Tollgate final EIS released

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NORTH BEND — Something has been missing lately at the

Tollgate Farm property — the sound of construction anticipated by the

developers and dreaded by opposing parties.

The proposed development that would include houses and a

business park could have been started by now. But a string of lawsuits, the

city's building moratorium and the preparation of the project's Final

Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) have delayed construction.

Finally, four years after the property's owners filed for

development permits, the FEIS has been released.

"It's a huge relief to have this EIS out and go on to the next phase,"

said Campbell Mathewson, project director for Tollgate.

Located in southern North Bend, the 229-acre property is bordered

by 420th Avenue Southeast and Northeast Eighth Street. Boalch Avenue,

State Route 202 and other roads also run through the land, as well as

the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and the Snoqualmie Valley Railroad.

The property's applications were turned in by Miller Land and

Timber Company to the city of North Bend in April 1996, and Tollgate's Draft

EIS (DEIS) was released in August 1998. Public comments were taken on

the draft document and it has taken until now to complete the final

assessment of the proposed development.

The FEIS is contained in two volumes and lists possible

impacts, mitigational measures for those impacts, significant unavoidable

effects (even after mitigation), written statements from the DEIS public

comment period and responses to those letters.

However, Mathewson said that the proposed developments' impacts

were minimized as much as possible.

"Are there impacts? Sure. Any time you build a building or

parking lot, there are impacts," Mathewson said, explaining that the

document doesn't have many significant unmitigatable impacts.

"In terms of protecting the public interest, I certainly think the city

has done a good job," he added.

The document features a Revised Mitigation Alternative, referred to

as Alternative 2. Developers prepared the revised alternative after the release

of the DEIS and designated it as the current proposal for Tollgate Farm.

As another option, the FEIS lists Alternative 1, which would result in no

construction on the property.

Development downsized

from original plan

Many people and organizations wrote letters that opposed all or

part of the Tollgate project and its impacts, and in response, the FEIS

lists mitigational requirements to minimize negative effects. A significant

change from the original project to the new alternative is size.

Alternative 2 establishes a master plan that features approximately

56 residential homes on average lot sizes of 35,000 square feet on the

eastern portion of the land, an 800,000-square foot industrial park for the central

area and a 180,000-square foot office park in the western portion. A

25,000-square foot commercial area is also proposed at the intersection of

Boalch Avenue and SR-202.

Approximately 62 acres or 27 percent of the land will be

developed, with the remaining 167 acres to be landscaped or left as open space.

This alternative is scaled down from other versions found in the DEIS, where

at one point, up to 365 homes were proposed. The size of the industrial

park is the same as proposed in the DEIS, but the western portion was

changed from multi-family homes to an office park.

In response to the DEIS, many people indicated that the document

did not do enough studies and wanted a supplemental EIS done. The

FEIS states that a supplemental EIS was not necessary because Alternative 2's

impacts are generally less than the studies analyzed in the original document.

Significant effects

to environment still possible

The Tollgate Farm property has several natural resources within

its boundaries, including the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River, Ribary,

Silver and Gardiner creeks and several wetland areas.

Many elements of the proposed development are not expected to

have significant unavoidable impacts if mitigational requirements are

followed. These elements include earth, groundwater, flooding, traffic,

air quality, fisheries, energy, noise, potential releases to the environment

(residential use of materials), land and shoreline use, population housing

and employment, aesthetics, light and glare, public services, and

utilities. Each category was analyzed after the DEIS public comment period, and

was re-evaluated with Alternative 2 in order to reduce impacts described in

the original document.

However, even with Alternative 2, several environmental elements

could still be adversely affected, including surface water quality and

quantity, wetlands, vegetation and wildlife.

As for surface water, the FEIS states that the project's

impervious surfaces would generally increase the water runoff volume for the area.

Animals and their habitat are also at risk from the development.

The document states that because approximately 43 acres of pasture and

shrub and 69 acres of mixed forest habitat will be lost, wildlife displacement

and death could occur. Also, roads that currently run through the property

are already a source of danger for wildlife, but the risk would be

increased with Alternative 2.

Tollgate's wetlands would also experience wildlife loss.

Approximately 2.5 acres of wetland buffer would be "encroached upon" and

.1 acre of wetland would be filled in as a result of the project. The FEIS lists

the loss of water quality and forested wildlife habitat as a consequence of

filling the wetlands.

The document also reports that increased traffic, new houses and

the consequent use of lawn and garden chemicals, as well as the general

alteration of the wetlands, could reduce amphibian populations.

Possible impacts to historical

and cultural features

Besides environmental, there are also several historical and cultural

aspects of Tollgate Farm that could be impacted by the proposed

development. Many people say that the land should be preserved because it is

part of local and state history.

Tollgate Farm and a prehistorical site on the land are eligible for

the National Register of Historic Places and for King County and North

Bend Landmark designation.

The Tollgate land is an ancient prairie, which Native

Americans cleared and maintained for hundreds of years. Later on, a series of

European settlers found the cleared land to be useful for homesteading.

In 1905, Mary A. Miller, wife of Seattle businessman William

Winlock Miller, purchased the property. After her death, Mary Miller left the

property to her two sons. The sons' descendants currently own the land.

Historical records show that Tollgate Farm got its name from a

toll bridge once located on the property, where money was collected for

repairs to the wagon road that crossed Snoqualmie Pass.

According to the FEIS, the Tollgate property held the earliest

dairy farm in the Valley, which was an important part of the state's history.

Several historically significant buildings are located on the site, including

the Tollgate house, one of the few surviving Queen Anne-style houses in

the state.

Areas that could be altered or destroyed from the proposed

development would include the buildings, a possible Native American burial

site and historical pasture fields.

However, the FEIS stated that without protection, the Tollgate

buildings could decay and the burial area could be disturbed. On the other

hand, if the proposed development is not constructed, the structures could

still fall to ruin. Mitigational efforts to preserve the buildings and burial site

are listed in the FEIS, but even with those efforts, there could be an

inevitable loss of rural historic landscape. The FEIS states, "Cumulative

impacts could result that impair the ability to understand the past and would

result in a loss of

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