formally accept the plan at last week’s meeting, under the terms of the state grant that paid for it, although the mayor and council earlier indicated they were disappointed in the outcome of a months-long process whose findings had been eagerly awaited.
“This is not going to function as a strategic plan,” Mayor Soon Ing-Moody said during an earlier council meeting. The mayor said the document has a lot of useful information but needs “more clarity on how it applies to Twisp,” and was not ready for adoption. Several council members made similar observations, and were especially critical of what they saw as generalized recommendations not specifically tailored to Twisp.
The HAP was prepared by the La Conner-based firm Beckwith Consulting Group and funded by a state grant. Beckwith was hired last year to come up with Housing Action Plans for Winthrop and Twisp within the context of the greater Methow Valley’s housing market conditions. The plans are funded by a $50,000 state grant that is being shared by the two towns.
Work on both plans commenced simultaneously in September of 2022. Beckwith began by 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 from a variety of sources. The firm’s Tom Beckwith connected earlier online with the Winthrop and Twisp town councils, separately, to review the firm’s findings to date for each community. Public workshops were also held in both towns, and online surveys conducted.
Tons of data
Most of the document is devoted to extensive research of factors that affect not just the Twisp housing market but also the region’s housing supply and affordability, including demographics, market trends, government, private and nonprofit resources, and opinions gathered through interviews and public workshops. There are lots of pie charts, line graphs, bar graphs and maps with comparative information, as well as illustrations of various alternative housing types.
The document’s list of 28 potential “implementation tasks” for Twisp range from zoning and regulation changes, to streamlining the permitting process, acquiring a “strategic housing site,” reducing or waiving some building fees, and adopting additional taxes to support affordable housing projects. None are very detailed.
Council members also pointed out what they saw as errors, omissions and repetitions in the findings.
“I really can’t find any Twisp-specific strategies,” council member Mark Easton said at the time.
At last week’s meeting, Ing-Moody said the town can use the information in the document “to build a more robust and specific plan.” She said that “some data points need to be filled in or revised.”
The document will now go to the Planning Commission for review, and for additional recommendations from that group.
In Winthrop, that town’s version of the plan as submitted by Beckwith was being reviewed by Town Planner Rocklynn Culp and Planning Commission member Simon Windell, who were preparing a “summary document” for the Town Council, Culp said.