Falls Crossing future ownership undecided

SNOQUALMIE _ As the Falls Crossing proposal and debate

continues to make its way through the Snoqualmie Planning Commission

for the second time, new questions are being raised about future

ownership of the 182-acre site if the controversial village retail application sought

by developer Puget Western is denied.

According to several sources, the Snoqualmie Tribe has engaged in

initial discussion to purchase the site. As strong, vocal opponents of the

development, which borders on the Traditional Cultural Property grounds

considered sacred by the Tribe, exploratory talks and sources for

financial backing are cautiously continuing.

"Any decision would be made by a much larger group than ours,"

said Puget Western President Bob Boyd. "From our perspective, we get a lot

of interest and inquiries into purchasing the property, and the Tribe is just

one of them.

"We think our project will be approved," Boyd continued. "Any

party expressing an interest would not be considered until after the

conceptual plan is approved. We have discouraged all parties until a decision is made,

and only then could discussions be more meaningful."

Boyd declined to name any of the other groups or individuals seeking

to purchase the property, but did confirm that he had one initial meeting

with tribal representatives and a potential financial backer.

Snoqualmie Tribal Chairman Joseph Mullen acknowledged that

they are interested in purchasing the site. When asked if the Tribe would

follow in the footsteps of the Muckleshoot and others by developing the

property themselves as a resort or casino destination, Mullen responded quickly

and unequivocally.

"Absolutely not," Mullen stated. "There is no possibility, not

ever." Mullen said tribal members had discussed the possibility of a

conference center on the east side of the new bypass, but there is no firm plan for

even that limited use.

"When Snoqualmie Ridge was developed, remains were dug up

and hauled off," Mullen said. "The truck drivers were told not to talk about

it. We weren't yet recognized as a tribe and there was nothing we could do

to stop it. We have to try to protect this area."

Throughout the public hearing process, tribal representatives

have maintained that the site should not be disturbed. Along with their

historical connection to the property, they believe further development would

adversely impact the almost 2 million visitors the Falls bring to

Snoqualmie each year.

If the property does go up for sale, Mullen said they are prepared to

purchase the land. "We have people who will put up the money to buy the

property," he said, "so we can keep it in

its natural state."

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