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Planning commission reluctantly moves Falls Crossing toward approval

SNOQUALMIE — With prodding from Snoqualmie Land Use

Attorney Jay Derr to give the city direction regarding the Falls Crossing

Mixed-Use application, a clearly disturbed planning commission voted Monday

to direct city staff to begin drafting a recommendation to approve the

development with conditions.

The motion was made by Commissioner Terry Sorenson and

seconded by Dale Sherman. Voting "yes"

were commission Chairman Matt Stone and Duane Anderson. Carol Fix

abstained, citing an inability to determine inappropriate or incompatible uses

without the completion of several required studies.

Matt Larson, appointed to the planning commission and

confirmed in May, was excused from participating in the deliberations and

voting because his appointment came late in the application review process.

Prior to the vote, Stone requested an executive session to discuss

the decision. Legal counsel advised him that the only items that could be

considered behind closed doors were litigation or potential litigation.

The planning commission was charged with making a

recommendation to the city council to approve or deny the Puget Western Inc.

(PWI) application based on compliance with Mixed-Use zoning, the

Snoqualmie Comprehensive Plan and the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

While most of the commissioners expressed views that the village

retail was an inappropriate use of the land, they said they could not find a

legal basis for denial at this time. If the commission had directed city staff to

begin preparing a recommendation for denial, they would have been

required to articulate the points where the project, with conditions, did not

meet mitigation of impacts and current zoning compliance.

"Is it a perfect application? No, it is not," Sorenson commented.

"Have we all worked incredibly hard? Yes, we have. Will we sleep good at

night after this decision? No, probably not. We're all torn, but we need to make

a recommendation to the city council."

"I do not like this project," Sherman said. "But I can't find a

way to vote against it with the conditions."

"I don't see anything to provide a basis for denial," Stone said,

adding that he thought the development was a poor use of the sensitive

property. "But I don't think there is anything

we can do to deny this."

"There are an awful lot of unknowns," Fix stated, noting that

public comment from the beginning has run strongly against the project.

"This is not an asset to the community _ it isn't a legacy the community will

be proud of."

Commissioner Anderson said that while he thinks the mature forest

is valuable, it would be unfair to ask the applicant to continue growing

their trees. "I live in a clear-cut," he stated.

Although PWI President Bob Boyd and the developer's

attorney Tom Pors appeared relieved, both declined to comment on the vote.

As framed, the vote only directs city staff to prepare a document

recommending approval with the findings and conditions set forth by the

planning commission. A second vote adopting the final resolution will

be required to send the issue on to the city council.

"It is still on the table," city

attorney Pat Anderson assured the commission. "You are just directing staff

to draft a resolution. It will take another vote."

In action preceding the vote, the commission adopted the Added

Capacity instead of Total Capacity traffic calculation over strong

objection by Pors. Saying the method was unfair because it doubled the cost

and involves more intersections than the Total Capacity calculations, Pors

also said the standard had been set with the Snoqualmie Ridge Total Capacity

and should not be changed without going through the city council.

"There's a lot of water under that bridge," Anderson responded. "If

we had Snoqualmie Ridge to do over, there are a lot of things we would

have done differently. We should apply the knowledge and experience

gained from that to Falls Crossing," he concluded, adding that the city is not

required to make the same mistake twice.

The city's traffic consultant Larry Toedtli had recommended using

the Added Capacity method at both Snoqualmie Ridge and Falls Crossing.

Other actions set retail space at a maximum of 5,000 square feet

per business. The commission also reviewed the poleyard cleanup issue

and adopted a condition that would require the applicant to seek a "No

Further Action" letter from the Department of Ecology.

City staff will revise the Mixed-Use findings and conditions to

reflect changes made by the planning commission and draft a resolution

recommending approval of the project. Once that is done, the commissioners

will have at least two weeks to review the documents for discussion and

editing. The next meeting date remains unscheduled.

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