State board: Chelan County violated Growth Management Act to approve rezoning

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Map showing the 63-acre Riverstone Ranch property, outlined in black, that sought zoning for smaller residential lots.

WENATCHEE — A Chelan County decision to rezone a large orchard area for a proposed subdivision did not comply with the Growth Management Act.

The Washington Growth Management Board handed down a decision Thursday that undoes the rezoning of 63 acres between Leavenworth and Peshastin, dubbed Riverstone Ranch, which the county last spring recategorized as rural-residential. That would have allowed developers to build new homes there with 2.5-acre lot sizes along a scenic stretch of the Wenatchee River, now taken up by orchards.

The Riverstone Ranch property was originally zoned as commercial/agriculture, requiring a 10-acre minimum lot size. It applied to be reclassified for the smaller rural-residential lot allowance on the county’s comprehensive plan map, and won approval in March.

The city of Leavenworth and the Friends of Leavenworth advocacy group objected to the amendment, saying it ran counter to the GMA and to Chelan County’s own growth management ordinance. Those laws require the county to “reduce the inappropriate conversion of undeveloped land into sprawling, low-density development;” and to “maintain and enhance natural resource-based industries.”

In its decision, the Growth Management Board for the Eastern Washington region said, “… To remove the Property from its agricultural designation would create a barrier between the existing agricultural lands, in violation of the clear goal of the GMA to ‘maintain and enhance’ agricultural uses.” The ruling finds “a clear inconsistency between the de-designation of the agricultural lands in question and the planning goals and policies of the County Comprehensive Plan.”

The board ruling invalidates the reclassification. Chelan County has 10 days to ask the board for reconsideration.