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MVCC Comments on Draft Zoning Code 07/11/2016

MVCC believes maintaining the integrity and interdependence of our watersheds, ecosystems and human communities is integral to protecting the rural character of the Methow Valley. Following is an excerpt from the comments we submitted: “The County needs to develop a stronger, more comprehensive strategy for managing growth within its water resource limits, which are so vital to its present and future. This strategy should be firmly based on the numerous scientific studies that have been done in both the Methow and Okanogan watersheds. We, as well as others, have tried to bring this information to the County’s attention. Unfortunately, there has been little in the planning, zoning or EIS documents prepared by the County acknowledging or citing this information. We are left to conclude that planning staff, members of the Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners are either uninformed or choose to ignore the scientific findings available to them.”

To read our full comments, click here.

The Appendix contains the all the attachments referenced in the comment letter to read the Appendix, click here.

County commissioners adopt detailed new zoning code

Notice of Public Hearing Code Amendment – Revised Zone Code:

On Monday, July 12, the County Commissioners will take public testimony regarding proposed revisions to the Okanogan County Zone Code. The hearing will take place in the Commissioners Hearing Room on July 12th at 3pm. Written comments can be submited to Lalena Johns, Cleark of the Board, at 123 5th Ave N Ste. 150, Okanogan, WA 98840 or at ljohns@co.okanogan.wa.us.

Okanogan County Zoning Update Hearing continued to April 11, Comment Period still open

A Planning Commission Hearing on proposed updates to the Zoning Code was rescheduled for a larger venue  because the crowd size at the March 28 meeting exceeded the room’s legal limit, and not everyone who signed up to speak was able to testify.

The hearing has been continued to Monday, April 11, at 6pm at the Agriplex Annex (175 Rodeo Trail Rd, Okanogan). The comment period will remain open until the County Commissioners have completed their own public process, according to Planning Director Perry Huston.

We encourage MVCC members to attend Monday’s hearing, and to sign up to provide testimony on one or more aspects of zoning that is important to you.
This is more important than ever, as our concerns about density, water quality and other zoning issues are being diluted by the polarized debate about regulating cannabis production. We care about the cannabis debate as well, but want to be sure we are heard loud and clear on the other issues.

We are happy to recommend short, easy to read testimony for those who are willing: just contact us. MVCC’s Zoning comments and cover letter are also a good place to start.

Carpoolers – please meet at 4:45pm at the Community Center in Twisp.

Zoning Code Hearing Update 3-31-16:

A handful of MVCC supporters and local business representatives attended Monday’s Planning Commission hearing on the Zoning Code update, with the intention of presenting our views on density, water availability, wildfire safety and nightly rentals, among other issues.
Unfortunately, several attendees were unable to testify that night. We were literally overwhelmed by a standing room only crowd of cannabis farmers, their supporters and detractors, who came to share their views on the county’s moratorium on new growers, and the possibility that the new Zone Code will impose a Conditional Use Permit on cannabis farms in the future. The situation may hold opportunities to open up the larger dialogue about zoning concerns to new audiences who are ripe for the discussion. Those who were unable to testify, and those who have not yet commented, will also have another chance to weigh in.

Because the crowd size exceeded the room’s legal limit, the hearing was continued to Monday, April 11, at 6pm and will be scheduled at the Agriplex Annex (175 Rodeo Trail Rd, Okanogan, WA 988400.

The comment period on the proposed Zoning Code remains open up to and beyond that hearing date, and additional comments are allowed even if you have previously commented. We encourage you to send comments!

Zoning Comments may be submitted by email to Lauren Davidson: ldavidson@co.okanogan.wa.us. We recommend also sending a copy to Planning Director Perry Huston: phuston@co.okanogan.wa.us, Planning Commission Chair Albert Roberts:albert_roberts@hotmail.com, and of course include us so that we can track the comments: mvcc@mvcitizens.org

MVCC’s Zoning comments are available
here. For a simple summary of our main concerns and recommendations, read our Cover Letter. To send an email to all parties now, click here.

Please come to the Planning Commission Meeting on the proposed Zoning Code this coming Monday, March 28, at 7pm in the Commissioners Hearing Room in the Virginia Grainger Building.  If you want to carpool please meet at the Community Center at 5:45pm.

Here’s Why:

The Shoreline Master Program (SMP), Comprehensive Plan, and Zoning Code all work together to protect our land and waters– or not.  For example, the SMP defers to the Zoning Code to govern zoning in the shoreline area.  And the Judge in our case challenging the County’s Comprehensive Plan, which governs zoning, has said that he will not rule in our case now; rather, he will wait to see whether the final Zoning Code makes up for deficiencies in the Plan itself.

We need a good turnout at Monday’s Planning Commission hearing to demonstrate that our community cares, and we are watching. Now is the time to make our voices heard to protect our critical water resources!

Even if you don’t speak, your attendance and your written comments (also due on March 28) will make a difference.

(See below for more information on our specific concerns with the proposed Zoning Code.)

Carpools will organize on Monday at the Community Center in Twisp at 5:45pm, and leave at 6:00pm

Call or email us if you have any questions or need special arrangements.

We appreciate that responding to back-to-back comment processes on major land use policies is a lot to ask of any concerned citizen, and we thank you for standing beside us as we rise to the challenge.


Okanogan County Superior Court Judge Chris Culp has issued a ruling on MVCC’s and Futurewise’s challenge of the Okanogan County Comprehensive Plan for its failure to comply with state law. MVCC believes that the Comprehensive Plan does not protect public resources, such as water quantity and quality and fish and wildlife habitat, and allows densities of development that are unsustainable given the water that is available.

Judge Culp’s interim decision denies the requests of both sides for a ruling based solely on the record, and indicates that he will be interested in the final Zoning Ordinance presently before the Planning Commission to determine if it is as protective as the County claims.  The ruling also states that there are matters of fact (as yet unspecified) still in dispute, and that there will be a trial to clarify those facts.

This ruling highlights the importance of ensuring that the County gets Zoning right – and we have an opportunity to do that right now.
The public is strongly encouraged to weigh in with the Planning Commission at their hearing on March 28, and in writing.

Zoning Comments may be submitted by email to Lauren Davidson: ldavidson@co.okanogan.wa.us. We recommend also sending a copy to Planning Director Perry Huston: phuston@co.okanogan.wa.us, and of course include us so that we can track the comments: mvcc@mvcitizens.org

MVCC’s Zoning comments are available here. For a simple summary of our main concerns and recommendations, read our Cover Letter.

MVCC has made no decision about appealing Judge Culp’s ruling.  We will keep you posted on future developments.

Zoning Updates

Okanogan County Regional Planning Commission will conduct a public hearing on Monday, March 28th, to take public testimony regarding Code Amendment 2015-1 OCC Title 17A the proposed revisions to the Okanogan County Zone Code, additional proposed changes to the revised zone code, and Draft EIS. The hearing will take place on 3/28 at 7pm in the Commissioners Hearing Room in the Virginia Grainger Building. Verbal testimony will be limited to 3 minutes per speaker. Written comments may be submitted at the hearing or prior to the hearing. Submit written comments to Lauren Davidson, Administrative Secretary at 123 5th Ave North, Suite 130, Okanogan Wa 98840 or ldavidson@co.okanogan.wa.us

SEPA official has issued a Determination of Significance and ordered the preparation of an EIS. A draft of the EIS is ready for review. The comment period for the DEIS will end on the date of the public hearing on Monday, April 4th, at 5pm. (Note that location and decision-making body for this hearing is unclear) Verbal testimony will be taken at this hearing. Written comments on the DEIS may be submitted to Lauren Davidson, Administrative Secretary at 123 5th Ave North, Suite 130, Okanogan Wa 98840 or ldavidson@co.okanogan.wa.us.

Update on Zoning

On Friday, November 13, MVCC submitted our comments to the county on the scope of the Environmental Impact Statement to be completed for proposed changes to the Zone Code. Our comments, and those prepared by Futurewise, reflect serious concerns about future development in the Methow and throughout the county. Both sets of comments reflect our concerns for the county’s continued failure to provide meaningful measures for future developments that would reduce the hazards associated with wildfire and flooding to future homes, residents and first responders.

Click here to see MVCC’s comments and Futurewise comments. The county currently plans to have the Planning Commission review the proposed changes on December 16. We will keep you posted as this date approaches!

Tell the county you don’t want them to weaken land use protections!

Click here for suggested comments.

Okanogan County is starting the process for adopting a new Zoning Ordinance, based on the seriously flawed Comprehensive Plan that is now the subject of a lawsuit by MVCC and Futurewise.  The zoning that is proposed is based on that plan and could seriously weaken land use protections in the Methow Valley and throughout the county.

  Please send a comment to the County by November 13, 2015
Send comments to
phuston@co.okanogan.wa.us and brough@co.okanogan.wa.us

Suggested Comments can be found at the bottom of this message, and on the Methow Valley Citizens’ Council website.

Okanogan County adopted a new Comprehensive Plan in December of last year, which included “interim” zoning standards. MVCC is vigorously contesting the Comprehensive Plan on a number of legal issues, and the case is due to be argued in Superior Court on November 23rd.

Now the county is proposing a final Zoning Ordinance and is proposing to perform an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on that code (One of MVCC’s major contentions in the appeal is that the EIS should have been conducted on the Comp Plan rather than the Zone Code).  As is required by the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), the county is asking for suggestions on the scope and content of the EIS.  Scoping, done right, can inform the county of alternatives to be considered, possible mitigation factors, and expected adverse impacts.

Clearly, it would make more sense for the county to wait for a decision by the Superior Court on the appeal of the Comp Plan before moving ahead with final zoning and an EIS.  However, this is not the case, and there is a deadline. Comments for scoping are due on November 13, 2015.

MVCC is forming a team to provide comments on scoping, and we encourage our members to do the same.  This is an opportunity to advise the County Commissioners of problems with the proposed zoning, and to prepare ourselves for testimony before the Planning Commission during their planned public meeting on January 11, 2016, which is the next step in the process of adopting the Code.

Since, in MVCCs view, the Comprehensive Plan is seriously deficient, the zoning that is proposed based on that plan is not only deficient but could seriously weaken land use protections throughout the county.  The concerns with the Comp Plan mirror the scoping comments. These are just a few:

Water Quantity
MVCC believes that there is inadequate ground water to support the density of development proposed by the Zone Code without serious harm to irrigators and minimum stream flows necessary for fish in the rivers.

Water Quality
The density of development allowed by the proposed Zone Code will greatly increase the number of septic systems, thereby threatening water quality in streams, and potentially groundwater needed for domestic consumption.

The Zone Code is virtually silent about the role of the county’s land use regulations in preventing wildfires, developing building codes for more fire resistant construction, and escape routes for residents. The county has in recent years consented to blocking several known escape routes by allowing them to be vacated and gated.

The proposed Zone Code will allow some agricultural lands to be broken up for housing and ancillary dwellings.

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