County, city OK SPI plan

SNOQUALMIE - Dan Perrins could hardly contain himself.

The longtime supporter of preserving the land surrounding Snoqualmie Falls rocked back and forth in his chair at a City Council meeting last Tuesday as council members voted on a funding agreement between the city, King County, the Cascade Land Conservancy and Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Co. to purchase land slated for development by Puget Western Inc.

"Praise God," he said before the 5-0 vote. After council members had given their approval, he let loose with, "Right on."

Also on hand for the vote was King County Executive Ron Sims. He said the complicated agreement to preserve land north of Snoqualmie Parkway, as well as several thousand more acres in Snoqualmie and along the Raging River, as open space was beneficial to all the parties involved.

"This is one of those projects that's absolutely delightful," said Sims, who was in North Bend a week earlier to voice his support of a proposal that would save Tollgate Farm from development.

Called the Snoqualmie Preservation Initiative (SPI), the partnership between the city of Snoqualmie, King County and WRECO will limit Puget Western's development of the Falls Crossing site to 11 acres south of the Parkway. WRECO will pay $11 million over six years toward the $13.3 million purchase price, provided the company is allowed to add 268 residential units to Phase I of Snoqualmie Ridge, and the city's urban growth boundary is extended to include about 500 acres in Phase II and two other parcels totaling 200 acres.

The City Council approved a scaled-down Falls Crossing development proposal earlier this year. In addition to giving the go-ahead to the funding agreement last Tuesday, council members passed an ordinance to issue $1.69 million in general-obligation bonds for the city's portion of the purchase price.

Sims said to make the SPI a reality, it required the effort of everyone involved. He compared the plan to watching his son's track relay team compete, except at one track meet, his son's team missed the baton hand-off on the final stretch.

"But in this case, nobody missed the hand-off," he said of the SPI. "There was an incredible amount of work. This is a sound project in every way you'd want it."

On Monday, the Metropolitan King County Council approved the funding agreement, a document close to 2 inches thick.

Perrins' enthusiasm was evident when he addressed the council.

"I'm so grateful for this," he said, adding, "The magic of the Falls and what the Indians believe, you benefit through all your generations for that."

"This is absolutely a benchmark piece of work by a very fine team," said Snoqualmie Mayor Fuzzy Fletcher, who had charged city staff to find a way to preserve the Falls Crossing land. "I do appreciate all the hard work."

The SPI fits a common theme of preserving land in the Upper Valley. The cities of North Bend and Snoqualmie jointly own Meadowbrook Farm, which serves as open space, and North Bend voters will decide Sept. 18 whether to approve a $3 million bond measure that would help preserve all 409 acres of Tollgate Farm from development.

"It's kind of like we're getting all these crown jewels with Meadowbrook and Tollgate and Falls Crossing," Fletcher said.

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