Opinion

North Bend on track

Maybe it is wishful thinking but I honestly feel that North Bend is on the verge of some great things. There are several projects which, when water becomes available, or maybe in spite of a lack of water, will bring economic benefit to a city that has had to watch the purse strings more closely than most. Watching the purse strings is a good thing and few are better than Elena Montgomery at keeping an eye on city expenditures.

But several projects have the potential of moving North Bend in a positive direction. First, the efforts being made by Cheryl Pflug to find a solution to the water issues for the city are on the governor's desk. House Bill 2544 was passed by the House and Senate and provides a $3,474,675 low-interest loan to the city for drilling, testing and the development of a new municipal water supply for North Bend. It also provides funding for the construction of a diversion pipeline between the south fork of the Tolt River and the North Fork of the Snoqualmie for mitigation of water usage.

Another impact to the city came to light at last week's council meeting. An agreement authorizing the execution of a pre-formation financing agreement for a proposed Tanner and Truck Town Sewer Utility Improvement District was voted on and passed by the council. This agreement will allow preliminary engineering to occur for the extension of sewer services for several areas east of North Bend in the city's Urban Growth Boundary. Several land owners in the urban growth area are party to the agreement.

This stems from King County's Comprehensive Plan changes that do not allow on-site waste facilities for commercial use. In other words, if you want to build a commercial building or larger scale residential development, you have to hook up to the North Bend sewer system if the hookup is offered.

With housing prices climbing and available land scarce, it is no surprise that the urban growth area of North Bend will be a hot commodity. We need to continue to echo our concerns to the council to assure that controlled growth happens and not urban sprawl.

The down side of this interest in North Bend's urban growth area is that the cost of housing will continue to escalate. With growth management continuing to limit housing development opportunities, it is quickly getting to the point where our children will not be able to afford housing in this community.

A Torguson Park Master Plan is being routed through the city with several upcoming meetings planned. As most of you know, I am a huge proponent of active recreation facilities and applaud the city for its efforts to move this forward. My only concern is parking. Realizing that a new roundabout will take up much of the roadside parking in the area, the plan needs to substantially increase the number of parking spots over the 209 listed in the current proposal. I really question the need for two large stormwater ponds or areas - but I'm not a hydrologist. The plan may have to limit one of the additional fields in lieu of parking. The number could easily be increased to 300 and still not be enough. Maybe a joint use agreement needs to be drafted with the school district to allow additional parking at the elementary school on weekends.

We need to continue to push additional active recreation opportunities for the Tollgate Master Plan, as well. We need more activities for kids and what better than baseball, softball, football or soccer.

So things are looking up for North Bend but, unfortunately, one project in particular will only be adding short-term gain to the city's coffers, forsaking long-term opportunities. The Miller Business Park, the final result of many years of wrangling and land purchases by the county, city and former Tollgate property owner, has asked to change its plans from a business park to townhouses. The short-term gain would be real estate excise tax, something the city needs. The long-term loss is livable-wage jobs in North Bend.

Maybe it's a foregone conclusion that people will never really be able to work and live here, but I hate to see us give up that dream. We need to continue, at every opportunity, to provide jobs here. The change from business park to townhouses means more livable-wage job opportunities lost in the community.

North Bend, for the first time in many years, has the sun shining down. I think many local residents and community leaders share this optimism for the future.

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