Snoqualmie vote clears way for final Old Mill annex decision; comp plan amendment proposed

The former Weyerhaeuser mill at Snoqualmie Falls is one last step away from being part of Snoqualmie city limits.

Snoqualmie City Council put the final prerequisite into place Monday, May 14, with a 4-2 vote approving the interlocal agreement with King County.

Passage of the resolution sealing the deal means the city can now consider a final annex ordinance, along with a change to the Snoqualmie comprehensive plan codifying a new method of annexation. Opponents, meanwhile, are fighting the issue before the state's Growth Management Hearings Board.

Monday's discussion

Last Monday, two elected officials, councilmen Charles Peterson and Jeff McNichols, continued their opposition to the annexation's burden of infrastructure.

MacNichols had previously voted for the pre-annexation deal with property owners—Snoqualmie Mill Ventures LLC, Ultimate Rally LLC and Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Company— but voted against the interlocal agreement with King County for reasons of expense, chief among them the city's new burden for replacement and maintenance of the Meadowbrook Bridge.

"Based on those contingencies that still exist, I'm also against this," he said Monday.

Peterson cited the 2012 Urban Growth Area Analysis by Seattle firm CollinsWoerman, submitted last March as part of the city's application to expand its urban growth boundary to the Interstate 90-Parkway interchange. That document downplays the near-term potential of the mill site.

Access, floodplain and infrastructure issues bring challenges to the mill site, Peterson argued.

"At the very best, we would break even financially for an unknown length of time," he said. "The report… shows there is limited ability for this city to gain economic value…. This report is not very enthusiastic in supporting the annexation."

In response, Mayor Matt Larson agreed that annexation "is no magic bullet.

"It's got significant challenges," he said. "But it certainly improves the situation, tremendously. The silver lining is it makes uses that would be scoffed at by developers, that would play into our tourism, recreational goals, doable, that would otherwise laughable because the land costs would be too high."

Growth board decision

Members of the grassroots group YourSnoqualmieValley filed a petition for reconsideration with the state Growth Management Hearings Board, challenging the pre-annexation and zoning agreements.

In March, the board concluded that the pre-annexation agreement is a "de facto amendment of the city's comprehensive plan," granting the group additional time. A follow-up hearing is set for October.

"Whether you believe it's correct or not, we need to deal with it," City Attorney Pat Anderson told the council Monday.

The city will amend its comprehensive plan to bring its policies into agreement, "when an annexation goes forward without a development proposal, so it's not possible to do a meaningful implementation plan," Anderson said.

The city attorney added that the board ruled in the city's favor otherwise, upholding its environmental policy determination.

The city's pre-annex agreement "expressly defers the requirement of an annexation implementation plan until development or redevelopment of the Mill Area is proposed," the Hearing Board's order states. A compliance hearing is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 20.

The city asserted that the annexation was initiated at the request of King County, "no change of use, development or redevelopment is proposed or approved, so (an implementation plan) would be premature," hearings board documents say.

Citizen comments

The three citizens who spoke Monday each aired their arguments urging a slowdown and wider consideration.

Warren Rose, a member of the annex opposition group Your Snoqualmie Valley, stressed that the decision must await a concrete development proposal.

"There is absolutely no reason to move forward without a proposal," he said. "There are going to be grave consequences without a proposal, because it will affect the future of this city. It is absolutely incumbent on all of you to take deeper consideration of what the actual plans are."

Resident Tom Shea said he was "certainly opposed to the quickness of which this is going through." Concerned about flooding, he said the property, "if it were properly dealt with," could act as a flood reserve. "All the consideration for the environment has not been done."

"This annexation is about expediency," said downtown business owner Wendy Thomas. "It allows the city to expand its boundaries across the river."

"I wonder if it's really not worth addressing those issues that are in the comp plan, around industrial contamination and floodplain issues, that are basically deferred, perhaps indefinitely. That's what's at stake here," she added.

The Snoqualmie Planning Commission will take comment at 7 p.m. Monday, June 4, at City Hall, on the proposed changes to comprehensive plan.

As submitted to the Department of Commerce, section 8.B.2.11 allows the city to consider a deferral of an implementation plan until after annexation, but prior to approval of any development.

The deferral must be approved by the council, is conditions established in a pre-annex agreement.

Infrastructure and city services would be addressed by the annexation implementation plan at the time of development.

"This is a critical hearing. It doesn't just have to do with our complaint at DirtFish and how the site is being annexed," Rose said. "This has to do with the whole community. It's opening the door for the city to start grabbing land."

What was passed

Resolution 1144 approves the interlocal agreement between the city of Snoqualmie and King County that defines how the Snoqualmie Mill Planning Area will be annexed.

After the mayor signs the agreement, the city clerk files a Notice of Intention to annex the area with the Washington State Boundary Review Board for King County.

The agreement puts the Meadowbrook bridge, Mill Pond Road and Reinig Road under city responsibility. Parts of 396th Drive would come under city jurisdiction pending development.

The agreement states that property owners will not build a race track or speedway. "The only racing of motor vehicles that may occur shall be on the same facilities used for specialized driving instruction school."

The city approved a pre-annexation agreement with the site owners last October.

The city must hold a public hearing before it can pass an annexation ordinance.

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