A glimpse at Falls Crossing
October 2, 2008 · Updated 2:41 PM
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
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