PROUDLY SERVING MEMBERS THROUGHOUT CHELAN, DOUGLAS & OKANOGAN COUNTIES
Our local jurisdictions are struggling with all these issues, and much of it is driven by decisions made in Olympia over which we folks in Eastern Washington can influence not at all.
For instance, when Initiative 502 was passed, legalizing recreational marijuana, there was precious little guidance for local jurisdictions and no help coming from the State. Who knew what the impacts might be and the State didn’t offer to help the locals at all. Different jurisdictions are dealing with it differently. Okanogan County has made marijuana operations a conditional use, but with very little in the way of sideboards on what should be considered in granting or denying a permit. In Douglas County, rules have been adopted but have not been tested much. In Chelan County, the planning commission is struggling with adopting rules, and each city and town within these counties must wrestle with what to do. In the meantime, very little funding is being provided and most of the tax revenues go to the State.
The State Shoreline Management Act requires that counties and cities amend their adopted shoreline master program on a set schedule and Chelan County is wrestling with that issue as this is written. Regrettably, the framers of that legislation sold it on the notion that there was to be substantial local control, and of course, that has not been the case. The local jurisdiction is charged with adopting a local shoreline code, but it has to be approved by the State Department of Ecology. Of course, Ecology rarely likes what Eastern Washington folks like, so the adoption becomes a game guessing what Ecology will approve. And then the local jurisdiction is charged with administering the permitting process for a regulation they didn’t really approve. How does that make any sense?
Then there is the latest dictate from our Washington State Supreme Court. It’s known as the “Hirst decision,” and has the potential to completely stifle rural development which almost exclusively relies on “permit-exempt” wells. Since the Department of Ecology has effectively stopped issuing water rights, the only alternative for most domestic water service in areas not served by a municipal water system (which is almost everywhere) is to drill a well. Now, the Supremes have said that in order to get a building permit on property that is served by one of these wells, it is up the County to prove there is both physically and legally available water, but in doing so, gave no guidance whatsoever as to how that should be accomplished other than to suggest that the negative must be proven – in other words, it has to be demonstrated that there will be no impact (not a molecule) on in-stream flows and that senior water rights will not be impacted. There is nothing dearer to the heart of a central planner than to require a landowner to prove a negative.
We’re hopeful that the current legislature will somehow fix the Hirst problem, but don’t count on it – the Governor has to sign such a bill.
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