The 2014 and 2015 wildfires should be a wake-up call for our Okanogan County Commissioners.
Under the direction of Planning Director Perry Huston, they are now finalizing the Interim Zoning
Ordinance and map (found on county website under Planning) for adoption in December. Most of the county will be zoned either “rural” high density, one acre, or low density, five acres.
Many of the areas heavily damaged by the fires – the Aeneas and Tunk valleys, the Chiliwist, the Lime Belt, Pine Creek, Salmon Creek, Johnson Creek, the lower Methow, etc. are heavily zoned as high density. They lack adequate water for this type of development, let alone for fighting wildfires. By endorsing and even encouraging development in areas obviously unsuited to it, the commissioners are doing the county residents a great disservice. Much of this land is agricultural and is currently taxed as Ag Open Space– 20 acres and up. Why not keep it that way?
Ranchers have complained that protecting structures has meant less resources for saving the land, and as a result thousands of acres of pasture have needlessly burned. Yet the urge to favor the real estate and development interests trumps a realistic appraisal of what the land can really handle.
The commissioners need to face reality. Overlay the fire and zoning maps and see how inappropriate your zoning plan is. Better yet, drive over the fire areas with zoning map in hand and see for yourselves how ludicrous it is to parcel out the county in the manner you have.