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Officials eye up Falls Crossing's viewshed issues

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SNOQUALMIE — They said the panoramic views from

Snoqualmie Falls would not be impacted. They claimed that there was enough

vegetation on the hills to hide their proposed development. And last weekend,

officials from Puget Western Inc. (PWI) invited a group of city

representatives and community members to envision the scene for themselves.

Opponents of the development, however, said the development

would compromise the structure-free view from the Falls. But, said the

city's viewshed consultant, Roger Dane, with a little tweaking and

planning, that won't be the case.

"The majority of the site will be screened by existing

[vegetation]," Dane said of the view from the

Falls. "There might be some peek-a-boo views … we asked for

additional viewshed buffers on the top of the slope and areas not screened."

Dane proposed that PWI include an additional 150 feet of buffer

along the northern edge of the Falls Crossing Development. The consultant

also requested that no construction be done until the new growth has time to

mature, which could take as long as five to 10 years.

"Some would (provide adequate screening) as soon as installed. It

depends on the quality and size of plant material they can get

established," Dane said. "It is difficult to say

how long it would take."

Bob Boyd, president of PWI, said the additional buffer wouldn't be

a problem to include in the plans, but it would probably be more like 125 feet.

"Protection of the views have always been important to us, and

we want to protect and preserve the area and its natural condition," he

commented.

Another concern expressed by commission members was if

visitors at the Falls would be able to see lights shining from the 370-home

development.

"You wouldn't be able to see lights directly," Dane said. "But

that wouldn't say you wouldn't see an indirect glow."

PWI's consultant Tom Berger took a less conservative approach to

the situation.

"The height of the houses are 35 feet with vegetation 40-to

50-feet high, you won't be able to see anything — not enough mass of light

to see a glow," he said.

Not everyone at the gathering, however, was convinced that

additional trees and shrubs would be the cure-all for the situation.

"They're talking about adding artificial vegetation, and in some

cases new vegetation. But with winds, you can't guarantee that this

vegetation will stay standing. It's natural for

trees to fall all the time," said Catherine Bunn of Snoqualmie.

"And Snoqualmie Falls is very popular, and we owe it to our

visitors to be able to be in nature with the sacredness of the Falls," she added.

Instead of using the land for housing, retail and commercial areas,

Bunn said she would rather see the property converted into an interpretive

center featuring Native American history and artifacts.

But it is highly unlikely that PWI will back out of its plans for

developing the property along State Route 202 below Snoqualmie Ridge. PWI

President Bob Boyd said his company has been considerate of the

community and that the natural areas around the development will be attractive

for many.

"We carefully listened to the people in the Valley for seven to

eight years, and we feel we have done an effective job," he said. "Leaving

50 percent of the site in its natural state is a very significant action that

protects the rural character of Snoqualmie and the Upper Valley.

"We feel we have been good stewards of the property," Boyd added.

The members of the planning commission refrained from discussing

the project until the public comment period ended on Nov. 10, after the

Valley Record went to press. The commission was scheduled to meet on

the same night to begin deliberations. The planning board will eventually

forward their recommendation to the city council.

"We want careful and considerate deliberation," said commission

chairman Matthew Stone.

Regarding Saturday's five-hour tour, Stone said it was helpful to

be able to view the property for himself, adding, "It's always good to

actually see things. Paper maps just don't cut it."

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