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Know the West

Renegade county gets a makeover

  For two years, the county commissioners in Chelan County, Wash., have led the state's property-rights movement. They thumbed their noses at Washington's Growth Management Act, challenged its planning requirements in court and even suffered economic sanctions for ignoring them (HCN, 6/10/96).

But the county's outlaw image changed dramatically when voters threw out one of the two anti-planning commissioners and defeated a like-minded candidate for the open seat in last fall's election. Voters elected Jim Lynch and Esther Stefaniw, two political centrists who promised they would work with state law and that consensus and not confrontation would be their style.

The two sent a letter Jan. 7 to then Gov. Mike Lowry informing him that the county would comply with the law. Lowry responded by lifting the sanctions and releasing some $865,000 in state gas-tax revenues that had been withheld from the county since last June.

Lynch and Stefaniw also fired a private attorney whom the county had hired to challenge the Growth Management Act. The county had paid him $125,000 since November 1995 for unsuccessful litigation before county, state and federal courts and had set aside another $75,000 for upcoming appeals.

"It's been a waste of taxpayers' money," Lynch said.

* John Rosapepe