Proposed Lake Alice Road link ignites controversy

The idea of building a road between Lake Alice and Snoqualmie Ridge is unpopular with many Lake Alice residents. They see the city of Snoqualmie's July 24 attempt to revisit the idea as a broken promise to keep their area rural and unaffected by growth on Snoqualmie Ridge.

"We're going to lose the rural character of our community and we don't think that's fair," said Lake Alice area resident Richard Weirlein, as he urged City Council members to honor past agreements not to build a road. The City Council held a public comment session to gauge opinion on the possibility of making a connection between the two areas.

The consensus was clear: Most Lake Alice area residents don't want a road to be built linking Lake Alice Road to Snoqualmie Ridge. They showed up en masse to the meeting to get their point across.

A crowd of some 150 people packed the City Council chambers at the Snoqualmie fire station. People sat on the floor or stood at the edge of the room; those who didn't fit inside sat or stood in the hall, listening to loudspeakers.

The city held the forum to determine whether the city should begin the process of building a road. Mayor Matt Larson said that this forum was held to determine if there was enough support for the road to conduct a traffic study as the next step. Before the road could be approved, the city and county would both have to undergo numerous public processes.

Dozens signed up to speak, but most yielded their time to a group of eight speakers who represented many in attendance - the residents of the Lake Alice area held their own community meeting July 19 to discuss this matter. They gathered more than 140 signatures, a significant majority of the households in the community, to protest any decision to connect the two communities.

There were a handful of Snoqualmie Ridge, Lake Alice and Fall City residents who spoke in favor of the idea for a road. They said they were concerned about the quality of emergency access and the time that could be saved in both directions by driving through the connection rather than taking the existing "long way" around.

"A lot of citizens up here never thought we'd need to go down that road," said Snoqualmie Ridge resident Mark Calvert. "But things have changed."

When he moved to the area several years ago, he said he and the City Council didn't know that the school district would decide Snoqualmie Ridge children would attend school at Chief Kanim Middle School in Fall City. An alternate route, especially one that's more direct, is needed now, Calvert said.

Scott Robbins, a resident of Fall City's Heather Crest community, said he wants the connection open to create an alternate route when weather closes the Preston-Fall City Road.

"When that closes down, my commute gets awful," he said. "I want an additional route out."

Robbins said he and his neighbors were never asked their opinion nearly a decade ago when the agreements were reached to not build a connection between Lake Alice Road and Snoqualmie Ridge.

Sticking to those agreements was a main reason for much of the opposition to the connection.

"If you're honorable, this meeting's pretty much over," said Lake Alice area resident Bill McKelvey.

At the onset of the first planning phase and initial public hearings regarding the development of Snoqualmie Ridge in the 1980s, representatives from the city of Snoqualmie, King County and Weyerhauser (now Quadrant) promised the isolation of the two communities in exchange for Lake Alice Residents to not oppose the development, Lake Alice Road residents said.

The road proposal has gone before the City Council four times beginning in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the city was first considering policies for the first phase of Snoqualmie Ridge, Snoqualmie City Attorney Pat Anderson said.

An interlocal agreement was made between Snoqualmie, King County and Lake Alice residents to not develop a connecting road, Anderson said. However, that interlocal agreement expired in 2001, he said.

In 1995, Snoqualmie developed a mixed-use financial plan for Snoqualmie Ridge that added a provision to address the possibility of the connecting road, Anderson said. The Snoqualmie City Council decided to not move forward with the proposed connection after receiving feedback from Lake Alice residents.

By 2001, Lake Alice residents and City Council members agreed to the possibility of an emergency-access road, Anderson said, and that language was included in the 2003 mixed-use plan, which kept the language barring a full-access road.

The proposed connecting road, which could be used as an emergency connection, already exists. It is a former quarry road, paved on the city side and blocked with a locked gate and concrete barriers. Residents said the demand for the road to be opened to traffic from Snoqualmie Ridge was evident by numerous vehicles that trespassed on a powerline access road that also cuts between the two communities. Residents noted that barriers on the powerline access road have been routinely bypassed and were even ripped up after being locked before King County replaced them with reinforced barriers.

Lake Alice resident Gary Smith was one of the few who spoke in favor of the road. A firefighter in Redmond, Smith said having the road open to emergency traffic was important to response time. Anything slowing down response, including many gate types like the one already in place, adds time, he said.

McKelvey said having an emergency-access road is fine, but that expanding it to a full-access road would ruin the neighborhood.

Residents noted that King County ordinances call for a separation of urban and rural areas.

"Our concern about the road is that it blurs that distinction," said Lake Alice area resident Steve Cato. "Once that road's open, there's really no way of going back."

The proposed connection would create a shortcut that would cut about 9 miles from the commute of Snoqualmie Ridge residents to Redmond or beyond. Lake Alice Road is a two-mile rural road with steep slopes, winding curves, dense foliage and scenic vistas.

Residents say it barely handles its current load of 700 vehicles per day and would be exceedingly dangerous with any more traffic. Were the connection to be opened, government would be forced to condemn private land to widen the road at high cost, they said.

King County Department of Transportation has submitted written opinions explaining that a proposed road connection would be cost-prohibitive and is not a priority for the county.

For the connection to be approved, the city of Snoqualmie and King County both would have to approve the connection and amend existing plans to make the connection legal.

Many of the Lake Alice Road residents said they wanted assurances that the idea of a road would never again be considered.

"Many are not getting why we keep going through this," Cato said. "It's a mystery and its frustrating." His comment was one of several that received applause.

"We don't want to come back," said David Speikers, president of the Lake Alice homeowner's association. "Honor the agreements, nothing further."

Snoqualmie Ridge resident Gabrielle Lauf was one of the evening's final speakers. She said she moved to the area knowing the length of the commute.

"I don't feel it's the Lake Alice community's responsibility to bear the burden of poor planning on other parts," she said in an emotional speech. "I made my choice and I'm willing to go around and make the long commute. If the Ridge residents need better commutes, they need to choose to live elsewhere."

Her comment inspired loud applause and cheers from many in attendance.

The city council plans to address the issue at their next regulary scheduled meeting, Monday, Aug. 14.

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