Kittitas County Commission Chairman Alan Crankovich said the county’s legal staff will examine a citizen complaint that commissioners allowed new information on proposed changes to the county development code to surface during a Wednesday hearing that was closed to public questions, testimony and comments.
Crankovich said those expressing the complaint claim the information was not brought forth during a series of public hearings that ended June 14 during which citizens could have questioned, commented or rebutted them.
The public comment period ended June 18, and commissioners began deliberating on possible code changes at the Wednesday session that was closed to any further public statements.
Commissioners on Wednesday asked questions of county Community Development Department Director Darryl Piercy and his staff on many aspects of the proposed changes, including from the record and asking about the background of certain code provisions and the reasoning behind some of the proposed changes.
Concerns were expressed about the alleged new information by Desmond Knudson and Paula Thompson. Thompson heads the Kittitas County Conservation Coalition.
“We are evaluating the concerns right now,” Crankovich said. “On Wednesday we were getting answers to our questions from staff. I can’t respond directly on whether what the staff said was new information or not, or if somehow that information taints the public process.
“We’re looking into it.”
Those raising concerns said one option to remedy the situation is for commissioners to reopen the public hearing process to take comments on Piercy’s information.
Jan Sharar, a spokeswoman for the conservation coalition, said the nonprofit citizen advocacy group was also representing Ridge and the statewide Futurewise group at the Wednesday meeting.
Sharar said the coalition believes new information was brought up by county staff, in response to commissioner questions, on several topics. These include why the boundaries for the proposed east county wind farm zone were proposed without public input, the criteria used for “hard” boundaries around three-acre zoning and why Yakima Training Center lands were included in the wind farm zone.
“The county commissioners should have asked these questions during the public hearings to allow everyone to hear the same information at the same time and to give the public an opportunity to comment on them,” Sharar said. “This goes against the spirit and intent of the (state) Growth Management Act.”
Another option, she said, is that the coalition could appeal the issue to the Eastern Washington Growth Management Hearings Board.
Desmond Knudson said he also has expressed concerns. He attended the Wednesday meeting and contends that some of the alleged new information from staff is inaccurate and has not been submitted to the commissioners as an official part of the record. He said he and the public should have the chance to rebutt it.
By Mike Johnston
29 June 2007
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