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Court decision clears way for Ridge's Phase II

SNOQUALMIE - The Snoqualmie Ridge Phase II development (SRII) cleared its final legal hurdle for annexation last week.

The Washington State Supreme Court ruled 6-3 on Jan. 29 that the petition method for annexing land in the state was constitutional. The ruling, which overturned a previous decision by the Supreme Court, will allow the city of Snoqualmie to accept an application for annexation by SRII developer Quadrant Corp.

"This removes any doubts about SRII," said Snoqualmie City Attorney Pat Anderson. "We can proceed with that decision."

The decision came nearly two years after the Supreme Court ruled that the petition method of annexing land was unconstitutional. Under state law, a city could annex land if it got signatures to do so from property owners who owned at least 60 percent of the assessed valuation of the land.

That method was challenged by a fire protection district in Eastern Washington and some land owners in the area to be annexed who said the petition was unconstitutional since it granted additional voting power to those who owned more land.

Around that same time, an almost similar case was happening in Yakima with another fire protection district.

Both of the cases were appealed to the state Supreme Court in 2001 and a decision declaring the petition method unconstitutional was issued by the Supreme Court in April 2002.

The decision presented a problem for two projects waiting for land to be annexed by Snoqualmie. The Salish Lodge and Spa needed approximately 40 acres of land it owned near its current location annexed by the city before it could build an expansion project. Quadrant Corp. needed to annex 736 acres in order to break ground petition method of annexation that had been ruled unconstitutional.

Anderson, and attorneys from municipalities throughout the state, argued that it was constitutional. Last March, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case again and Anderson got Snoqualmie's annexation petitions reviewed as well. Decisions can be a longtime coming from the Supreme Court, however, and the state Legislature passed a law last year that gave the Salish the go ahead to re-apply for annexation.

Quadrant, however, waited for a ruling for its original petition, which came last week. Anderson was pleased the county saw things his way.

"We're three-for-three," Anderson said, referring to the number of times he has gone before the state Supreme Court to argue the city's case.

Snoqualmie is set to approve the Salish's petition in the next few months and the master plan for SRII is still under consideration by the City Council. Should both the Salish expansion and SRII be built, the city's borders are not likely to change for a long time. The city's current and planned construction max out Snoqualmie's water and sewer capacity.

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