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Middle Methow Valley
Advisory Group

Vision Statement

Goals & Policies

Sept. 2008 Draft

Vision Statement

“The Methow Valley has long been valued and revered for its intense natural beauty, strong sense of community, and for the self-reliance and motivation of its residents. Presently, as we face an acceleration of growth and development, it is our intention to institute and embrace a vision for the Methow Valley that fosters and preserves the rural character that define this valley. It is evident that protecting our high quality of life is of vital importance to us today, as well as into the foreseeable future and beyond.

Upon entering the Methow Valley, one is instantly greeted with a sense of awe and inspiration. Within the sheer natural splendor of this place, one notices the large tracts of agriculturally productive land on the valley floor that support family-owned farms, orchards, dairies, and livestock ranches. The hillsides surrounding these lands are comprised of functioning shrub-steppe and forest habitats that support healthy populations of native plants and animals. Ridgelines of the valley allow for unobstructed views of the surrounding mountains. The wildlife migration corridors that exist between and among these areas are protected as conservation lands for the benefit of the ecosystems and its inhabitants. Through this vibrant landscape flow the Methow River and its tributaries, which are teeming with self-sustaining populations of native aquatic life and surrounded by functioning floodplains and riparian forests. We vision our Methow Valley as a place characterized by self-reliant and sustainable ecological systems including, wildlife, wild and working lands. Integral to this vision are the human inhabitants who, through considerate stewardship of land, water and community, have created a place where all inhabitants have the opportunity to thrive in harmonious unity. One has the sense that the people who call this place home honor and revere the land and understand that the careful stewardship and preservation of the environment is vital to sustainable pathways to the future.

The Methow Valley is also remarkable for its rich and flourishing local economy. Small, locally owned and operated businesses provide residents and visitors alike with a multitude of goods and services. The towns of the Methow Valley are the focal points of this economy. They are gathering places that promote the economic and social health of the community, serving as a model for innovative and inspiring economic and community development. Housing and commercial development within the growth management zones of the towns has been planned to maximize open spaces and greenways that link the facilities and amenities each town has to offer. Buildings have been constructed and located so as to maximize their energy efficiency whilst minimizing their impact on the land and community. The people who live here have taken the time and energy to invest in their community, their quality of life, and the stewardship of the land. It is evident that there is a deep connection to place that flows through the people who call this special place home and they have been willing to protect and enhance our natural heritage, the thriving local economy and the diverse ecological communities for today and the future. We realize that it can be difficult to define or quantify what constitutes a high quality of life, as these values cannot be bought, sold, or traded in a commercial sense. However, if the values that make for a high quality of life are considered ephemeral or of lesser importance than the acquisition of wealth, it will be diminished. We who now live in the Middle Methow Valley enjoy what we believe to be the highest level of quality of life that we can hope for. While there is always room for improvement in the quality of our lives, it is our vision to plan, control, and allow only the amount of growth, at a slow, sustainable rate of growth, that will permit and preserve the lifestyle that present residents of the Middle Methow enjoy and which people moving to our community so strongly seek to be part of. The quality of life and the style of life we enjoy is not only a benefit to our community that is difficult to quantify, it is also the absolute bedrock basis of the present day economy of the Middle Methow community.


The Middle Methow is a highly desirable place to live. This attribute is a magnet which draws people to our community, who buys land and builds homes and businesses to support themselves in their life here. To the extent we damage or diminish our quality of life, we also damage and diminish the foundation of our local economy. In addition, past errors in planning and omissions in regulations have led to some scarring and degradation of the landscapes and produced threats to the ecosystem. Also, the evolution of the valley communities and their economy has presented past and ongoing problems of employment and affordable housing. As a result, this comprehensive plan must include both pathways to protect what remains as well as to alleviate and correct the problems of the past.

Our vision is to keep the Middle Methow Valley the way it is and allow for only that growth which sustains, promotes, and protects the way of life we now have here. The rate of growth that we experience must be slow so that the elements of change can be integrated into the present environment and our lives without displacing or overwhelming the attributes we so highly value, which includes:

  • clean air;

  • clean water;

  • low pollution of all types (noise, light, air, water);

  • strong and connected sense of community;

  • low interpersonal conflict;

  • low crime rate;

  • large undeveloped areas of public land;

  • large undeveloped areas of private land;

  • a natural ecosystem which is still intact and which continues to support all the

    native fish, plants, animals, insects and other forms of life which are part of this ecosystem;

  • peacefulness; and a personal sense of well-being and safeness.”

Appendix A Draft 5/13/2009

Middle Methow Valley Comprehensive Plan Goals and Policies

“Okanogan County is currently in the process of updating the County’s Comprehensive Plan. This update process is featuring a “bottoms up” approach in which different regions, sub-regions and neighborhoods of the County are reviewing and proposing revision to existing local plans which will then become the basis for establishing area specific and general county-wide planning policies. For purposes of updating the County Comprehensive Plan the Methow Valley has been designated as one of six planning areas and the Methow Valley has been roughly divided into three overlapping sub-areas; the North Valley which includes the North Cascades Highway corridor to Winthrop; the Middle Valley which includes focuses on the area from the Weeman Bridge to North Gold Creek Road, and the South Valley which focuses on the area between the North Gold Creek Road and the City of Pateros. Based on input received from attendees at recent Middle Valley neighborhood meetings, the Goals and Policies contained in the 1976 Methow Valley Comprehensive Plan were selected as the framework to draft updated Goals and Policies applicable to the Middle Methow Valley. The following is a revised draft of potential revisions to update the existing goals and policies that has been previously forwarded to the County Planning Director for inclusion in the updated County Comprehensive Plan. It is anticipated that an updated draft of the County Comprehensive Plan will be distributed for public review and comment prior to initiating an environmental review process.




  1. Preserve and protect the natural environment, fisheries, wildlife, agricultural

    lands, and open space.

  2. Prevent sprawl and require that new growth and development be consistent with

    the policies of this Plan.

  3. Agricultural lands shall be preserved

  4. New development activities must be consistent with the historical and rural

    character of the Methow Valley as defined in the Vision Statement, the policies of

    this plan, and the Methow Conservancy Good Neighbor Handbook.

  5. Require that Project Sponsors pay for the full costs associated with serving their

    new developments and to fully mitigate potential adverse impacts.

  6. New developments shall not be permitted unless Project Sponsors can

    demonstrate an adequate supply of water without degrading existing uses.

  7. The scale and intensity of new development activities should be consistent with

    existing neighboring development.

  8. New development shall not adversely affect existing wells, senior water rights, or water and air quality

    • This analysis shall include consideration of the State Climatologist’s forecasts of declining rain and snow.

  9. Twisp and Winthrop, in consultation with the County, shall establish urban growth

    area boundaries that are consistent with the projected need for urban types of

    development and that reflect the logical outer boundary of urban services.

  10. Identify, prioritize, and designate open space for preservation with an emphasis

    on larger parcels.

  11. The County should establish and implement “Dark Sky” regulations to limit and control the location, direction, and intensity of outdoor lighting. All public lighting and private lighting shall be shaded so that light is cast only directly downward. All lighting on private properties shall be shaded so that no light from any outdoor lighting shall be cast beyond the boundaries of the private property upon which the light is placed.

  12. Commercial signs shall be shaded.

  13. The County shall adopt standards to limit ridgeline development to keep structures below the topographic profile in order to avoid adverse visual impacts.

  14. New Planned Destination Resorts shall not be permitted in the Methow Review District.

  15. Property owners should be required to manage their lands to minimize the risk of wildfires.

  16. All new development shall be designed to avoid adverse topographical effects such as erosion, visual impacts, scaring, unstable slopes, and interruption of wildlife corridors and watershed function.

  17. No building permit shall be permitted without a site visit from Okanogan County Planning.



  1. Identify and prioritize fish and wildlife habitat and migration corridors for their protection.

  2. Identify and adopt measures to protect locally endangered/significant plant and animal species and critical areas.

  3. Do not permit new development that adversely affects designated critical areas, NMFS, USFW, critical fish and wildlife habitat areas, and/or designated wildlife corridors.

  4. The County shall adopt WDFW designated critical habitat areas and wildlife coridors as part of the Critical Areas Ordinance.

  5. Critical area ordinances will be enforced by the County to protect species of special concern, as well as threatened and endangered species.

  6. Revise County Development Regulations to include provisions for wildlife friendly fencing standards.

  7. Adopt dog control measures to protect deer and livestock. The County shall adopt and actively enforce ordinances that require dogs to be leashed or under the direct control of owners at all times when off their residential property.

  8. Protect fisheries habitat by maintaining adequate stream flows, while protecting historic uses of existing water rights.

  9. The County should adopt and implement a flood hazard plan.

  10. Protect and enhance the natural character and geomorphic processes of the Methow, Chewack, and Twisp Rivers, their shorelines, and their tributaries, and intermitten streams.

  11. Outdoor burning should be prohibited during air inversion periods.

  12. The County should support the development and implementation of an ongoing water quality monitoring plan.

  13. In order to protect air quality, the County shall adopt standards to limit the use of wood-burning stoves when pollution levels are at risk of exceeding state air quality standards and/or during periods of air inversion.

  14. Property owners and public agencies should be encouraged to avoid the use of fertilizers and pesticides that could have an adverse impact on water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and neighboring properties.

  15. It is recognized that genetically modified organisms can have an adverse impact on the environment. As a result, the County shall prohibit the propagation, cultivation, raising, or growing of genetically engineered organisms, including but not limited to plants, animals, and micro-organisms.

  16. Buildings in forested areas shall not be permitted without an approved wildfire protection plan that includes fire-resistant construction, adequate road access, and defensible space that are consistent with Firewise Guidelines from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.


  1. Designate and provide public non-motorized access to public lands in the Methow.

  2. Protect existing access and designate and identify future non-motorized access to all public lands.

  3. Require County approval and public process for the exchange or sale of Public Lands.

  4. Develop a local review process in the Middle Methow to review the public land sales and exchanges.

  5. Develop a Public Lands designation for resource lands.

  6. Develop a map of the designated Public Land resource lands.

  7. Develop regulations within the Public Lands designation using the best available science.


  1. Designate and prioritize agricultural lands for preservation including lands currently used or suitable for agriculture.

  2. The County shall implement measures to preserve agricultural lands such as transfer of development rights and current use taxation which encourages agriculture, open space, and forest uses.

  3. Protect existing irrigation uses and water rights dedicated to support agriculture.

  4. Do not support the conversion of water rights dedicated to support agricultural uses to incompatible non-agricultural uses, provided that this policy should not adversely affect the Town of Twisp’s efforts to secure additional water rights to serve their Urban Growth Area.

  5. Encourage public use of private grazing lands through access or development easements.

  6. Encourage and support the local agricultural economy so that it may achieve and maintain self sufficiency

  7. Amend the open space ordinance to reduce the parcel size requirement.


  1. Identify and prioritize forested areas and shrub-steppe lands for protection of

    critical areas.

  2. Avoid or minimize potential adverse impacts on critical wildlife and fisheries

    areas, environmentally sensitive areas, and designated natural resource lands.


  1. Subdivisions, planned developments, resorts and related types of developments

    shall only be located where such development is compatible with neighboring land uses and where required services exist or can be provided in an environmentally sensitive manner.

  2. Require Project Sponsors to provide affordable housing to mitigate adverse community impacts associated with new development such as a lack of available housing, increased traffic, increased commuting distances, etc.

  3. New residential developments shall be screened from State highways and County arterials with vegetation.

  4. Require that Project Sponsors pay for and fully mitigate the public costs and the adverse impacts associated with new development, such as impacts on public services, roads, sewer and water systems, schools, emergency services, etc.

  5. Energy efficient alternative residential building materials, systems, and designs should be encouraged and permitted including but not limited to grey water systems and composting.

  6. Existing standards governing home businesses should be retained and consistently and actively enforced.

  7. The County shall actively research the feasibility of establishing size standards for new houses so that they are comparable in size to neighboring buildings.

  8. The County should actively pursue and implement opportunities to promote more affordable housing in the community.

  9. Gated communities shall not be permitted.

  10. County regulations and permitting procedures shall be revised to eliminate practices intended to circumvent the principal of no more than one primary and one accessory dwelling unit per lot

  11. Accessory buildings shall not be converted to dwelling units without a permit(s) issued by the County and full compliance with the requirements for primary or accessory dwelling units.

  12. New non-residential accessory buildings capable of being converted to a dwelling unit shall not be permitted without a note recorded on the Title and/or other measures clearly prohibiting the conversion or unauthorized uses. This shall include, but is not limited to, accessory buildings designed to accommodate the subsequent addition of a kitchen.

  13. This shall include, but is not limited to connecting buildings designed to be free standing with breezeways.

  14. Require new residential septic systems to be located outside channel migration zones.

  15. Require residential development to be located outside channel migration zones.

  16. Only one building shall be allowed with a plumbed kitchen per tax parcel except

    where otherwise allowed as an accessory building.


  1. New commercial development should be directed to appropriately zoned sites in

    the incorporated and unincorporated towns of Twisp, Winthrop, Methow, and Carlton.

    1. New commercial development should emphasize local ownership and sized

      to serve the local community.

    2. Retail facilities greater than 10,000 sq. ft. shall not be permitted.

    3. Strip development shall not be permitted.

  2. Adopt and consistently implement new sign standards with an emphasis on:

    • The limitation of off-site signs to designated public areas;

    • Limiting the size, height, and illumination of on-site signs; and

    • The use of natural materials.

  3. New commercial developments shall be screened from State highways and County arterials with vegetation.

  4. New commercial developments shall be screened from non-commercial zones with vegetation, including a required maintenance plan and a replacement plan for all dead vegetation.



  1. New industrial development should be directed to appropriately zoned sites in the

    incorporated and unincorporated towns of Twisp, Winthrop, Methow, and Carlton.

  2. Permit industrial development only upon the issuance of a conditional use permit that adequately mitigates potential adverse affects, such as impacts on public services, roads, sewer and water systems, schools, emergency services, and

    minimizes impacts of noise and light.

  3. New industrial developments shall be screened from State highways and County

    arterials and adjoining non-industrial zones with vegetation.



  1. The County shall prepare and implement access control plans for state highways

    and county roads to promote safety and protect wildlife by limiting the number of

    individual access points and that promote shared or joint use driveways.

  2. The County shall require that roads be designed and constructed to provide safe

    crossings, utilizing such features as underpasses and overpasses.

    • The County shall identify, prioritize, design, and construct a system of trails or by-ways that can safely be used by bicyclists, pedestrians, and equestrians. These should utilize public property and such features as right-of ways, easements, and irrigation ditches while connecting communities, schools, parks, and public places.

  3. Project Sponsors shall be required to submit traffic studies and plans with their

    applications that fully mitigate potential adverse traffic impacts associated with

    their proposed development.

  4. Traffic speeds shall be slowed to protect the public health and safety in wildlife

    corridors, recreation areas, cities and towns, and in areas with higher frequency

    of accidents

  5. The County shall require the use of asphalt or asphalt overlays on arterials to

    minimize noise.

  6. Standards to limit off-site signage should be established and enforced with a

    particular emphasis on areas that are not covered by the National Scenic By- Ways standards for signage, which should be applied and enforced on all State highways and County roads

    • Video display signs shall not be permitted.

  7. Develop a highway information system that provides adequate information to

    travelers without degrading the environment.

  8. No new airports or runways shall be permitted and existing runways shall not be

    lengthened or widened.

1. The County shall prepare and implement a Comprehensive Parks and Recreation Plan that includes:

  • A comprehensive trail plan for walking, hiking, jogging, bicycling, skiing,

    and equestrians that connect communities, schools, parks, and public places utilizing public property and such features as right-of -ways, easements, and irrigation ditches;

  • Preservation of existing public access points to the Methow River and provides additional opportunities for public access for swimming, non- motorized boat access, picnicking, and passive enjoyment; and

  • A countywide park that includes facilities for active and passive enjoyment including ball fields, picnicking, and nature walks, etc.


  1. The County should support the development and implementation of an ongoing water quality monitoring plan.

  2. Water rights should not be transferred outside of the Methow Valley.

  3. Project Sponsors must demonstrate that they have fully provided sewer and

    water service to new commercial, industrial, and large-scale residential

    developments that does not adversely impact the environment.

  4. Septic tanks and drain fields shall not be permitted in environmentally sensitive areas, such as floodplains, wetlands, designated critical areas, and in areas

    where septic effluent could degrade the quality of surface and ground waters.

  5. No structures for permanent human habitation or any sewage or industrial waste disposal shall be allowed in 100 year floodplains or channel migration zone

    whichever provides a greater area of protection.

  6. Project Sponsors shall be required to pay for the costs associated with providing

    water and sewer service.

  7. Sponsors of projects involving five or more residential units shall be required to

    prove that new wells will not adversely affect existing wells.

a. The burden of proof shall be on Project Sponsors.
b. Project Sponsors shall be responsible for adverse impacts on existing

wells and for reparations.

  1. Project Sponsors shall be required to restore areas disturbed during the

    installation of new utilities to prevent noxious weeds and erosion.

  2. New developments shall utilize water conservation measures including, but not limited to: gray water recycling, low flow shower and toilets; and drip irrigation or

    micro sprinkler systems.

  3. Meters shall be installed on new exempt wells. Exempt well withdrawals shall be

    limited by ordinance to a quantity that closely reflects actual, typical residential usage (200-800 GPD).



  1. Minimize visual impacts of new utility construction and installation.

  2. Utility lines should be placed underground unless physically infeasible or it would cause substantial adverse environmental impacts.

  3. Support the undergrounding of existing utilities.

  4. The County shall encourage and permit alternative sources of energy including

    but not limited to the distributive generation of electricity through zoning and

    housing code regulations.

  5. New developments shall use energy conservation measures.



  1. All development activities must comply with adopted codes and regulations.

    • All plats involving 5 or more lots shall be processed through the Planned Development process and shall be designed to promote open space and clustering.

  2. The County shall establish and maintain an active code enforcement program.

  3. The County shall revise and enforce legally defensible noise standards.

  4. Priority consideration shall be given to scheduling public hearings and meetings

    in the vicinity of proposed projects and to rotating the location of Planning

    Commission meetings throughout the County.

  5. The County shall establish and implement procedures to notify and provide

    neighboring and affected property owners with timely and meaningful opportunities to comment on proposed comprehensive plan amendments, rezones, and development proposals.

  6. Development Agreements should not be utilized in the Middle Methow Valley. However, if the County adopts provisions that authorizes the execution of development agreements throughout the county, then the County shall notify affected communities at the earliest possible opportunity of its intent to negotiate a development agreement(s) with a Project Sponsor and shall provide early and continuous opportunities for public involvement. In addition, all public meetings and required public hearings shall be scheduled in the vicinity of the proposed project in order to facilitate local involvement throughout the decision making process. At a minimum, development agreements shall include provisions that :

    • Establishes specific performance requirements and timeframes that if not met shall render agreements null and void;

    • Clearly enables the County to impose new or subsequent requirements necessary to protect the public health and safety;

    • Limits and documents what, if any, rights are vested and the timeframes in which the vested rights need to be exercised or become void;

    • Clearly enables the County to require additional environmental reviews and/or impose additional mitigation measures to address changes in conditions or new information; and

    • Establishes monitoring protocols to ensure that conditions of approval have been met, are being maintained and enforced, and are functioned as intended producing the desired results.

  7. Clearing and grading threshold requirements shall be lowered and the governing standards increased within one year of the adoption of these goals and policies in order to avoid fragmentation and degradation of habitat.

  8. The regulations governing Planned Developments must be upgraded to be consistent with the Goals and Policies in this Plan.

  9. All subdivision in agricultural resource areas shall be clustered under a planned development.

10. The County shall maintain or increase the minimum lot size requirements in the Methow 5 and Methow 20 Zones.

  • Rounding off, incentives, density bonuses, or other means of increasing the base density shall not be utilized except in clustered planned developments.

  • In order to subdivide a parcel, the minimum lot size for property zoned one dwelling unit per five acres shall be ten acres, and the for a property zoned for one dwelling unit per twenty acres shall be forty acres.

  • Regulations shall be revised to more clearly describe lot size requirements to avoid gaps in coverage, such as 5 or more acres, or less than 5 acres, etc.

11.Urban Growth Area Boundaries should be periodically reviewed and and adjusted to reflect more contemporary assessments of future needs, the ability to provide urban services, and the suitability of land for development.

a. Parcels should not be bisected by Urban Growth Area boundary lines, and adjustments should be made so that the parcel is entirely in or out of the Urban Growth Area.

  1. Parcels should not be bisected by zoning district boundaries. Parcels with more than one zoning district shall be subject to the zoning requirements of the district that applies to a majority of the lot area.

  2. Future Land Use and Zoning designations should be consistent with the Adaptive Water Management Plan to be prepared by the Methow Watershed Council.

  3. The County regulations governing Accessory Dwelling Units, Chapter 17.14.040 shall be amended to to include the following provisions to govern new accessory dwelling units in all zones in the Middle Methow Valley:

    1. The minimum lot size for properties seeking to add an accessory dwelling unit shall be 7.5 acres;

    2. Accessory dwelling units shall not exceed 600 sq. ft.; and

    3. Accessory dwelling units must be located within 50 feet of the primary


15. The County shall establish fees for new development that fully cover the costs of

plan review, permit issuance, inspection, compliance monitoring, and a

comprehensive development regulation and code enforcement program.

  1. The County should review and revise tax policies to limit tax increases on long-

    standing, lower-, and fixed income property owners.

  2. The County should recognize and support three separate local advisory groups

    to serve Mazama, the Middle Methow Valley, and Lower Methow Valley communities. These advisory groups should be actively consulted by the County and should be provided with adequate information and support to make timely and meaningful comments on proposed policy and regulatory changes, rezones, and specific development proposals.

    a. The County should also promote and support discussions between the local advisory groups on matters of sub-regional or county-wide concern.

  3. The County shall actively advertise vacancies on the Planning Commission and advisory boards utilizing local newspapers, newsletters, emails, websites, and community based organizations.

  4. The County shall open a part-time office of the Planning Department in the Methow Valley supported by fees on new developments.”

Appendix A Draft 5/13/2009

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