Progress slow in Ridge's Phase II deliberations

SNOQUALMIE - Whether or not Quadrant Corp. will have a role in monitoring wetlands at the Snoqualmie Ridge Phase II development (SRII) was the topic of discussion last week at a special meeting of the Snoqualmie City Council.

The master plan of the Quadrant development, which could bring as many as 5,000 residents to Snoqualmie, has been discussed since last fall when it went before the City Council. Since then, the city and Quadrant have been working to close a $23-million gap between what the city wants and for what Quadrant is willing to pay. The master plan was scheduled to be voted on earlier this month, but that date has been moved back to March.

At the Jan. 21 meeting, both parties discussed how to monitor the impact SRII would have on wetlands in its development area. The city's wetland ecologist Diane Sheldon said the wetlands at SRII are more varied and complex than those in Snoqualmie Ridge Phase One (SRI) and deserve stringent monitoring standards. She said any disruption in the wetland could cause numerous environmental problems, from species displacement to the wetland drying up altogether.

Quadrant introduced a plan that would have it and the city monitor wetlands together. The city would direct monitoring, but Quadrant would be notified of any data collection, which would be shared immediately. The two parties would then work together to come to a adaptive response, if necessary.

"We have been doing it [monitoring wetlands for the Snoqualmie Ridge development] for sometime," said Director of Snoqualmie Ridge Phase II Dave Dorothy.

Should there be a disagreement between the two parties on the results of a test, the plan calls for a mutually agreed upon third party to help resolve any disputes.

Mayor Fuzzy Fletcher raised concerns over whether the city and Quadrant could agree upon who the third party would be. Even if one was found, he said that an environmental issue could be aggravated in the time it takes to be resolved.

"These things can go on and on," Fletcher said.

There is no need for a third party anyway, according to City Attorney Pat Anderson, who said monitoring is the duty of the city.

"The city makes the final decision," he said.

Quadrant and Snoqualmie also discussed "safety factors" for stormwater pond sizes. After completing a review of the size of the pond safety factors, Quadrant was asked by Snoqualmie to fund another review with a different consulting firm. Quadrant argued that its original consultant's recommendations, which were validated by a third party consultant, should be sufficient for the project.

"It [getting another consultant] is above and beyond what we think is necessary," Dorothy said.

The City Council raised concerns over the principle of having the developer involved in environmental monitoring the could effect its bottom line. While it is understood that Quadrant is in business to make money, the idea of giving regulatory powers to them struck some council members as a conflict of interest.

"It's like the fox guarding the hen house," said Councilman Matt Larson.

This week, Quadrant and Snoqualmie will discuss another environmental issue of the SRII plan, low impact development (LID). The city's standards for LID measures are too high, according to the Quadrant, who said there is an approximate $7.7-million difference between Snoqualmie and Quadrant expectations. Quadrant said that due to the site's soil, topography and rainfall, the stormwater management techniques for SRII recommended by the city are not feasible.

A vote on the master plan of the SRII development is scheduled for March 3.

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