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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
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
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.