Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Garth Meyer
Gazette Reporter 

Dusty zone change proposal meets with resistance


October 4, 2018

The McCoy Land Company, a subsidiary of Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative, has asked to stay their proposed zone change for a four-pad grain pile project on 66 acres just outside Dusty.

Their intentions were sent in a letter Sept. 25 to Alan Thomson, Whitman County planner.

Also in the letter, Keith Becker, PNW operations manager, stated the co-op will apply for a conditional use permit on the land, which is zoned as agricultural. The conditional use permit, if granted, would allow the project to go forward without a zoning change.

“It’s a change of tact,” said Thomson, who was scheduled to present the request to stay at the planning commission’s Wednesday (Oct. 3) meeting.

This meeting was originally going to include a continuation of a crowded Sept. 5 hearing on McCoy/PNW seeking to change the zone from agricultural to limited heavy industrial.

Instead, on Wednesday, the planning commission was expected to decide whether to agree to or turn down the stay request.

If they agree, the matter goes on hold for a timeframe set by the planning commission. If they disagree, the planning commission could decide to send their recommendation for approval or disapproval of the zone change to county commissioners who ultimately decide the matter.

“They have to complete their mission,” Thomson said of the possibility the planning commission could send its judgment now to commissioners. “A reasonable person might think, you haven’t finished here.”

McCoy/PNW would still have the option to apply again for a zone change, or re-open the stay for the zone change later.

In the Sept. 25 letter, Becker noted PNW’s intentions now.

“The CUP (conditional use permit) process will result in considerably more project detail being submitted to the county, along with additional mitigation, which will be available for public review and comment,” wrote Becker. “Once a final CUP is issued, the rezone application will be withdrawn. With our application materials being completed by mid-October, we expect the CUP process to be completed within the next 90 days.”

A conditional use permit request may go before the county’s board of adjustment, or a hearing examiner. PNW has asked that theirs be heard by a hearing examiner, who is a private attorney, versed in the Growth Management Act and other land-use matters, appointed by Mark Storey, Whitman County Public Works director.

Hearing examiners are an option for projects estimated at more than $5 million, or a public utility.

“The way to go for complex cases is a hearing examiner,” Thomson said.

Conditional use permit cases come down to two things, Thomson indicated: is it allowed by the county code, and can problems brought up be mitigated?

For example, neighbor’s concerns may be addressed by limiting the hours of operation of a project, or days of the week that it is permitted to operate.

The Gazette went to press before Wednesday night’s meeting.


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