News

Falls Crossing gast station nixed

SNOQUALMIE — A gas station/convenience store contained in

the original application for Falls Crossing has been denied by the

Snoqualmie Planning Commission and removed as a required condition for approval

of the development.

The business would have been highly visible from the city's

major gateway to the historic downtown district, since it would have been

located just 1,000 feet from State Route 202 at the first ingress road on

Snoqualmie Parkway. The land will revert back to village retail property.

"It's just not appropriate; it's not consistent with the community

character and gateway," said commission Chairman Matt Stone. "A gas

station isn't just a couple of pumps anymore."

Noting concerns about the bright colors, lighting, signage and

traffic concerns, Condition 32, stating that the store "shall be permitted,"

was deleted. Commissioners said they would consider the business

elsewhere, such as at the second of the three ingress roads to the

development, which is the only one to have a

traffic light.

The decision came amidst testimony from Larry Toedtli, the

city's traffic consultant. Using long-range calculations based on growth

assumptions of volume and capacity through 2006, Toedtli explained that a

light could not be put at the first ingress road or any other than the second road,

because it did not meet the requirement of 150 cars during the peak

traffic hour. Estimates show that only 120 cars will use the intersection

during peak traffic.

Though the commission added a condition requiring left and right

turn lanes to reduce traffic backups and wait time at the first ingress street,

traffic management will continue to be a subject of controversy that might

affect businesses downtown.

Commissioner Dale Sherman noted that residents would find

alternate routes to avoid the traffic snarl. However, visitors will not know

the area well enough and would likely turn right on Snoqualmie Parkway

toward Interstate 90 to avoid a long wait in traffic, thus avoiding downtown

and diverting a significant amount of tourist business.

"How mad do people have to get before they get a light?" Stone asked.

In response, City Administrator Gary Armstrong explained that

the decision cannot be made from a political standpoint, but the traffic

must meet the requirement for a light. City Attorney Pat Anderson added that

the city could be held liable for an accident at an unwarranted light.

The discussion led to an examination of the development's impact

on city government and services, along with the ability to forecast growth

and revenue. Considered the most delicate and difficult of the issues facing

approval of the development, an error or miscalculation could have serious

consequences for all residents of Snoqualmie.

"The devil is in the details," Anderson said. "The theory is that over

time, the income would pay for the costs."

The Snoqualmie Ridge development has not met the revenue

forecast in its shortfall agreement. City expenditures and income from sales tax

and other compensation generated from the project are examined at

the completion of each 400-unit block to monitor actual revenues versus

costs to the city.

Though Anderson expects that Snoqualmie Ridge will

eventually meet its burden, the five-year shortfall agreement — which began

when the development was annexed into the city — expires in July.

"In the early years, it was understood that city service costs such

as police, fire and general government would exceed income and there

would be a shortfall," Anderson said.

"The Falls Crossing fair share of city expenditures is a much more difficult

assessment."

Anderson explained that Armstrong would like to see a

more traditional approach, which would require the developer to make

up-front lump sum payments at specific stages of the project, such as plat

approval, build-out blocks and other as yet unspecified parameters.

Whether city officials choose a shortfall agreement, such as that

in place for Snoqualmie Ridge, or use the plan suggested by Armstrong, a

number of methods could be used to calculate projections for growth,

income and expenditures.

"These projections are an art, not a science," Anderson stated.

"There's lots of room for reasonable disagreement within the art."

Because of the possible consequences regarding level of

government services to all Snoqualmie residents and the potential impact to the

city budget, commission members are focusing on the issue diligently.

Already questioning the number of methods and who stands to

benefit from imposition of one over another, fiscal mitigation for the protection

of existing levels of government service to residents is expected to take

center stage in the Falls Crossing issue.

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