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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

King County."

"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

with people.

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."

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