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Community parking area planned for North Bend

NORTH BEND — For commuters who ride the bus, the days of

driving to another town's Park and Ride could be coming to an end.

A community parking area is being planned for North Bend and

will be located between Orchard Street and Cedar Falls Way, near the Si

View neighborhood. The area would serve as a Park and Ride for weekday

commuters and as evening and weekend parking for Si View Park users.

The 150-stall lot would also provide overflow parking from Torguson Park

and pedestrian access to downtown from adjoining Tanner Trail.

"The location was also chosen because it will be a very central

location as the city grows," said Michele Finnegan, city of North Bend

management assistant.

The project is still in its early stages and is a collaboration of

North Bend, the King County Transportation and Parks departments, and the

Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). Each agency

has contributed to the project's funding, along with federal grant money.

The parking area will cost $900,000, with North Bend contributing $60,000

to the total.

The idea for a community parking area existed for a long time in

North Bend's history.

Years ago, a Park and Ride was planned for the town, but the

library ended up on the proposed lot instead.

The North Bend Comprehensive Plan encouraged cooperation with

the WSDOT to establish a Park and Ride lot in the southeast quadrant of

the South Fork interchange, but it was determined that there was

insufficient acreage and the land was too costly

at that location.

As for the current site near the Si View neighborhood, the WSDOT

has owned the property since the early 1970s, when Interstate 90 was

supposed to run through town. When the highway's current location was

decided, the department kept the land for a future Park and Ride. The

five-acre site is partially owned by the city of North Bend.

With nearby Park and Ride lots at Issaquah and Eastgate nearly full,

and barely enough parking for the county's Si View Park, the city decided the

time is right to construct the community lot.

The city originally wanted to establish an express bus service;

however, that idea could take quite a while because funding was cut with the

passing of Initiative 695 last year. But the lot is slated as multi-use, so the

plan will go forward without express bus service.

The parking project was passed as a resolution in February and is now

in the preliminary planning stages. Two weeks ago, city officials

received mixed reactions when they presented the parking plan at an open house.

Many Si View residents were outraged at the parking lot's location

and lack of alternate choices. In reaction to the project, they formed a task

force and have e-mailed city officials stating their points of opposition.

"Who wants a Park and Ride in their back yard?" asked resident

David Warwick. "Most of the Park and Rides are near the highway, but this will

be in the middle of North Bend and it will cause congestion."

Besides traffic problems, the group listed many concerns about the

project including increased crime, noise and pollution, bright lights,

environmental impacts, their children's safety and a possible decrease in property values.

Warwick said Si View homebuilders told residents that the

lot would not be developed.

"People would have never moved in here if they would have known,"

he said.

Task force members were also unhappy with the open house

presentation. In several heated letters to the mayor and councilmembers,

residents said the meeting was unorganized and officials didn't provide enough

information about the project.

Mayor Joan Simpson and all but one councilmember, Mark

Sollitto, were absent from the meeting.

City Administrator Phil Messina said that it was "not appropriate"

for the council to attend because the project will require a conditional

use permit and is a "quasi-judicial"

issue, meaning the mayor and councilmembers are only allowed

to take comments during city council meetings.

"[The open house] was meant to be informative," Messina said,

explaining that this is the beginning of the public process, and there is no

official project yet. A comment period will be held later and announced

ahead of time.

The project is not a "done deal," Finnegan said. The project must

follow certain steps to gain approval. First, a staff report will be

submitted by the council to North Bend's planning commission.

"Currently, the information gathering and planning stages

continue; and therefore no proposals or recommendations have been forwarded

to the planning commission or the council for consideration [yet]," she

said. "The staff are now developing the information necessary to apply for

the Conditional Use Permit and Master Site Plan, such as background

reports on drainage and traffic."

After they receive and review the proposal, the commission will

hold public hearings and make changes as necessary, then submit a final

report to the city council.

But the project could change and there is no guarantee of approval.

The process for this project, as with most projects, takes months and

sometimes years to complete.

"This has been in the project list for over three years. It's just been

going very slowly because of working with different agencies, and we

are getting close to a decision now that funding and agencies are coming

together," he said.

"We wanted the community to know when we started to work on

it," Finnegan added. "We don't have all of the answers yet."

From here, the plan will move into the conceptual design stage.

Three design options have been created and the city needs to select one before

applying for permits, Finnegan said.

"We want to calm the [residents'] fears," Finnegan said, explaining

that she is glad that people are interested in taking part in the public

process. "It will be a community amenity and there are ways to design it that

would not take away from the neighborhood."

A tentative schedule lists that the project's applications will be

completed by the end of summer, with construction beginning sometime

next year.

For more information, go to the city's Web site at www.nbwa.net.

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