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Snoqualmie looks at future of downtown

On Nov. 21, members of the Snoqualmie City Council, the Snoqualmie Planning Commission and the public gathered at the Snoqualmie Fire Station for the second of two public workshops to discuss downtown Snoqualmie's future.

In conjunction with the 2005 Economic Development Branding and Marketing Plan developed by Roger Brooks of Destination Development, design consultants from Callison Architects and city of Snoqualmie Planning Director Nancy Tucker introduced renderings of the potential future vision of downtown Snoqualmie.

The vision plan included graphical ideas, sketches; selected locations for how and where development should occur; predictions of growth in the area; ideas on how historic downtown could function in terms of use and circulation locations; and images of ideas for new and redeveloped buildings, streets and plazas.

It is coordinated as a part of the larger city Destination Development plan.

The overall purpose of both planning efforts is to facilitate economic development within the city and to revitalize the historic downtown area, according to "Snoqualmie Downtown Vision Plan" documents presented at the Nov. 21 meeting.

"It's a big design piece to the puzzle," said councilmember Matt Larson, who is expected to take over as mayor of Snoqualmie in January.

The design suggestions would be implemented over the next five to 20 years, Larson said, noting that at this point, the design plan is just a conceptual idea that is not ready for implementation, nor are the ideas set in stone.

The project would most likely cost millions of dollars long term, though Larson noted that investing in the revision would create revenue generators that could actually bring in money should a budget crisis erupt in the next five to 10 years when the Snoqualmie Ridge II development is complete.

Initially presented at the first public workshop (held on Oct. 27), Tucker requested citizen input on the design schemes, sketches and maps. She presented the comments to the Planning Commission, which then condensed the information into three main goals with multiple objectives.

The revisions presented at the Nov. 21 meeting were based on comments received from citizens and public officials. Goals and objectives were also developed in more detail.

"We were looking for feedback," Tucker said. "Are these the right policies? Which ones are the most important? Is there something missing?"

Based on the initial feedback, the Planning Commission identified the three main goals for the downtown vision plan: Maintain Snoqualmie's unique small-town character, make the downtown a great walking district and enhance downtown as a tourism draw.

One of the biggest issues to address in design development is how to develop the space while taking into consideration the locations of the floodways and the floodplains, Tucker said. As such, there are limitations based on the classification. For example, flood ways have more restrictive regulations that include rules such as not allowing for any new residential housing.

The dividing line is basically Railroad Avenue, she said. From Railroad to the river is considered a floodway, while everything on the other side of Railroad is a floodplain.

Another concern addressed at the meeting was how to make optimal use of the limited downtown space available. Retail shops were a main focus, as was a potential new location for City Hall.

Tony Yanez, a member of the Planning Commission, explained that benefits of having City Hall located downtown would include showing prospective businesses that the area continues to be viewed with interest, keeping people living downtown in the "community loop" and bringing money to the area during the week with people working and visiting City Hall facilities.

Larson said that while he is open to keeping City Hall in historic downtown, he also is interested in looking at all the options and eventually selecting the location that makes the most sense economically and is the most beneficial to the entire community.

He noted a concern about City Hall remaining in the already limited downtown space, adding an additional concern: If it remains in the floodway, it could face its own issues in the event of a flood, along with dealing with the city's issues.

At the same time, Larson said he believed it was critical to have some sort of civic presence downtown to "keep that vitality in the heart and soul [of the city]."

Tucker invited the more than 50 participants who attended the meeting to review blown-up documents taped to the walls that listed goals, objectives, policies and measures regarding the vision plan. She asked those attending to mark what they thought was the highest priority and what each person thought was the most important to him or her.

Tucker will review that information and include it in the next revision of the design plan.

The next step of the main Destination Development plan is for Tucker and Brooks to submit their updated recommendations for review on Dec. 2.

If the council approves the initial information, then the number crunching begins, Larson said.

According to the Economic Development, Branding and Marketing Plan documents from Oct. 28, final comments from city officials will be accepted until Dec. 9. The next City Council meeting is on Dec. 12. The presentation date of the final plan to the City Council still needs to be determined, but should be before the end of December for implementation to begin in January.

At this time, there are no additional public workshops scheduled, though citizens are welcome to attend City Council meetings or contact council members directly to voice comments.

For information, call (425) 888-1555 or visit www.cityofsnoqualmie.net.

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