Oroville City Council to study draft Critical Areas Regulations

OROVILLE – The Oroville Planning Commission recently continued a public hearing on the draft Critical Areas Ordinance to allow for additional input from the public. In the meantime, the city council will study the regulations hoping to gain a greater understanding of the rules prior to holding a final public hearing to consider their adoption.

Community Development Director, Chris Branch, reported at the March 21 Council meeting that questions asked in staff meeting discussions prompted Mayor Chuck Spieth to request that Branch brief the council on the proposed new regulations. The Council agreed to meet one hour early on April 17 for a workshop where Branch will present an overview of changes to the interim Critical Areas ordinance leading to the draft regulations.

The interim official control, or interim ordinance, has been codified in Chapter 18 of the Oroville Municipal Code for five years now. When initially circulated for public agency comment, the Department of Ecology expressed concerns over adequacy of wetland regulations including setbacks and provisions for mitigation. During the period that the interim regulations have been in place Ecology released a guidance document exclusively developed for small cities which added some flexibility to the regulation of wetlands. The guidance allows small cities to measure the details of the function and value of each wetland where development is proposed and to adjust the setbacks based on this information as well as the intensity of the development being considered.

Branch also worked with the Planning Commission to improve the section addressing Fish and Wildlife Conservation Areas, most significantly Riparian Habitat Areas of Tonasket and Nine Mile creeks. These streams are known to be accessed by steelhead, requiring special consideration under the provisions of the Growth Management Act that apply to Okanogan County. Branch said the proposed rules give an option for landowners to dedicate their required 50-foot riparian area as conservation easements to the city or conservation entities in the business of stream restoration which will enable a coordinated restoration strategy over time.

The proposed rules apply only to those areas within the city, and only when there is development proposed. The designations in the unincorporated areas do not apply until such time that these areas fall under city jurisdiction as a result of annexation. Significant setbacks currently apply under Okanogan County regulations which are in the process of being updated; a public hearing is scheduled before the County Planning Commission on April 23.

Since the City Council will meet as a quorum at 6 p.m. prior to their regular meeting the workshop is open to public attendance.