Sigillo Cellars in Snoqualmie is hoping to expand their operations in the city’s historic downtown center with plans to build a production facility on a vacant lot near Sandy Cove Park.
The building would house the production facilities for Sigillo Cellars and concept renderings show the building would have around 25,000-square-feet total, with 3,000-square-feet of wine production space, about a dozen hotel rooms and a height of up to 39 feet including flood elevation. A restaurant could also be included. No final plans have been submitted to the city for approval and all renderings are just concepts.
The winery is run by the father and son duo of Mike Seal and Ryan Seal. They opened a tasting room in downtown Snoqualmie in 2011 and are hoping to expand within the city.
“Wherever the production is, is the home for the winery,” Ryan Seal said.
The property the Seals hope to develop is located on the northeast corner of Southeast King Street and Railroad Avenue. The plot is currently a vacant gravel lot that is owned by the city. Ryan Seal said they approached the city about the property and brought out a realtor to conduct a market valuation, which pegged the value of the land at $450,000. Snoqualmie community development director Mark Hofman said the city has been waiting to sell the property for a project that would enhance the downtown experience, instead of selling to the first interested party.
“This time around they took a look at the city’s downtown properties and said how can they best be utilized and would the City Council consider selling,” he said.
The city is requiring that the Seals make improvements to Falls Avenue Southeast, which runs between the lot and Sandy Cove Park. If they choose to make additional improvements to public utilities and infrastructure the sale price could be reduced.
While they are ready to proceed with the sale, the Seals are waiting for the council to clean up language in its building code that prescribes two separate height limits in the city. The first allows buildings to reach 35 feet, but the King Street property sits in a historic overlay, which limits height to 30 feet, leading to uncertainty for the Seals as well as future developers. Council will vote on Aug. 27 to clean up the language.
Mike Seal said their development plans are contingent on the council’s vote. If the height limit is set at 30 feet, it could change the scope of their project. If the higher height limit is approved the property sale could be completed by Sept. 30 and construction could begin within a year. Hofman said that the designer documents the Seals had approached the city with, including the building height of 39 feet, are not official designs. If the sale is approved, then the developers will be required to submit actual plans, including proposed building heights, to the city.
“We can’t use any of those drawings,” Hofman said.
The potential development has raised concerns from some in Snoqualmie, including Jane Storrs, who started a Facebook group called “A Lot to Lose in Snoqualmie.” She is worried about how any development could affect parking, the city’s historic character and access to Sandy Cove Park.
“We want this to remain a natural area,” she said. “We don’t want to turn into little Issaquah Highlands, we want to stay historic.”
The gravel lot currently houses around 100 parking spots with room for oversized vehicles and provides easy parking for business patrons and locals, Storrs said. While parking would be reduced, Ryan Seals said around 12 parking spaces would be retained along King Street and Hofman said the project would leave space for parking along Falls Avenue. Storrs said she would like to see all the parking retained.
“We need that parking, our city runs well with that parking because people can easily come to this downtown focal point,” she said.
Another concern Storrs has is the possibility of restricted access to the park and the Snoqualmie River waterfront. Sigillo Cellars has said they plan to rent out the park for weddings and other private events several times a year. Storrs is concerned that this will lead to reduced access for locals and raise the possibility of the park essentially functioning as a private space if it is rented out often.
Initial drawings submitted by the Seals proposed the idea of constructing a deck in the park, which Storrs said would break up the park and could impede access.
Hofman said the cellar would have to go through the same event application permit as any other party and would not enjoy special access or privilege to the park or deck in the park even if they build one.
“They would like to do events such as wedding ceremonies. If a park element is ever constructed by them or the city on the upper bank, that would be reservable by the public, or by Sigillo,” Hofman said. “They would have no other special control over it, they would be in line to reserve it just like everybody else.”
Storrs said she would still like to see it preserved as an open lot that can continue to be used as parking and a staging area for sandbagging during floods as well as for festivals.
“We are very concerned about maintaining our historic character,” she said.