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Council extends limits on building

NORTH BEND - The city is still struggling to find a solution to its lack of water, said North Bend City Council members, who last Tuesday approved on first reading an ordinance extending an existing building moratorium for another six months.

"We are no closer to solving the problem then we were six months ago," said Councilman Mark Sollitto.

The moratorium, which forbids any construction within North Bend city limits that would require a water line, was first imposed in April 1999 when the city learned it was using more water than it had rights to. Sollitto said North Bend was using about 150 percent of what it was allotted by state officials.

Councilman Jim Gildersleeve, who cast the only vote against the ordinance, said it was unfair because it prohibits construction in all of North Bend, when in fact some properties on the eastern fringes of city are served by another water district, Sallal.

Gildersleeve said he has heard complaints from some North Bend residents in the area who are trying to build but cannot because of the moratorium.

"I thought that [the ordinance] was excessive," Gildersleeve said. "It's a very, very complex problem, and I don't think the mayor is working hard enough on it."

Larry Stockton, director of community services for North Bend, said the city is trying to attack the water problem on three fronts: getting the water from the city of Seattle, mitigating present sources or tapping into the Snoqualmie River.

These efforts have been thwarted, though. A spring North Bend tapped into and a well it dug in the 1990s have not yet been approved by the Department of Ecology, which considers water a state resource and controls its distribution.

The Snoqualmie River is running low, so working with the city of Seattle seemed to be the best bet. But Stockton said water problems go beyond just North Bend, and a statewide solution must be sought before the city gets any relief.

"The whole water-rights issue is caught up in the fact the Snoqualmie River basin is a closed basin," Stockton said. "It's involved in enhancing and restoring salmon runs. Until the state comes up with a more clear direction, the problem will stay."

Robert Ketterlin, director of acquisitions for the Seattle-based development company AF Evans, told the council his company was interested in developing in North Bend and would be willing to help the city solve its water crisis.

What exact assistance would be offered Ketterlin couldn't say, but he added his company would offer resources in order to get the moratorium lifted so building could resume. North Bend Mayor Joan Simpson she was interested in hearing what Ketterlin and his company had to offer.

Ketterlin would not give the location or size of the land that AF Evans wants to develop, only saying it is within North Bend city limits. He added the company has an option on the land and is interested in building a residential development. However, those plans could change.

"We'd have to hear something a little better than we did last night [at the Oct. 3 City Council meeting]," Ketterlin said.

While the city continues to work on finding a solution, one councilman was skeptical of how soon the problem would be solved.

"I don't agree with Mr. Sollitto on the fact that it is the same [as six months ago], I think it's worse." Councilman Fred Rappin said.

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