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Council weighs in on hospital dispute

Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson got the green light from the Snoqualmie City Council last week to use his influence on behalf of a new Snoqualmie Valley Hospital campus near the Snoqualmie Parkway interchange.

"This is our fight," said Larson, who updated the council on his role in pulling the proposed hospital campus, which could include a Bellevue Community College branch campus, senior assisted living center and a new hotel, out of what he described as a "straightjacket" of development requirements.

"This isn't just about the hospital," Larson said. "This is really about our having a hand in how we define our future."

The mayor is a vocal opponent of the King County pilot program of Transfer of Development Rights, or TDR, as it's applied to Snoqualmie Valley Hospital. Under the program, the hospital is required to buy development rights from landowners in the vicinity. Some 250 acres would have to be set aside as non-developable land for the hospital's 70-acre campus to proceed.

Late last month, the King County Department of Developmental and Environmental Services recommended that the hospital be held to the TDR requirement, in its set of Comprehensive Plan amendments forwarded to the King County Council. The Council will make the final decision on the update later this year.

Larson argued that the county's plan puts too much financial burden and uncertainty on the hospital project. Placing too many requirements on the hospital development leaves little funds to make the new facility state of the art and environmentally friendly, he said.

"It doesn't make for a very good pilot project when it's dead on arrival," Larson said. "It seems like one value, conservation, has trumped all other priorities... the needs of health care, of education, of senior assisted living."

Council members told Larson to continue his efforts.

"This is where I want you to spend your time. It speaks to our economic development, it speaks to quality of life for our citizens," said Councilwoman Maria Henriksen.

Council members also suggested the city cooperate with King County Hospital District No. 4 and the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust on the matter.

"We need the cooperation of the Greenway Trust, psychologically, philosophically, and maybe money, too," said councilman Bob Jeans.

"Snoqualmie has got some unique challenges," Larson told the Valley Record. "Half my town's a flood plain."

The city is bounded by conserved land on several of its boundaries, including Meadowbrook and near Snoqualmie Falls. The area between I-90 and Snoqualmie Ridge is one of the few areas that are ideal for growth, according to Larson.

"You put growth where the infrastructure is," he said.

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