Falls Crossing decision on hold

SNOQUALMIE - Any final recommendation on the future of

the long-proposed and oft-debated Falls Crossing development was placed

on a 30-day hold last Wednesday night, Nov. 10.

The Snoqualmie Planning Commission _ meeting once again in

special session to consider the project _ made its decision after hearing

testimony from citizens, city staff and representatives of Puget Western

Inc. (PWI), the Falls Crossing developer.

Notably, the commission instituted the delay _ at least partly _ due to

questions over a battlefield and a bird. Opponents to the project are

seizing on both issues.

The King County Landmarks and Heritage Program, members of

the Snoqualmie Nation, and local supporters of the pileated woodpecker

delivered the newest shots across Falls Crossing's bow. In

communications with Snoqualmie Planner Nancy Tucker, the landmarks agency has

indicated there might be Indian burial grounds within the site. If that is

the case, the property could require an extensive and painstaking

archeological survey, including excavation and possible identification of remains.

The Snoqualmie Tribe delivered several letters to the commission

in support of such a study. Speaking for his people, tribal member Bill

Sweet reminded the commission that the Falls area was sacred and said

they have requested the assistance of anthropologists in order to perform

the survey.

"The land is significant to the Tribe," said Sweet, who is a

member of the tribal council. "There have

been several battles out there _ wars out there _ and we know warriors are

buried up there."

He added the Tribe felt the work could be accomplished within the

requested 30-day time frame.

Dan Nelson, of Snoqualmie, also recommended an additional study

for determining the extent of habitat for the pileated woodpecker. Nelson

said the bird _ the largest of its family, with a preference for old-growth pine _

was listed as a threatened species by the Washington State Department of

Fish and Wildlife.

`Once the forest is cleared, there will be no habitat," he

concluded. Nelson had previously brought up the issue at the first night of public

hearings, on Oct. 26.

In response to the extension requests, PWI attorney Tom

Pors pointed out both issues had already been appropriately addressed in

the Falls Crossing Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). "People are

asking for studies on top of studies," he commented. "Please take this into

account, and ask whether these requests have validity."

Addressing Nelson directly, Pors stated the pileated woodpecker

was not federally listed as a threatened or endangered species. Nelson

responded that the study should still be done, and said the state was willing

to do it.

Turning again to the commission, Pors asked that if the public

comment period were to remain open, it should be limited only to the parties that

requested the extension. His request brought a hoot from the crowd.

"Otherwise, it's just going to be open season on this project,"

continued Pors. "We'd like to see this closed at an appropriate time and proceed."

Snoqualmie City Attorney Pat Anderson advised the panel that

they could place no restriction on public commentary if there were an

extension. During subsequent discussion between the commission and

staff members, Anderson also advised that if an extension were granted, the

panel would not be able to deliberate on the proposal until the public comment

period was closed.

After additional debate, the planning commission voted 3-1 _ with

two absences _ to extend the comment period to Friday, Dec. 10.

The planning commission will continue to meet in regular

session over the next month, but will not resume deliberations on Falls

Crossing until the revised comment period concludes. City Staff advised they

would use the time to continue research and analysis efforts on the project.

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