Residents speak against Tollgate

NORTH BEND — Of the more than two dozen people who

spoke at the Tollgate Farm development hearings last week, not one

supported approving the proposed 1-million-square-foot business

park to be built along with 34 homes on historically significant land

in North Bend.

"Our people are tired and frustrated of making the same

arguments to you," said Snoqualmie Tribe representative

Matthew Madsen, who read a statement from Chairman Joseph

Mullen, causing the crowd at the Mount Si Senior Center to become

silent. "My people say it's a waste of time and energy to talk. Maybe

you are listening, but probably not. What the hell are you doing?

Do you learn? It is crumbling out there, but nothing stops you.

"I feel the pain for those of you who fight, but I also ask

why it has taken so long for our teachings to resonate," Madsen

continued. "Maybe you understand now. It is your watch now,

Planning Commission, it is your watch. I pray to the creator to open

your minds and give you courage. There is not as much left as

you might think."

The statement from Mullen was just part of the

emotionally charged testimony given at the hearings, which were held Jan.

24 and 25 and organized by the city Planning Commission. The

hearings allowed Valley residents to voice their opinions on the

Tollgate Farm development, the square footage of which

equals about three Stadium Exhibition Centers, and whether it met

environmental and city guidelines.

Following the hearings, the Planning Commission will

begin deliberating on whether to recommend the development's

approval or denial to the City Council. Commission members have

not, as was erroneously reported last week, made a decision.

The North Bend Community Services Department has

handed over a report that recommends approval of the

development, with many conditions to mitigate cultural, public and

environmental impacts. The department has worked for approximately

five years on processing the application of the landowners,

Miller Land and Timber, who want to build the business park and

housing subdivision on 236 acres that the Miller family has owned

since 1908.

The most frequent topics addressed at the hearings were

flooding and the disappearance of rural landscape should the

development be built. Valley residents are also concerned that the

land could contain a Native American burial site and artifacts from

early pioneers who settled in the area before the turn of the century.

Snoqualmie Mayor Randy "Fuzzy" Fletcher said the

development, if approved, could be disastrous to downstream residents.

"You have so many flood studies on this project, all of them

different," he said. "One thing you can count on is they are all

wrong if they don't recognize that paving over floodplains and

farmland that serve as historical flood storage for this big bathtub of a

valley will significantly increase flooding downstream," he said.

In his remarks, Fletcher said he spoke for a majority of

the Snoqualmie City Council. He said the development raises

traffic concerns, and he questioned the reliability and validity of the

staff report and environmental study prepared for the development

because the project has changed since plans were submitted

two years ago.

Fletcher also questioned why the cities of Snoqualmie

and North Bend fought to save the Meadowbrook Farm

property, which is next to Tollgate land, only to potentially have it

flooded by the new development.

"Meadowbrook Farm — you and we struggled to preserve

as open space forever. We did not spend $5 million to

buy Meadowbrook Farm just so it could end up taking all the

impacts of the Tollgate Farm development," he said.

North Bend resident Erik Rudd agreed that the

flooding impacts would be significant. He said while it may be good for

the community of North Bend in the short term to develop the land,

it will not be good for the Snoqualmie River Valley in

the long run.

"Living river basins are complex systems. Minor changes

to one portion of the system may have significant impact in

other parts of the system that are not immediately adjacent to

the change location. North Bend is the first community with

significant impact on the Snoqualmie River system," Rudd said.

He explained that because of that connection, extreme

care should be taken in making development decisions that will

impact communities downstream.

Rudd added that the Snoqualmie mayor had a right

to be concerned for his constituents, because "they will have to

forever live with the results of our developments and our decisions."

"The citizens of Fall City, Carnation and Duvall should

all be concerned as well," Rudd said. "We have an obligation. We

cannot treat our portion of the river system as though it exists in

a vacuum."

Others said the scenic beauty of the area would be damaged.

"I can't remember the first time I came to North Bend

via Exit 27, but each time I avoid Exit 31 I think how lucky we are

to have a gateway to our city that never fails to knock my

socks off," said 46-year North Bend resident JoAnn Klacsan. "The

view of Mount Si and Tollgate Farm are jewels to behold. It is

almost impossible to imagine that this viewscape, which fills us all

with wonder, [could be] replaced by a manufacturing park bigger

and uglier than Bellevue Square."

Klacsan's comments, along with the almost 40 already

submitted, will be taken into advisement by the Planning

Commission. Since the hearings have ended, the commission will

deliberate during the course of several meetings. At the end of

that time, commission members can approve the application as

currently submitted in the staff report, approve it with

additional conditions, deny the application in full or recommend that

more studies be done before approval can be given.

There is still time for public comments to be submitted. At

the end of last weeks' hearings, the commission extended the

written comment period until 5 p.m. Feb. 20 to make sure every resident

has a chance to respond.

"One of the reasons that we did extend the hearing an

extra week was for anyone that might have felt their comments were

too late," said Commissioner Michelle Gustafson. "We want

to read them all, and we will read them all. We each go through

each and every one of the comments."

She added that the public comments serve to bring

up points and notice details — or missing details — that the

Planning Commission might have missed. In addition, each

commission member will have a different point of view from the

comments they read, which Gustafson said helps tremendously with

making a solid decision.

"You hear things that you didn't quite think of, and it

helps with perspective. We all make each other think of different

perspectives," she said.

The commission will take the time necessary to thoroughly

review the materials, she added.

"We're not going to rush through this process,"

Gustafson said. "We're going to take the time we need for thorough review,

and if that means we need to have extra meetings, then that's fine.

We don't want to delay unnecessarily a decision, but we don't

want to rush it either. And [we] do need to remember that our

consideration needs to be for the applicant, as well as the public."

The commission will begin deliberations at a work-study

session to be held at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22, at the Mount Si Senior

Center in North Bend. The public is welcome to attend, but comments

will not be taken.

Anyone who still wants to submit a written comment for

the Planning Commission has until Feb. 20, and comments should

be dropped off at City Hall, 211 Main Avenue N., or mailed to

P.O. Box 896, North Bend, WA 98045.

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