Oroville Planning Agency holds Critical Area Ordinance workshop

OROVILLE – The Oroville Planning Agency held the first of two informational meetings on Wednesday, Jan. 4 to discuss information on Critical Areas Updates prior to holding a public hearing on the issue.

The meeting took place during the regular meeting of the Oroville Planning Commission at the city council chambers. Chris Branch, Director of Community Development said, “Critical Areas regulations are required to include the best available science in the designation, classification and regulation of wetlands, fish and wildlife conservation areas, frequently flooded areas, aquifer recharge areas and geologically hazardous areas.”

Branch said although the state makes regulations regarding critical areas, the city decides on whether they are designated as such or not.

“We decide and if we can justify it then the state will not make us change our decision,” said Branch.

He added that if the city combines several overlays showing the critical areas they all combine around water bodies.

“If you have to protect those water bodies and have to protect the wildlife habitat the upside is you also protect the green space and livability of your community,” Branch said. “The down side is that it affects peoples’ property rights.”

Branch gave examples of protection that took place near Tonasket Creek where the Oroville Housing Authority was building Farm Worker Housing.

“At first they looked at building right near the creek. You’ll see they ended up with a green belt between the development and the stream and also a green belt between there and the farm area,” he said. “The Housing Authority may not have realized it, but in retrospect I think people will say ‘wasn’t it great they preserved that.'”

Branch recalled visiting undevelopeable protected areas when he lived in Seattle for a time.

“I appreciated being able to go to a green space… it gives you the idea you are getting out of town,” he said. “However, those protected areas, sometimes on private property, don’t always have to be made open to the public, but remain protected anyway.

“There can be a partnership advantage to allowing trail corridors. There was a Canadian property owner who traded land with us and the county for the trailhead in exchange for access to Kernan Road… that turned into an asset to him for a small housing development.”

Branch said the city hasn’t spent a lot of time on the Critical Areas Ordinance in the past and now they were trying to draft goals, objectives and policies for the Oroville Comprehensive Plan which was recently revised and provide the underlying basis for the recently completed draft Critical Areas regulations.

About buffer zones and riparian areas, Branch said, “People tent to focus on one or two species.. there’s actually a whole lot of critters in the riparian area. We are trying to protect biodiversity.”

Marc Egerton, a member of the Oroville Planning Commission said, “I think most people care when it affects their land.”

Egerton suggested the city contact property owners who have land where the update to the Critical Areas Ordinance may have a potential to affect their property.

With the Oroville city limits pushing northward with annexation areas that were under county regulations are coming under city jurisdiction, making it important that the differences be kept in mind as they work on updating the city ordinance.

“If you compare to the county we are not doing much differently than they are. In fact, if you look at the regulations in 2007 that they have in place we are actually providing some relief,” said Branch, adding that the draft of the regulations were on the city’s website www.orovillewa.com.

The second workshop will be Wednesday, Jan. 18 in the council chambers starting at 5 p.m.

Additional information for this workshop is available from Community Development Director Branch at (509) 560-3535, or e-mail him at chrisb.oroville@nvinet.com. Persons with special needs, including access and language assistance, should call or e-mail to make arrangements for accommodations.

The council chambers are at Oroville City Hall and are located at 1308 Ironwood.