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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