Mayor: Snoqualmie Ridge YMCA could enrich retail area

Addressing some merchants' fears of competition from a planned Snoqualmie Ridge YMCa, Snoqualmie's mayor and the YMCA's regional director say the new community center is more likely to enrich the entire Ridge community.

Programs and activities that the YMCA will likely try in Snoqualmie include youth sports and fitness, adults fitness such as cardio and strength programs, teen nights and leadership activities, afterschool programing, art classes and senior programs.

Space is also envisioned for a community meeting space and emergency shelter. There will be non-fee based programs, activities, community nights and special events.

Fears of competition from the YMCA were raised by the owners of Snoqualmie Ridge Athletic Club and Cascade Dance Academy at a recent council meeting.

While the YMCA may end up duplicating some business's offerings, Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson told the Record last week that owners should find ways to partner with the YMCA.

A community center has been a central part of the city's plans for the Ridge since 1988, Larson said.

"All of the businesses were aware that this facility would come in at some point," he said.

Larson said he's leery of having the city dictate what kinds of programs the YMCA offers.

"Once we start doing it with one, where do we draw the line?" he asked.

A YMCA could end up being a strong anchor for the Ridge's retail center, helping the majority of the 50-plus businesses there, Larson said.

"Rather than undermine other local organizations, we often find that a new Y energizes a community," said Marcia Isenberger, Eastside Regional Executive for the YMCA of Greater Seattle.

"When we open a new branch, the YMCA often enables a community to come together in a new way because we attract such a wide range of individuals and families and also because we provide space for community groups," said Marcia Isenberger, Eastside Regional Executive for the YMCA of Greater Seattle.

The mission of the YMCA of Greater Seattle is to build a community where all people, especially young persons, are encouraged to develop their full potential.

The YMCA is open to all, and financial assistance is available to those in need, according to Isenberger. Currently, the YMCA provides financial assistance to 20 percent of facility members and program participants.

Moving ahead

Two agreements, on financing and operations, are expected to be finalized by the city and the YMCA within the next five weeks, according to Isenberger.

"We still have the details to work through but feel confident that we can accomplish this within that timeframe," Isenberger told the Valley Record. "The YMCA must secure the initial funding for this project to be successful.

"There are no issues or roadblocks that we see, but we want to make sure that we are working through all of the legal thresholds that we need to in order to ensure the success of the YMCA Community Center."

While the final vision is not yet complete, the YMCA has about $5 million to spend to design and build a facility between 15,000 and 20,000 square feet.

"We will work hand in hand with the City of Snoqualmie leadership to build a facility that can meet the immediate needs of city residents," Isenberger said.

"There is not enough money to build a pool that can be built and operated successfully," she added. "The pool will need to be built in a later phase."

Isenberger said it's also too early to say what member fees will cost. That number is also expected within the next five weeks.

If the city council votes in favor of an agreement with the YMCA, design and cost estimating will begin and there will be opportunities for public participation.

The operating agreement gives the YMCA the ability to terminate the agreement on one year’s notice. The one year’s notice provision is intended to allow the city to find another operator, or consider other options.

Existing parking issues in the Ridge retail area have not caused the city to abandon plans for the community center. Statements from the city say that perceived parking problems in the retail area are due to several factors including on-street commuter parking and owner policies requiring on-street parking for certain employees.

According to the city, on-street commuter parking could be dealt with though time limits for on-street parking, or by the eventual development of a Park & Ride facility in Snoqualmie Valley.

In addition to a 115-space lot and on-street parking, the city and school district have agreed to share parking between the community center and the elementary school. This agreement provides 78 spaces of overflow parking at Cascade View Elementary School plus about 100 spaces behind the school.

The city has almost $4 million to spend to purchase the center. About $800,000 is reserved from real estate excise tax (REET) proceeds. REET can only be expended on certain types of capital projects and is not available for other purposes. A community center is an authorized expenditure of REET funds.

The city also has mitigation funds from the Kimball Creek development and both phases of the Ridge.

Bonds to build a center failed three times at the polls. In 2002, a 60 percent majority of Snoqualmie voters rejected a bond proposal for $9,000,000 to build a city-owned and operated community center. In 2006, 52 percent of Snoqualmie voters supported a proposal for $8,000,000 for a city-owned and city-operated community center, which required a levy of 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. State law requires a 60 percent supermajority to assess a levy, so the levy failed. In 2008, 55 percent of Snoqualmie voters supported a proposal for $6,250,000 for a city-owned and YMCA-operated community center, which required a levy of 30 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.

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