bulletin board
events calendar
business directory

best friend
news briefs


Will the Valley remain a Sub Area of the Okanogan Comprehensive Plan?

By Isabelle Spohn

Listen to Isabelle's KTRT interview

Tuesday, June 15th from 2-4 pm, Okanogan County Commissioners will be discussing the right of Methow Valley residents to continue to determine land use policies in our area. Isabelle Spohn has provided the following update of the process she has been following closely. The outcome will determine development in our area for the foreseeable future. Letters may still be useful in regards to keeping our Methow sub-area plans. Letters (emailed to may still be useful in regards to keeping our Methow sub-area plans. Sample letter

Newcomers to the Methow are often astounded by the natural beauty and rural atmosphere still intact in our valley. These attributes do not remain here by accident, and the regulations which have protected them for decades may now be changed.

Other areas of the mountain West have been transformed into busy urban centers by crowds attracted to the beauty and serenity which once existed there, while the Methow has benefited from planning documents drafted during the 1970’s which prevented such sprawl and dense development in the areas north of Gold Creek. More recently, the Sub Unit A plan for the Mazama area has provided even more protection for that part of the upper Valley. Other parts of the county and the lower Methow Valley have not been so fortunate, with their one-acre minimum lot sizes.

On June 15th the right of residents in the Methow Valley to continue with separate visions, goals, and policies from the rest of the county will be discussed by the Okanogan County Commissioners in their hearing room in Okanogan. The right of any Sub Areas of the county to have their own separate documents within the Comp Plan, as the Methow has had for many years, is under scrutiny. This work session may be continued at a later date and could be the next landmark which determines the direction our valley will take in future development.

This meeting is the most recently announced event in the lengthy process for the revision of the Okanogan County Comprehensive plan, undertaken several years ago under the influence of a new County planning director from Kittitas County. Neighborhood groups were formed across Okanogan County to determine the residents’ visions for the future of their land and communities. But residents of the Methow were shocked when the values expressed by our Neighborhood Groups regarding a rural atmosphere and intact environment were not reflected in the first draft Comp Plan.

After public hearings on this revision were opened by the County Planning Commission, the Commission claimed that there was overwhelming input from citizens in opposition to environmental protections and to restrictions upon minimum lot sizes or any other limitations upon private property rights. The next draft Comp Plan removed any reference to the public benefit or the desirability of environmental protections - and emphasized private property rights as the major concern of county residents. Neighborhood Group visions were moved to the appendix and then deleted entirely from the plan.

Following these hearings, a huge rally in the county Agriplex building was held by the newly formed Coalition for Property Rights, which formed to further influence the new Comp Plan. References were made to there being too many conservationists from Seattle in our county, the unpatriotic nature of proposed Dark Skies regulations, and comparisons made between Communism and even the weak regulations suggested by the Comp Plan.

Reactions from the Methow Valley to all these events has been uncharacteristically quiet. As I sit here writing, I wonder if it is because Methow folks became discouraged after their Neighborhood Group input was dropped. Perhaps they are forgetting that it took over 25 years of continuous effort to finally lay to rest the plans for a giant ski development at Early Winters. Perhaps they are waiting until the county holds its public hearings on the final draft Plan – a little late in the game, considering the successful efforts now being put forth by citizens with very different desires for the directions of the county. Or perhaps that drive over the Loup seems just too long.

Whatever the reasons, I would strongly encourage anyone who is interested in the future of the Methow to arrange to attend the work session on June 15th in order to get a first-hand feeling for what is happening right now, as well as to let the county commissioners know that there is still interest from citizens in the Methow Valley regarding our future. Although public testimony will not be held, questions are usually allowed during the last 15 minutes. Letters may still be useful in regards to keeping our Methow sub-area plans. Sample letter

The only plan for a meeting in the Methow on the Comp Plan is during several meetings which will be held across the county once the final draft Comp Plan has been released. It is anticipated that these meetings may occur next fall or winter. At that point, the right for the Methow to have a separate Sub-Area plan or plans will have been already decided.


Do you participate in a community organization or process? Send us an update and spread the word to those who are not able to attend.