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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.