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Ridge retail rezone issue resolved

SNOQUALMIE - What began as a contentious debate three weeks ago nearly ended in a group hug at the July 25 Snoqualmie City Council meeting.

Ridge business owners and residents turned out in droves at a meeting earlier this month to protest an amendment to the Snoqualmie Ridge development standards that would have allowed for more retail uses in the business park, which is zoned mixed-use. The City Council initially tabled that amendment pending the result of an upcoming retail market study, but formally rejected the amendment July 25.

Voicing fears that more retail would squelch their businesses, Ridge business owners also lambasted the city for what they saw as insufficient communication regarding the potential passage of the amendment earlier last month.

The City Council dealt with that complaint as well by passing a resolution that will require the city to post the same types of public notices when proposed changes in allowable uses are on the table as those required when changes in zoning are proposed. Those procedures include a notice of public hearing published in a local newspaper and on the city's Web site, a sign posted within 300 feet of the affected area and, optionally, a flyer posted at Bibo Coffee Co.

Additionally, residents can be added to the city's e-mail list and/or Planning Commission's e-mail list and receive updates on what's happening in the city.

"We received a lot of input opposing [the amendment] and no input in favor of it," said Councilman Jeff MacNichols. "It presents more problems to the retail community so that's why this issue is brought up today for action."

Councilman Matt Larson added that the short-term risks of more retail on the Ridge outweighed the long-term risks.

"At this point this is too much, too soon. Too many risks to current business owners. We'll put it off for a few years," said Larson.

The City Council was going to consider the amendment following a retail study to gauge the demand for more businesses on the Ridge in about eight weeks. Had the results of the study been examined, the council may have moved to approve the amendment, Councilman Charles Peterson said.

"It's not a pullback because we never got around to debating it. Nobody knows what our collective decision would have been," said Peterson.

Owner of Bibo Coffee Co. and unofficial spokesperson for the Ridge business community, Brandon Wright thanked the council for hearing business owners out.

"The council has been extraordinarily gracious with their time," Wright said. "You guys put your time in. It's appreciated for what it's worth."

The discussion ended with a nod to civics from mayor Fuzzy Fletcher.

"We're all here working for you and when you get involved we appreciate it," said Fletcher. "Thanks for working with us to get where we just went."

Contact city clerk Jodi Warren at (425) 888-1555 to be added to the city's e-mail list, or Gwyn Daigler at (425) 888-5337 to be added to the Planning Commission's e-mail list.

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