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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 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.