Snoqualmie Council OKs housing fee delay, taller schools, new public defender, cop

Family members surround newest Snoqualmie officer Justin LeRoux as Mayor Matt Larson swears him in. - Seth Truscott/Staff Photo
Family members surround newest Snoqualmie officer Justin LeRoux as Mayor Matt Larson swears him in.
— image credit: Seth Truscott/Staff Photo

Taking action Monday, June 10, Snoqualmie City Council unanimously approved a code change allowing for higher elementary and secondary schools in city limits.

Ross Bentley, a member of the city's economic development commission, took the podium to champion the change.

"We spent a lot of time talking about this subject" in committee, said Bentley. "All the members are in favor of this. If the (high) school should go away because of this issue, that would cause a big economic impact on the city. The number of people coming through town, on their way to schools, is a big part."

Housing tax break

Also Monday, the council introduced an ordinance for tax exemptions for multifamily housing. This new rule would allow affordable housing projects, such as Imagine Housing's planned neighborhood on Snoqualmie Ridge, to receive tax exemptions under specific conditions. Tax exemption is not automatic and would be subject to a number of steps as well as city approval. Action for this items is slated for Monday, June 24.

In a related item, the council unanimously passed a resolution Monday evening deferring plan and building fees for Imagine Housing's project. Fees would have to be paid when the first temporary certificate of occupancy is issued—in effect, when tenants move in.

"Imagine was originally asking for a waiver of the fees," explained Mayor Matt Larson. "This has now been structured as a deferral, so the city will capture the fees."

Councilmember Charles Petersen made it clear that he is taking the decision on affordable housing step by step.

"If I support these bills, moving forward, I don't want anybody to interpret that means I'll vote at the final for approval or disapproval," he said.

Public defender change

The council weighed in on a new contract for indigent defense services with the firm of O’Brien, Barton, Joe and Hopkins, PLLP, of Issaquah.

Several representatives from the interim firm, Valley Defenders, took the podium to ask that the city stick with their firm, emphasizing continuity and a Valley wide-approach. Valley Defenders are the public defense attorneys for North Bend and Issaquah.

"There's gonna be a lot of harm done by hiring on a new contract," said Sean McCulley, co-owner of Valley Defenders. "I ask that you vote nay."

Councilmember Jeff MacNichols, who led discussion on the contract change, is a defense attorney with Stewart MacNichols Harmell in Kent.

"We try to look at objective factors," said MacNichols, who characterized both sides as "all qualified, and they're all good people."

Last January, the city's prior public defender quit the practice of law, unexpectedly. The city cannot be put in that position again, MacNichols said.

"I don't think there's any chance of irreparable harm," in making the change, he said. "The continuity of the longstanding practice of O'Brien gives me confidence that there will never be a situation during this contract where there will be a problem with providing defense."

The contract was approved unanimously.

New cop

In other business, Mayor Larson swore in Justin LeRoux, its newest officer.

"It's always a pleasure to hire a fellow Washington State University graduate," said Police Chief Steve McCulley.

LeRoux graduated from Tahoma High School in Maple Valley, is an Army Reserve Officer Training Corps graduate and National Guard reservist, and an Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot who served in the Middle East.

He comes to Snoqualmie from the Port Angeles police department, and started work June 3.


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