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Mayors share concerns about urban growth

King County is growing at an alarming rate. That was the overwhelming sentiment expressed by the mayors of Snoqualmie, North Bend, Carnation and Duvall at the round-table discussion during the Metropolitan King County Council meeting Sept. 25.

Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson said the population of Snoqualmie - at about 1,600 in 1998 - has quintupled to over 8,000 in 2006 and will grow to 10,000 in the next few years. As a result, a large urban island has been dropped in the middle of a rural area, creating a split personality in Snoqualmie; one-half urban mindset and the other half rural, he said.

"Growth is going to come ... we have to manage it," Larson said. "If you don't have connectivity within neighborhoods ... all of the traffic ... must come out to main arterial roads to get from point A to point B. That puts tremendous demand on the main artery."

Residents must recognize that in the future, urban growth areas will be adjusted, Larson said. Although many oppose connecting Snoqualmie Ridge with rural areas like Lake Alice Road, that sentiment may change with the natural interaction between urban and rural citizens, Larson said.

Right now, there are no connecting roads between downtown and Snoqualmie Ridge because the city didn't anticipate reserving corridors, Larson said.

"If we don't plan for connections and have walls within cities, we'll have buffers and boundaries and walls chopping up the city," Larson said. He said land must be reserved to connect future development in a way that allows a natural traffic flow.

North Bend is also planning for anticipated growth.

Ken Hearing, mayor of North Bend, discussed downtown revitalization in the historic part of his city. North Bend spent $5 million to restore eight significant buildings so far, with assistance from the county.

Hearing also asked for the county's support with annexing North Bend's urban growth area, stating that the county has helped other communities annex property that the county has wanted annexed. He said the city has been trying to work with the executive's office to get money.

Hearing also referred to Tollgate Farm, an open space that was supposed to be developed in the late 1990s to early 2000s. It's jointly owned by the city of North Bend and the county. However, North Bend wants either full ownership or for the county to take it back, he said. The city hoped for active recreation and has worked toward that goal - contractors were hired to restore the buffers - but with no active recreation, the restoration will be for naught, Hearing said.

"I ask you to support me in either giving it to North Bend or taking it back for yourselves," Hearing said.

Carnation Mayor Bill Paulsen spoke about transportation issues and how the city's new bridge will help alleviate some of the problems. He said Carnation faces challenges when the Valley floods that are made worse by the extra road traffic from larger, urban areas. He also thanked the county, specifically Kathy Lambert, for the fresh paint on the city hall, part of city-wide exterior modifications and commented that with the help of the county, as well as partnerships with other cities, Carnation is able to do projects it otherwise could not.

King County Councilmem-ber Julia Patterson asked the mayors how they handle tension between the rural populations; those wanting to preserve their land and those who want to develop. The rural population moved to the area for a reason; there are aesthetics in the rural areas that the urban areas do not have, she said. Tension exists between those who invested in their properties and moved here because of the amenities and those wanting to develop their land to encourage population growth and development so they don't have to drive too far for work or the store, Patterson said. It's a political tug of war, she said.

"It can't be a win-win situation," Larson said. "We have to recognize that leadership involves making a hard decision. What's in the best interest of the community? I look to the future, in five or 10 years. There's no line between rural and urban. We have to create connectivity. Change is always unfair to someone."

"We have been assigned areas," Hearing added. "We have to do what's best for the citizens."

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