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City Council approves Ridge's Phase II plan
SNOQUALMIE - The Snoqualmie City Council last week unanimously approved the second phase to a development that has forever changed the face of the city and will add thousands of new citizens once it's completed.
Planned for years and debated for months, Snoqualmie Ridge Phase II (SRII) got a line of approval votes from the City Council last week that were crucial to the development moving forward. Three resolutions involving annexing 734 acres for SRII and a motion adopting the SRII development agreement were all approved by 4-0 votes (Councilman Greg Fullington had an excused absence) at the council's March 31 meeting.
The votes summed up numerous deliberations over the impacts of SRII. Earlier meetings brought consensus on issues regarding the development that included affordable housing, environmental monitoring and parks. The park plan calls for one large community park off Snoqualmie Parkway that will be 16 acres, as well as two, medium-sized parks that are 5-6 acres each. There also will be four mini-parks that will each be smaller than an acre.
Councilwoman Maria Henriksen said the council tried to consolidate the parks in order to make them more affordable for the city to maintain.
Although the votes last week were unanimous, the discussion leading up to them was far from unified with the City Council wrestling between city staff recommendations and demands by SRII developer Quadrant Corp.
The fiscal impacts of the massive development have been a major topic of discussion. The added population will put a stress on city services that city staff have said are already strained. Mayor Fuzzy Fletcher said the city is at a crossroads where it will have to decide to either raise taxes or start cutting services.
Part of the development agreement for SRII was how much money Quadrant would give the city. The developer had problems with language in the agreement that allowed the city to gather money from the corporation to maintain certain levels of service. Those payments would come in addition to other mitigation pay ments Quadrant would give the city for each residence it builds. Quadrant argued that language left them too liable for future financial problems in the city.
City staff argued against removing the language.
"This is the wrong way to go," said City Attorney Pat Anderson. "This puts the maximum risk on the city."
A majority of the City Council, however, agreed with Quadrant and the language was stricken.
The city has hoped that a future retail area in SRII would help give the city needed tax money to maintain city services, but Quadrant had argued for more housing. City staff insisted that the revised amount of retail required in the development agreement, at least 10 acres, is both a conservative and needed number. Council members had requested at a previous meeting for more information from analysts and to delay the retail requirements from the development's master plan for another year. City staff advised against that, saying the original recommendation from their analyst was sound.
"We don't need the study," said Fletcher. "We need the 10 acres in the city."
The Council expressed concern, however, that too much retail could cause stores to cannibalize each other. Councilman Matt Larson also raised the issue that another shopping area would add an additional disparate retail hub to an already fragmented retail base in Snoqualmie.
"We don't want seven retail areas in search of a city," he said.
Quadrant brought forth a plan that placed more retail across the street from the current retail area at the corner of Snoqualmie Parkway and Center Boulevard. The area, however, is part of the business park that was sold to Opus Northwest last year and would have to be rezoned.
The final agreement stated that once the future retail study is completed and should more retail be needed, additional retail zones would be placed in SRII. Should the city get Opus to rezone, the land could be used for Quadrant to build more homes.
How the development will look has been a concern to both the city and developer. Snoqualmie has maintained that a mix of housing designs are needed to avoid a "cookie-cutter" aesthetic to the development. The city originally outlined seven different facade options Quadrant could take. Quadrant later added six additional design standards and asked that it be allowed to choose seven of the 13.
At the meeting, Quadrant representatives maintained that some of that design language in the master plan, which described everything from the placement of windows to how big a porch can be, was too vague and would cause problems with architects and builders in the future. Quadrant President Peter Orser said it was in the best interest of his company to build different houses anyway, and the market has shown the success of the homes Quadrant offers.
"We can't build the same house 500 times over 20 years," Orser said.
City staff and the City Council, however, saw the six added options as inconsequential additions to the original language. The seven requirements stand and therefore are similar to the outlines described for Snoqualmie Ridge Phase One (SRI).
As discussion approached more than two hours, Fletcher warned that he was sending city staff home once the meeting hit its three-hour limit. Council finished up a couple of last minute discussions and called the question. The vote was taken and City Attorney Pat Anderson, who is a co-owner of Snoqualmie Falls Brewery, offered to open the taps.
There are still some government regulations that are needed before Quadrant can take the next step. The King County Boundary Review Board must approve the city's application for annexation and the state Department of Ecology must review the city's water rights. Both of those decisions are expected in the next couple of months.
Quadrant Vice President and Snoqualmie Ridge General Manager Dave Dorothy said he hopes for a seamless transition from SRI's buildout into SRII. Additional planning is needed and Dorothy said Quadrant hopes to break ground on SRII in 2005.