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Public hearings commence on proposed Falls Crossing development

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SNOQUALMIE - Public hearings for the long-proposed _ and

oft-modified _ Falls Crossing Development kicked off at Snoqualmie

Middle School on Monday, Oct. 25; but Tuesday night's session provided the

most commentary and passion on the part of local residents.

If the comments _ which were uniformly against the project _ are

any indication of the path the planning commission might take in deciding

the issue, the development is again in trouble. Not one person got up to

support the proposal or its proponent, Puget Western Inc. (PWI).

A good-sized crowd of about 40 turned out Monday to hear the

opening statements of the city staff and Puget Western. Land use attorney

Jay Derr used his portion of the meeting _ roughly one hour _ to review the

contents of the staff report on the Falls Crossing proposal.

When his turn came, Puget Western president Bob Boyd struck

a friendly tone, commenting, "One of the things I appreciate most about

this community, besides its beautiful scenery, is the hard work by everyone.

This dedication is what makes this community special, and Puget Western

wants to keep it that way."

He pointed out his company had already made numerous

concessions, and the project had shrunk from 800 units to 590 units to the current

370. "We feel your comments here have made Falls Crossing a much

better place," Boyd added.

"It is unreasonable to assume we can come up with a more

imaginative plan. With this plan, you won't see sprawl all over the Upper Valley,

and you won't see the streams polluted. Falls Crossing will be an

important link between the new and old portions of the city."

The tone among the Puget Western officials was appreciative

and hopeful, but Tuesday night the voice of the crowd moved in a different

direction. The discussion ran the gamut from calls for more studies, to

concerns about traffic, spreading development, pollution, and the impact

on Snoqualmie's character.

Some of the speakers were intense and some were occasionally

humorous. A few were blunt and accusatory, but the general tone remained

the same: "No, we don't want this."

"This is our land. This is our ancestors' land," said Lois

Sweet Dorman of the Snoqualmie Tribe.

"The tribe stands in opposition to this development.

"Snoqualmie Falls is a sacred site, and has been a sacred site for

thousands of years. The Snoqualmie Falls _ for those that don't know _ is

the creation site for the native people of this region. It is that significant.

"I believe the Falls Crossing development would impact this very

sacred place," she concluded. "I am sure in 1855 they did not think

someone would be standing here today to say, `I am Snoqualmie.' I stand here

now with my ancestors and say, we are not going away."

Dorman received loud applause, as did several other speakers. Some

got up and addressed the issues one by one, while others focused on

specific portions of the development and its impact on Snoqualmie. Several

regularly summoned visions of sprawl traffic congestion, using

Issaquah, Bellevue and even North Bend as examples, while others keyed on

wildlife and pollution issues.

In his extended talk, property owner John Zilinskis specifically

targeted the development's proposed 185,000-square-foot retail

center, planned for a segment between Kimball Creek and Snoqualmie

Parkway. Zilinskis was particularly concerned about the "inadequate"

50-foot buffer between the stores and his land.

"I can tell you, properties to the south will have a direct

line-of-site view at over 185,000-square-feet of commercial property," he

commented. "I applaud efforts to protect the

Falls viewshed, but what about my viewshed?"

Another item _ raised by Zilinskis, former Snoqualmie councilman

Dennis Banning and others _ concerned the environmental reports and

supporting documentation used for the study and the development proposal.

They pointed out the studies on Kimball Creek date to the early 1990s,

and should therefore be updated or revised.

"The last full-blown water quality work was done in 1993," said

Banning afterwards. "Not only PWI but WRECO (Weyerhaeuser Real

Estate Company) are using something that's so old. It (Kimball Creek) is so

polluted, and nobody's doing a damn thing about it."

"John and I agreed, it needs more study to validate it. It's absolutely

absurd."

The evening ended with some controversy over an extension to the

public comment period. After some heated discussion, the commission settled

on Nov. 10 as the last date to accept written commentary on the project.

Afterwards, when asked about his feelings over the proceedings, a

visibly dismayed Boyd said, "Just frustration … that's about it." When

asked if he'd hoped for or expected more balanced or supportive public

opinion, he replied, "I'm not sure about

that," and departed.

Monday night, Nov. 1, the planning commissions held a

regularly scheduled meeting to discuss the city's comprehensive plan. The

following night the group met again at City Hall to further discuss Falls Crossing.

This Saturday, Nov. 6, the commission will meet at City Hall at

9 a.m., and then caravan to the property at State Route 202 and

Snoqualmie Parkway for a site visit. Subsequently, the group will hold two

additional meetings to deliberate the proposal, scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday,

Nov. 9, at the Emergency Operations Center in the Snoqualmie Police

Station; and 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 10, at City Hall.

Following the meetings, the planning commission will have the task

of deciding what recommendation to make to the city council.

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