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Snoqualmie Ridge merchants question YMCA plans

The city of Snoqualmie's renewed effort to partner the YMCA of Greater Seattle on a Snoqualmie Ridge community center has drawn attention from several Snoqualmie Ridge business owners concerned about competition.

Owners asked questions about the project prior to a council briefing on negotiations between the non-profit YMCA and the city on how the new community center would be built, run and paid for.

"I would be supportive of a community center, but a YMCA would hurt my business," Katie Higuchi, owner of Cascade Dance Academy, told the council.

Tony Baldwin, general manager at Snoqualmie Ridge Athletic Club, asked the council to define the center's first phase.

"Is it an athletic club?" he asked. "It's really important that we don't duplicate what is already offered in the Valley and that we provide something that the community needs."

"As a small business owner, I fear that tax-exempt competition one block away could be detrimental to my business and several others," Higuchi told the Valley Record. "A healthy retail sector is important for a growing community. If anchor stores on the Ridge are put out of business by a YMCA, the rest of our small businesses could also struggle to survive."

Higuchi wants to see a center that does not duplicate services already on the Ridge.

"A pool would be wonderful, as well as indoor basketball," she said. " If we could find a way to have a community center that offered our families something new and different, it would benefit everyone."

"We just need a simple community center," said Anna Sotelo, owner of Ana's Family Mexican Restaurant. She wants to see a center include a kitchen and emergency shelter for disaster victims.

The vision for a YMCA, she said, "is not a community center."

Snoqualmie's approach to building a center will not require voter approval for a first, core phase, but uses mitigation money from Ridge developer Quadrant to purchase the building.

An agreement under discussion would see the city leasing land at Ridge Community Park to the YMCA, where the Y would then construct the facility. The YMCA would finance construction, and the city would then buy the building when finished.

The city would use its casino mitigation money to ensure that all residents can afford to use the Y.

The master plan for the YMCA would not be developed in detail until the agreements have been signed.

A broad outline would see the agreement with the YMCA approved this fall, followed by a six-month design phase. Bids for construction would go out in the spring, and the Snoqualmie YMCA would open about 10 months later.

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