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Falls Crossing problems continue
The Snoqualmie Planning Commission is faced with more
problems from the long-running Falls Crossing Mixed-Use application. The
latest glitch is the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife's (WDFW)
refusal to prepare a wildlife habitat study.
Ted Muller, the WDFW Regional Habitat Program manager, testified
on March 20 that studies for endangered and threatened species, such as
the pileated woodpecker, spotted owl and marbled murelet, would need to
be conducted in April when the nesting season began.
However, responding to a status inquiry by Planning Director
Nancy Tucker, Muller said the study had not been conducted, nor was the
department willing to do it in the future.
WDFW's refusal was based on a March 24 objection from Puget
Western attorney Tom Pors at the close of the last written public comment
In a strongly-worded letter to the commission, Pors said that
WDFW did not have developer Puget Western's permission to enter
the property. He further questioned their authority to conduct the survey.
Stating that WDFW had no regulatory authority and only limited
authority to protect fish through issuance of hydraulics permits on the
project, Pors characterized WDFW's walk-over of the property as "illegal
trespass" and accused the agency of "suspicious behavior." He asked
that Muller's testimony be stricken or given no credence.
"After learning of the proponent's adamant objections that
department personnel are not welcome on their land, our Regional Wildlife
Program manager decided against doing them," Muller said in his May 4
Muller suggested that the city find a way to make Puget Western
responsible for conducting the survey.
"My credibility was attacked by the developer's attorney as was that
of my staff and also that of the department, without good cause," he
said. "And I believe we no longer need to be part of this `in-fighting' over
Muller concluded that he hoped the city would do what is necessary
to protect the environment, but offered no alternative recourse to the
Pors said that a study might not be required, but the company will hire
a consultant to determine what must be done.
"Some properties with specific habitat possibilities require the
survey in order to get a Special Forest Practices Permit from the Department
of Natural Resources so the trees can be cut and the land cleared for
development," Pors said.
Regardless, the planning commission will make the wildlife
habitat study a condition before any clearing or construction permits are issued
if the project is recommended for approval. The consultant chosen to
conduct the study would be subject to approval by the city.
The wildlife and habitat study is not the only issue delaying a
recommendation to the city council, and while Puget Western and their
attorney have made repeated requests for a speedy conclusion, the
planning commission has made it clear that they will not take any shortcuts in
Recurring unresolved issues include viewshed concerns, level of
service standards _ such as police and fire protection _ parks and public use
areas, siting of city buildings, including a new city hall and fire station,
affordable housing and gateway issues.
Over the course of the last three meetings, the commission has
compared the applicant's proposal to the city's Comprehensive Plan for
compliance with growth management intent and protection of the city's
natural and historic resources.
Compounding the already complex set of circumstances is the
siting of a gas station/convenience store, included in the developer's original
and revised application, to be located on Snoqualmie Parkway at the first
entrance to the development. The business would be visible from the
State Route 202 intersection.
Located east of the Parkway and across the street from the village
retail section, semantics have divided commission members as to
whether this should be considered a part of Falls Crossing.
If determined to be part of the development, it would be a
pre-approved business that might violate setbacks and other constraints. The
planning commission, which currently also acts as the city's design review
board, wants changes that would subject the building to the same design
standards review as the rest of Falls Crossing.
In other Falls Crossing matters, the commission took testimony from
an honorary member of the Snoqualmie Tribe regarding her knowledge of
the historical importance of the property and the waters based on her
close friendship with several tribal elders, including Chief Kanim.
The city's viewshed advisor Roger Dane presented graphics
and viewshed study findings in response to Puget Western's objections to
the topography-only screening from Snoqualmie Falls. The developer
is still seeking modifications to the condition.
The commission is waiting for legal notes outlining specific
concerns from Jay Derr, Snoqualmie's land use attorney, and has scheduled a May
24 hearing to hear from transportation consultant Larry Toedtli.
With so many additions, changes and the lack of updated maps
and tables to reflect them, the process has made it difficult for the
commission to access relevant information. City staff will provide commissioners
with a "clean copy" updating the
findings and conditions, and Puget Western will provide tables and a map to
graphically illustrate the current state of the project in light of the specific
Another meeting is scheduled for June 5 to sort through new
information and revisit conditions still being modified or under consideration.