NEWPORT — Foes of the proposed PacWest silicon smelter are hailing Pend Oreille County commissioners for turning down a land use code change they believed was meant facilitate the controversial project.
County commissioners recommended denial of a comprehensive land use amendment on Monday that would reclassify public lands so they could be utilized for a broader array of uses. The action followed a three-hour public hearing in May. The county’s planning commission recommended denial of the comp plan amendment in April.
The comp plan amendment was widely seen as an attempt by the county to ease development of the smelter. It drew widespread opposition during public hearings, although some residents supported it because the project would bring jobs and an economic stimulus to the area.
The Citizens Against the Newport Silicon Smelter praised commissioners for turning down the comp plan amendment and called on PacWest to abandon its smelter project.
“CANSS appreciates the county’s decision to accept the thoughtful recommendation of the planning commissioner for listening to CANSS and other concerned citizens,” CANSS’ board of directors said in a statement.
Responsible Growth*NE Washington also applauded the board’s decision, which would have re-designated as much as 65 percent of the land in the county from public to rural. The group said it is cautiously optimistic the denial of the comp plan change will be a death knell for the smelter proposal.
“We are being cautious due to the fact that the county is changing its current land use map in the comprehensive plan 2020 update and eliminating all public lands designation,” said Phyllis Kardos, co-chair of RG*NEW.
Kardos said RG*NEW would take legal action under the State Environmental Policy Act if the planning commission recommends approval of another code change surfaces in the 2020 update.
Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.