Property rights meeting draws big crowd to Agriplex

OKANOGAN – The first Coalition for Property Rights meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 3 was successful, with 850 people from Okanogan County in attendance in the Fairgrounds Agriplex.

The coalition formed because they believed the Okanogan County Comprehensive Plan has the potential to change the way of life in the county. Jon Wyss, the chairman of the coalition, was one of the speakers during the meeting.

“The Coalition for Property Rights believes that the proposed Comprehensive Plan 1) devalues private property by restricting property use,” Wyss’ presentation stated. “2) Restricts economic growth and could further damage our local economy, 3) reduces funding for supporting roads, first responders and local schools, 4) negatively impacts the long term viability of agriculture and ranching, 5) does not reflect the local values and lifestyle of people in Okanogan County and 6) violates both the State and US Constitutions.”

In his presentation, Wyss went through the current draft of the comprehensive plan and pointing out what the coalition says are areas of inaccuracies to the gathered crowd.

“On page 69 of the latest draft comprehensive plan one of the goals promoting the economy says: promote economic growth that conserves natural resources and open spaces, maintains environmental quality and rural character and enhances the overall quality of life,” Wyss’ presentation states. “As written, this goal restricts the type of business based on environmental constraints. It sounds good but can be used to prevent new businesses that would use natural resources, like forests. Conserve equates to ‘don’t use’ to some people. Dirt is a natural resource and a gravel pit may look ugly when it’s in production but if restoration of habitat at the end of the process occurs, it doesn’t have to be an eye soar.

“Consider rewriting this section to make clear that natural resources are consumables and allow for their use,” Wyss continued. “This language would also tie up the resource lands, also known as farm lands for just that agriculture and farming.”

Wyss then held up photos of the farms of the future in Okanogan County. One photo was of solar panels in a field for grazing. Wyss said solar would not be a permitted use in the resource lands mixed with agriculture.

“We barely even scratched the surface of the issues,” Wyss said after the meeting. “When I gave my presentation, I told them the national health care plan is nearly 2,000 pages. The comprehensive plan, with all sections included, is 1,500 pages and the Commissioners are trying to adopt it all at once. They need to adopt the comprehensive plan and then the rest of the other documents because if the comprehensive plan is wrong, all of the resulting documents are wrong.”

From the 850 people in attendance, Wyss said the coalition garnered 267 new members, putting them at well over 500 members, not counting associations. He said the meeting was attended by County Commissioners Mary Lou Peterson and Bud Hover as well as other representatives from around the state, including Reps. Joel Kretz and Shelly Short and Sen. Bob Morton.

“We were glad there was such a large turnout,” Commissioner Peterson said. “People need to read the plan and get their comments in so we can be sure to get the plan right. The commissioners are going to start workshops after the first of the year. Then we’ll have another rough draft.”

“I was glad to see two of the three commissioners there,” Wyss said. “They were actively taking notes and listening, which I was pleased with. I think they left educated.”

After the meeting, new members of the coalition left comments on the Okanogan Coalition for Property Rights’ Facebook page.

“In thirty years of fighting the property rights fight, this has to be one of the finest moments,” Dan Beardslee wrote. “I’m very proud to be a part of it.”

Dan Wood wrote that the event was absolutely fabulous.

“The speakers were great and their messages tied well together,” Wood wrote. “Charles was absolutely inspiring. Jon, you presented the outline of the problem with the comprehensive plan in an amazingly clear, concise way. It was a great event in all respects.”

The coalition, which was formed on Tuesday, Sept. 29, is planning to meet with their affiliated associations and to plan another meeting to take place within the next few weeks, Wyss said.