TONASKET – City hall was packed at the beginning of the Tonasket City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 10 as a group of concerned residents on Airport Road presented the Eagle Canyon Development to the council.
“We are here to bring awareness about the Eagle Canyon Development, to request that the city council take a really good look at Eagle Canyon because it’s 112 homes,” Linda Black said. “We’re also asking the council to take a look at really becoming involved in this development.”
Black said there are nearly 1,000 people in Tonasket and this development could bring in up to 450 more people.
Black’s husband, Tom Black, said that unless people read the legal notices in the newspaper every week, they wouldn’t have known about the development.
“The first notice came out on Dec. 10, which was up after the time when people could make an appeal,” T. Black said. “The adjacent landowners were sent notices but I think the notice system needs to be reworked. You have an obligation to take a look at what’s happening to your city and you have the right to say something about it.”
Leroy Orr, president of the Tonasket Airport Improvement Club, addressed the council next.
“My only interest is to protect our airport,” Orr said. “When we fly our traffic patterns, we fly a west pattern. We have to fly over this proposed development and we’re blocked into this pattern because of Whitestone Mountain.”
Orr said the Washington Department of Transportation Aviation Unit recommended this plan be denied in its present form.
“The imaginary lines that come out from the airport cannot be penetrated by anything that would disrupt the flight pattern. The state’s recommendation is that no homes should be within five acres of an airport and there should be nothing built in the clear zone,” Orr stated. “The first person who buys these homes, it will state in their contract that the home is near an airport and there will be noise that they can’t complain about, but when these people sell their home, the second contract doesn’t usually contain that and that’s when airports start to get closed.”
Police Chief Robert Burks then spoke to the council about the concerns of the police department should this development be approved.
“If it is annexed, we would need a fifth officer but the money probably wouldn’t be there and I would be concerned about how often we would be called up there,” Burks said.
Paul Lewis of the Tonasket Gun Club told the council that the gun club is directly west of this development and that they shoot north into a hillside, but that bullets ricochet. He said that he would hate for this development to get the gun club, which is also used by the police department, closed.
The group also discussed with the council the fact that there is an orchard in the center of part of this development. This orchard would be responsible for any spray drift and if the neighbors complain about the orchard enough, it could be forced to shut down.
“They’ve proposed building homes around this cherry orchard with only a 25 foot buffer zone around it so the orchardist is responsible for any spray overdraft,” Bob Harris said. “The cherry orchard shoots cannons off and has wind machines that wake me up in the morning.”
Harris also expressed concerns about how local farmers are supposed to keep their cows out of the development, which will be located in an open range area. He also stated that the med-evac lands right at the end of the runway at the Tonasket Airport and that it shakes all of the windows in his house. He asked the council if there are homes built around the runway, how is the med-evac supposed to get low enough to land when it already comes down to house level before landing. Harris also asked how this development would affect the Father’s Day Fly-in.
“They’ve also proposed eight exempt potable water wells and the Department of Ecology has told the developers they can only have one and they need to secure a water right,” Harris said. “Also, the traffic analysis says there will be another 1,050 more cars going up and down Pine Creek Road.”
“If the Aviation Department, the Transportation Department, the Department of Health and the Department of Ecology are all saying ‘don’t do it,’ why are they doing it,” Joyce Fancher, council member, asked.
As of press time, the State Environmental Protection Act (SEPA) appeal hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 17 had not yet happened. On Monday, Feb. 23, the hearing to approve or deny the Eagle Canyon Development proposal will be heard in the Okanogan County Commissioner’s Boardroom at 7 p.m. in Okanogan.