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Public hearings commence on proposed Falls Crossing development
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
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.