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

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

downtown Snoqualmie.

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."

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