PROUDLY SERVING MEMBERS THROUGHOUT CHELAN, DOUGLAS & OKANOGAN COUNTIES
The elections are over, the holidays are done, and we can start thinking about what’s going to happen in 2017 in our three local counties. BNCW has been very active for many years trying to help shape county policies to minimize or eliminate regulatory creep, increase local government accountability, transparency, and predictability.
In 2012, our organization backed Ray Campbell and Sheilah Kennedy and both won their respective commissioners seats, both defeating incumbents. Now the same thing has happened – both Ray and Sheilah lost their seats on the commission. Ray and Sheilah were fearless advocates for positions they thought were right for their constituents.
Ray has been replaced by Andy Hover in the Methow district. Although Andy is the son of former commissioner Bud Hover, we really don’t know much about his politics. His campaign rhetoric was pretty non-committal on land-use so we’re hoping for the best. The commissioners are still facing a legal challenge to the adopted comprehensive plan and zoning codes. They will also be dealing with the shoreline master program that was adopted by the county in July of 2015, but must still be approved by the State Department of Ecology.
The other new commissioner is Chris Branch, who is the city planner for Oroville. His support in the election came in large part from well-to-do west-side environmental activists, and he seems to be an advocate for central planning. We hope he isn’t too beholden to the no-growth crowd, even though real “growth” hasn’t been much of an issue in Okanogan in the past decade or so. For instance, only one subdivision (which hasn’t been built) has been submitted for approval in unincorporated Okanogan County in the past three years.
Another issue all three counties will be dealing with is the Hirst decision that could have a chilling effect on building outside of the cities. The outgoing board just passed an ordinance requiring all building permits and land-use applications to demonstrate legal and physical water availability. This will be a huge issue in 2017.
Only one new commissioner is being seated in Chelan County. Kevin Overbay is replacing retiring commissioner Ron Walter. Ron has always been a very approachable advocate for personal property rights and we have always supported him. Kevin was also our choice in the general election and our interviews resulted in a very positive impression. We’re very optimistic that he will step right in and join Doug England and Keith Goehner in managing land-use in the county in a very positive way.
Chelan County has taken a “wait and see” approach to the Hirst decision it seems, but they are still faced with adoption of a new shoreline master program and a comprehensive plan update this year and will have to deal with Hirst on some level. Fortunately, the outgoing board hired Hank Lewis as their Community Development Director in 2015, and Hank has been a real breath of fresh air in terms of administration of the land-use codes in Chelan County.
BNCW has been pretty much persona non grata in Douglas County for the last several years. With the retirement of Ken Stanton and the defeat of Dale Snyder, who were replaced by Dan Sutton and Kyle Steinburg, respectively, we expect major changes in the way business is done in Douglas County. In the past, staff has effectively run the County and we expect that these new commissioners will have none of that, and return policy level decisions to where they belong – with the elected commissioners.
It won’t be easy. Staff has long had the attitude that commissioners come and go and staff remains, but we are very optimistic that significant changes are forthcoming and accountability and transparency will be restored. It’s been too long that the managers of the county have forgotten that there is a distinction between the needs of the County government and the needs of the County itself, made up of its citizens.
BNCW vigorously support both Dan and Kyle because we believe they will bring a new culture to Douglas County government to the great benefit of their constituents. It’s about time.
© 2017 Building North Central Washington. All rights reserved.