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Fall City historic district meeting collapses
When King County Preservation Planner Charlie Sundberg and
Historic Preservation Officer Julie Koler showed up at Chief Kanim
Middle School on Wednesday, Oct. 13, their intent was to present information
on the proposed Fall City Historic District to local residents.
What they ran into was a buzzsaw of public outcry. After several
minutes of open and rancorous debate from the floor, including finger pointing,
some shouting, and general complaints against King County's
government, Koler brought the meeting to an abrupt close.
As the chief presenter, Sundberg took most of the heat. In a
preliminary letter to the group, and during his opening comments, he informed
the Fall City property owners that the King County Landmarks and
Heritage Program had been working with a group of interested residents for
several months toward the possible establishment of the historical district.
The proposed district _ which could preserve "Fall City's unique
historical character" _ would incorporate the 1887 plat of Fall City,
roughly bounded by Redmond-Fall City Road on the north, the Preston-Fall
City Road on the east, 44th Place Southeast on the south, and 334th
Place Southeast on the west.
Sundberg also advised the group that the commercial strips along
the Redmond-Fall City Road and Preston-Fall City Roads had been
removed from consideration, following comments from the property owners.
He then attempted to go into the possible benefits of designation as
a historic district _ such as tax-exempt loans for home preservation _ but
several of the participants interrupted. Most wanted to know if they
would be allowed to vote on inclusion in a district, and when they were told
no, the meeting quickly degenerated into chaos, with continuous outbursts
from the audience.
Sundberg attempted to maintain order, but his associate, Koler,
finally got up and announced the meeting was over, adding, "I've never been
treated this way before.
"I apologize to those of you who came here for information," she
added. "We'll talk to some of you individually, but otherwise, end of discussion."
One resident from the floor demanded to know if Koler lived in
Fall City. Another commented loudly, "That's typical; they don't want to
talk to us."
The two eventually discussed the process with small groups of two
or three residents, while others gathered elsewhere in the middle school
cafeteria to express their frustration over the proceedings.
"I think they have some legitimate questions," said Fall City dentist
Greg Fawcett of his fellow participants. "People are concerned because it
affects their property values, and it affects their livelihoods. Here
they're talking about creating a historic district, and I think it would be
appropriate to vote on it.
"For the most part, these are hard-working people of modest means.
This will decrease the value they could get for their property. I think it's
grossly unfair of a couple of bureaucrats to dictate like this."
Darrell Thompson _ who started the questions concerning a vote on
the district _ stated he didn't come to the meeting to be disruptive, but was
concerned about the "continuation of the harassment we receive from
"I'm saturated," said Thompson. "My property is being down-zoned
a second time and my taxes are something else. My residence sits in the
new conservation area, and now I can't even build a chicken coop on it.
"I'm getting hit four ways, and now I'm being told I don't have
any say in it. I don't understand. The county's supposed to be here to
help us, but they harass us. People are tired of that."
Some residents expressed embarrassment at the reception accorded
to Koler and Sundberg.
"I'm thoroughly embarrassed at the way they treated Charlie,"
said Irene Pike. "I've never seen anything so rude. This meeting was to see
how receptive the people were apparently they got their answer."
Property owner and Fall City resident Audrey Schroeder later
commented she'd had happy experiences with King County Cultural
Resources, but believes the key is allowing owners to decide if they want to
participate or not.
"A Fall City historic district sounds kind of warm and fuzzy," she
stated, "until it impacts unsuspecting property owners. I would like to see a
historic district, but would like to see one only if the property owners decide
to be included."
The morning after the meeting, Sundberg said he felt the gathering
had still served a positive purpose.
"I think that _ in the end _ people felt embarrassed about their
behavior," he commented. "We were able to
talk about some of the issues with several people one-on-one or in small
groups. In fact, I think all but one of my conversations following the outburst
were basically positive.
"There's such an anger about county government _ for whatever
reason _ or about government in general. Clearly, I think we need to send
more information by mail and provide different opportunities to talk
We will continue to think about this," Sundberg concluded. "There
is still a lot more research to be done, and we'll figure out a better way
to have a dialogue with the people out there. I think there are a lot of
people who are interested in preserving the historic character of Fall City."