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Snoqualmie greenlights annex of former mill site

The city of Snoqualmie is exploring annexation of 600 acres of land centered on the former Weyerhaeuser mill site, with jobs rather than a new housing community in mind.

The 593-acre Mill Planning Area, located in the city's urban growth area, could one day house high-technology jobs, City Administrator Bob Larson said.

Snoqualmie City Council gave Mayor Matt Larson the green light Monday, March 28, to start negotiations with King County over annexing the site, which is a joint planning area between the county and city.

City staff are still analyzing what the annexation would mean to the city's infrastructure and fiscal operation.

The planning area, most of which is owned by the operators of the Dirtfish Rally School, includes industrial zoning but no residential property.

In the past few years, Bob Larson said, King County has become more open about transferring urban growth areas into cities. However, "the county didn't want it to come into the city and see the use change dramatically," he said.

While Dirtfish owners have publicly expressed no interest in development, the city sees the site's potential for future commercial growth.

"We're interested in high-tech, new energy jobs," said Larson. Besides Dirtfish, Larson said the site could accommodate a cluster of such businesses.

"The mill site has several dozen acres above the floodplain," he said. "The site is large enough. We think it could be easily adapted to a new use," while coexisting with the rally school.

Dirtfish's plans

Ross Bentley, president of DirtFish, supports annexation. He said the change is more about an emotional connection than a business move.

"We want to help continue to see Snoqualmie become more of an adventure destination," Bentley said. "If we're paying taxes, we want to be paying taxes to the city."

The annexation may help the company with permitting for special events. DirtFish plans a rally with the potential for national attention later this month, and the county has indicated that it will work cooperatively to permit the event with Snoqualmie if the city commits to annex the Mill Planning Area.

Bentley said the company has no plans for major construction "of any kind."

"This site has so much natural character," he said. "If anything, we want to continue to take advantage of it (as) an adventure park. We want to do more things, from cycling and hiking to other kinds of outdoor activities."

DirtFish opened last October. Bentley said the school has already seen considerable interest and sign-ups in its first six months of operation.

If the annex is approved, the city would take on planning and zoning authority. The county and city will negotiate which streets enter the urban limit.

"We've been looking at this site for several years," Bob Larson said. "Now, if the city takes control, we have more leverage and flexibility in what we want to see out there."

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