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Owners say new zoning will create empty storefronts
SNOQUALMIE _ Several Snoqualmie business and
property owners held a unified stance against the city's decision to adopt
retail-oriented zoning in the downtown core.
One after another, the nine people told the Snoqualmie City Council at
a public hearing on Monday that the resolution which contains interim
zoning rules would turn the city into a "ghost town."
"To impose zoning here will create a ghost town," said
Blake Randleman, of Randleman Realty. "If people won't come and invest
here because they can't pay the rent, it'll be vacant."
The interim zoning rules, which were originally adopted in
February, dictate what types of businesses can be located along Railroad Avenue
between Northern and Newton streets.
As written, the resolution allows first floor storefronts to be
occupied with retail stores, restaurants, museums and galleries, interpretive
centers, railroad-related activities and hair salons. Second floor areas can hold
retail businesses, offices, residential dwellings or service-oriented
businesses. However, according to City Clerk Jodi Warren the rules do not
apply to existing businesses.
The resolution, which expires in October, will be in place until the
city can create a historic district guideline ordinance. The proposed
ordinance, with its 75 percent retail rule, raised
a lot of concerns among business owners in the city. However, this
week's public hearing was supposed to be limited to comments on the interim
zoning and not on the proposed ordinance.
City attorney Pat Anderson said that he, City Administrator
Gary Armstrong and Planning Director Nancy Tucker will discuss the
comments received at last month's workshop and prepare a revised
historic district guideline ordinance. Anderson expects the new draft to be
ready within the next three months.
The proposed historic district guideline ordinance can be viewed
at Snoqualmie City Hall or at their Web site at www.snoqualmie.wa.us.
When the revised document is created, the city will hold another public
hearing to gather comments.
But until then, owners are concerned about the decision that city
officials already made regarding the future makeup of
In a letter written by Bob Thornberg, the owner of the
building at 8150 Railroad Ave., he states that successful retail shops need to be
located in "shopping malls, factory store outlets, Costco-type warehouses
and now [on] the Internet."
He said if the city continues promoting the retail business
preference, then the city should require that property owners list a vacant space with
a real estate company and specify what type of business is allowed in the
space and hire a full-time person to find tenants. But, if after several months
the owner cannot find anyone interested in the property, then the owner
should be able to rent to any business.
"My fear is that without something similar in the [historic district
guideline] ordinance, property owners could have vacancies for long periods
of time and suffer unnecessary hardships," he wrote.
Property owner Voyislav Koreza plans to construct a 10,000 square
foot building in his vacant lot near the pharmacy. However, Koreza is
concerned whether he, too, can attract the type of businesses the city mandates.
"We're all trying to minimize the risk," he said. "I contacted two
restaurant owners and they did a marketing analysis and responded that
there was not enough critical mass [in the area] to support the restaurant."
Michael Kirkland, a property owner in downtown
Snoqualmie, agreed with the previous speakers
and said that the city's restrictions would do exactly that _ restrict healthy
business growth in Snoqualmie.
"Service businesses are the first to succeed, well ahead of lone ranger
art galleries," he said.
"Having vacancies, which will result with a high percentage of
retail, will work against what the city council wants," Kirkland added.
"Vacancies ultimately lead to the deterioration of buildings."