A proposal to bring the 210-acre Mountain Meadows Farm back into agricultural production, as well as into the education field, has raised many questions in the communities of North Bend and Snoqualmie. Brad Owen, representing Mountain Meadows Farm owner and resident Chunlai Hou, said Hou and his staff intend to answer those questions, and ask some of their own at a 6:30 p.m. open house meeting Thursday, Aug. 31, at the farm, 42122 SE 102nd St, North Bend.
“The purpose of the meeting is to get people to come in and tell us their concerns,” said Owen, as well as what they think of the proposal.
That proposal is to create a branch campus of the future Washington Technology University, to be launched by Hou in Bellevue this January, on the Mountain Meadows property. Courses will cover high tech, viniculture, agriculture and hotel management.
The branch campus, located just outside North Bend city limits in unincorporated King County, would focus on agricultural education for up to 350 students at a time, and possibly offer night classes to local residents. It would also put a large piece of the property back into farm production, under the guidance of school professors and through the labors of the students.
It would not, Owen said in response to rumors, bring 2,000 cars daily to the property, disturb existing wetlands, or grow into a full college campus with dormitories for 2,000 students. The code for the property won’t allow it.
Most of the property can’t legally be developed, because former owner Raymond Damazzo sold the property’s future development rights on 187 acres, to King County Aug. 25, 1986, for $685,000. The terms of the transfer allow only three single-family homes on the site and allows up to 5 percent of the property to be non-tillable land.
Details about the proposal will be presented at the meeting Aug. 31, and people will be asked for their feedback then. This will be the only public meeting on the project, Owen said, but community members can also provide their input online on The Future of Mountain Meadows Farm website, http://thefutureofmountainmeadowsfarm.com.
Mountain Meadows Farm was foreclosed by King County in December, 2015 and sold to Hou in February, 2016. Prior to foreclosure, the land had been used in dairy farming, as an equestrian events center and as a corporate events venue, with thousands of people on site each day. It also hosted Mount Si High School’s cross country home meets.
In its future, the property could start hosting a four-year degree program, offering Bachelor of Science degrees in agriculture technology and viniculture. These will follow the opening of Hou’s Washington Technology University in leased space in Bellevue.
Owen said Hou’s original plan had been to eventually locate the college in North Bend, but because of a past owner’s transfer of all development rights to the county, that won’t be possible.
However, he added, that in Bellevue, “There is no property purchased at this time for the university.”
The North Bend campus would eventually host up to 350 students on site at any one time. The college’s total enrollment is projected to be between 200 and 1,000 students.
“Down the road, they are planning to put in some housing, but not for 1,000 students,” Owen added.
The traffic impact of hundreds of students travelling to and from the campus is also being considered, Owen said. One possibility to limit traffic challenges on 420th Ave. SE by making a new entrance to the farm on SE 100th St.
None of these changes are expected to happen soon, though, Owen said. The farm has only recently applied for a conditional use permit, which is only the start of a lengthy process.