Apartment complex's impacts too large

The city of North Bend is in the process of making a significant decision that will seriously impact the future of all residents here for many years to come, and I, as a property owner in North Bend, fear the issue is not being handled properly.

We own and operate Mount Si Apartments, a 48-unit complex located at 475 E. North Bend Way, North Bend. We have owned the property for eight years and have substantially improved the project, gotten rid of troublesome tenants and overall have made the project a much more positive contributor to the community. I personally come to North Bend at least once a week and have gotten to know and love the community during that time.

We note, however, that the Evans/Hogan development team plans to build 258 units east of town along East North Bend Way with a number of troubling issues attached. This complex will house 600-800 people, for a net increase of between 20-25 percent for the whole population of North Bend. It would be like building a project to house 150,000 people in Seattle - same impact! I would cite a few of these issues below, with the hope that the entire community will pull together to help North Bend deal with them.

First, this large project, costing upwards of $25 million, will contribute almost nothing to North Bend for infrastructure improvements such as roads and sidewalks, fire and police protection, sewer upgrades, expanded park facilities, etc. In short, the developer will contribute a total of $200,000 for all of this, when last week's issue of your paper cited the need for nearly $3 million in road improvements alone near the project. The new project will be sited on a narrow, two-lane road, by the developer's own admission, and yet they toss in a measly $200,000 to cover all their impacts on the community. One traffic signal costs that much, let alone a wider roadway. And where is the money for added sewer capacity, added police and fire needs, etc.? If this project were sited in Seattle or Bellevue, the impact fees would be substantially higher. Why is North Bend selling its soul to these guys? Our taxes will surely skyrocket.

Sewer charges to our building total $42 per unit, per month, right now. This is the highest sewer charge we know of for any of our many properties in King County, and the new project, which will contribute no money to North Bend for expanded sewers, will likely drive that monthly charge much higher. It is so steep we are unable to charge it to our tenants.

Finally, the project promises to have a dramatic, direct and quite negative impact on surrounding farmlands and it is a shame that North Bend plans, eventually, to drive a road straight through the Stringfellow farm, totally destroying it. Is that what you officials feel you have been elected to do? Planners admitted last week that they planned, eventually, to drive Pickett Road straight through from the north to meet the new road serving this apartment project. Ultimately, that will destroy the Stringfellow farm.

I urge everyone to attend the next planning meeting on Thursday, June 20, at 7:30 p.m. in the Mount Si Senior Center to take a look at what your city leaders have planned for North Bend. And I also urge you, if you truly love North Bend, to contact your mayor and city council members to request that this project either be substantially scaled back or required to raise its impact fees to a figure commensurate with added costs to our community.

Paul Birkeland

Owner, Mount Si Apartments

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