News

A glimpse at Falls Crossing

SNOQUALMIE — For several months the Valley Record has


reported on the proposed Falls Crossing housing and retail development as


the Mixed-Use application necessary to gain approval and permits works


its way through the planning commission process.


Today we offer you a brief history of the project and outline the


major areas of concern expressed by members of the community and the


planning commission, along with the applicant's response to those issues.


Previous articles have focused on events and decisions as they


happened and typically covered only one or two topics. It is our intent that


this broad overview will provide readers with a general sense of the larger


issues, the status of the application to date and how the process will


be handled in the next phase.


The Falls Crossing proposal has put a local emphasis on one of


the most hotly debated issues across the country. Beyond community


impacts, the right of a government to protect particularly sensitive lands versus


the right of a private property owner to develop, divide or sell their land


in keeping with federal and state laws and local zoning ordinances is


crucial to the decision.


The city has faced these difficult decisions in only one other large,


complex development _ Snoqualmie Ridge. But the character of land


has played a role in further complicating the issues on two fronts.


The Snoqualmie Ridge property was already clear-cut, where the


proposed Falls Crossing development is covered with mature forest. Falls


Crossing's proximity to Snoqualmie Falls has required a heightened scrutiny,


bordering on a national treasure and Native American traditional cultural lands.


Like most large developments, Falls Crossing would bring with it


a mixed bag of problems and benefits. The city's population would rise


by about 1,000. More city services would be needed and traffic would


increase. On the other hand, there would be more local employment


opportunities and the community would become more diverse.


In 1992, Puget Western, Inc. (PWI), an independent


corporation and land development offshoot of Puget Sound Energy, filed an


application under the Snoqualmie Mixed-Use ordinance to develop their


182-acre parcel for single and multifamily housing, offices and retail space.


Subsequently, PWI filed revised applications in 1994 and twice


in 1995. A Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was released in


July 1995. Following through the process with public hearings and


testimony, the planning commission recommended denial of the application


in February 1996.


Instead of taking the recommendation through the city council


process, PWI requested and received a remand to the planning


commission, submitting a second Mixed-Use Application and Master Site Plan


in March 1997.


With significant changes to the plan and a two-year time lapse,


the planning commission process began anew with a full round of public


comment, testimony and evidence as attachments to the record. An


addendum to the Environmental Impact Statement, (EIS), was released in


October 1997 and a Final EIS in April 1999, reflecting the project impacts as


they related to the revised plan.


PWI submitted a revision to the reworked March 1997 application


in July 1998. The revised application serves as the current foundation


document for the planning commission to base its recommendations.


Incorporating all the information compiled through studies,


advisors, expert testimony and legal counsel, exhibits and a second public


comment period, the planning commission developed findings and conditions.


On June 19 they voted to direct city staff to draft a resolution


recommending approval of the Falls Crossing Village


retail development.


More than 631 findings and 133 conditions will be attached to the


recommendation. The figures will be revised upward as the most recent


findings and conditions are assigned numbers in the final document, and


the cumulative work will be disseminated to the commission on July 17.


Several studies are not yet completed, and final approval of


the project is still some time and several procedures away. However, the


June 19 vote marked an important milestone. Following is a list of the


most prominent impact issues and PWI's response to them.


n Viewshed Impact:


The proposed development is located directly across from the


viewing platform and public walkways at Snoqualmie Falls. Protecting the


view is crucial to maintaining the pristine beauty and historic significance of


the area. With more than 2 million visitors each year, tourist business


generated by the Falls constitutes a significant portion of retail business


income and tax revenues for the city. At issue is the potential to see buildings


and lights from the residential and business sections, and other


development disturbances from the Falls viewing areas.


PWI Response: The developer has agreed to deed over 50 acres of


mature forest to the city in order to protect the Snoqualmie Falls


viewshed. Increased open space and recessed building lots will allow for natural


topography to screen the critical areas. The remaining portions of


the viewshed can be preserved by using existing trees along with


enhanced buffer plantings. The company maintains that by these modifications,


no homes or other structures will be visible from the Falls viewing


platform or public walkways even if existing trees are destroyed by fire or


other natural catastrophe.


n Snoqualmie Tribe Impact:


Bordering on the Tribe's Traditional Cultural Property,


Snoqualmie Falls and the surrounding lands are considered sacred to the


Snoqualmie, Muckleshoot and Tulalip tribes. Tribal leaders have expressed deep


concern for the potential destruction of archeological artifacts, including


burial grounds, and the property's significance as passed down through


oral history. Tribal members have conducted subsistence activities and


spiritual practices in the project area and tribal historians describe the site as


an ancient battleground.


PWI Response: Throughout the process, PWI has met with


the Snoqualmie Tribe and made efforts to address their concerns in a


reasonable and respectful manner. PWI commissioned a study using an


archeological firm identified by the Tribe, who


found the probability of significant artifacts on the site to be low. In


consultation with the city and tribal


representatives, PWI will consult a professional


archeologist to develop a "Discovery


Plan". Work will cease in the event cultural resources are discovered and the


State Historic Preservation Office will be contacted. Provisions were made


for a tribal member to be present during clearing and grading and


Traditional Cultural Property boundaries can be expanded to include a stand of


old cedar trees on the PWI property.


n Traffic Impact:


Increasing the population of Snoqualmie by about 1,000


permanent residents, combined with the daily travel of office and retail workers,


will stress existing road systems and traffic wait time beyond capacity.


Affecting both the Interstate 90/State Route 18 eastbound ramp and


the Snoqualmie Parkway/SR-202 exchange, traffic congestion will


require extensive improvements to meet level of service standards.


PWI Response: Traffic mitigation fees paid by PWI will be used to


reduce these concerns. The company asserts that the impacted


intersections, particularly the I-90/SR 18


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