Opinion

Ballpark deficits aggravated by Falls Crossing

(My views do not represent those of the Parks Board, City, or CCC.)

The recently revised plan between the city and Weyerhaeuser to place

three of the six ball fields (required for the city to mitigate Ridge impacts) at

the downtown Tree Farm is at the source of recent controversies about

ballparks and the Community Center. This is a poorly conceived plan and it will

ultimately hurt the entire city. In the original plan, the city of Snoqualmie

could have been left with enough space to construct up to ten ball fields within

the current city limits. The revised plan will allow for a total of only seven

ball fields, or may result in the loss of acquiring 38 acres of open space (as part

of the proposed Falls Crossing development) in order to provide nine ball fields.

In his editorial on Jan. 20, Mr. McKiernan states, "Snoqualmie does

not have one municipal ball field." I wholeheartedly agree. Snoqualmie was

in dire need of municipal fields long before the Ridge ever came along. This

is precisely why Weyerhaeuser was required to provide ball fields, so that

an existing shortage was not further aggravated by the new Ridge population.

So what was the original shortage?

The formulas used to determine ball-field mitigations for the Ridge

(and now Falls Crossing) were originally developed to define the needs of the

1,500 residents of the historical downtown. These formulas reveal that the

original population of 1,500 residents needs 1.95 (or two) ball fields, and 12 acres

of land on which to put them. These are the existing needs strictly associated

with the downtown area. Unfortunately, the Tree Farm will not take care of

this original need. Keep in mind that the population generated by the Ridge

(5,000 residents) placed a burden upon the city to provide approximately six ball

fields, on 40 acres. Add this to the original need for two ball fields, and we

should expect to see plans for a total of eight ball fields, and 52 acres.

On Oct. 6, 1999, the city and WRECO signed a revised Parks

agreement that left only three ball fields on the Ridge and placed three at the Tree

Farm site (the fourth is currently not funded). This leaves room within the

current city limits to add only one additional ball field, for a total of seven. City

officials have stated that there is no other land in the city limits suitable for

building future ball fields. The only place that may provide more suitable land is

in future Urban Growth Areas, and these offer unattractive and very limited

possibilities. Especially since few of us desire to encourage additional

development.

If Falls Crossing is approved, we will need a total of 9.5. City ball fields.

In the current Fall's Crossing proposal, it is likely that we will swap required

ball field acreage for 38 acres of open space. If this happens, we can not

build ballparks within that development and the majority of the mitigation

money would be spent to complete the last field at the Tree Farm. The city would

then have a total of seven fields, but would need 9.5 fields (and be short 15½

acres). Ironically, we will have approximately $114,000 left over from the Falls

Crossing ball-field mitigation money, but will lack any suitable land upon which

to build required fields.

This deficit is one of many reasons why I and many Ridge residents

still disagree with the recently revised city/WRECO plan, which is said to be

"best for the City overall." Snoqualmie would have been better served if more of

the fields had remained on the Ridge — built at Weyerhaeuser's expense.

Mitigation money could still have been used to purchase the Tree Farm acreage

(which was cheaper than the cost of constructing one baseball field). This option

would provide the entire town with five-six ball fields on the Ridge (depending

on what was traded for Tree Farm acreage/assets) and land for an additional

four ball fields downtown. In other words, the original plan provided space for

a total of two-three additional ball fields to serve all the existing and near

future deficits — a total of nine-ten ball fields vs. seven in the revised plan. We

would then have a place to spend Falls Crossing mitigation money while

confidently preserving 38 acres of open space. If Falls Crossing is approved, we

would immediately have the mitigation money available for finishing one, if not

two of the fields at the Tree Farm.

I am sure WRECO played games with the acreage issue, but it would

have been well worth it to beg and borrow to purchase the Tree Farm —with

an alternate source of funding. Then WRECO would not have been able to

trade 15 acres on the Ridge worth far more — even undeveloped—than the

($310,000) 15 acres at the Tree Farm.

I suspect this revised plan was an attempt to placate a town rightfully

angered by the sheer size and scope of the Ridge development. It was a kind

of punitive (not mitigating) damage settlement against WRECO for causing,

as Mr. McKiernan states, "a total transformation of a rural community." Yet,

as the years pass, we may discover that the only ones we shortchanged are

ourselves and our children. I still hold out faint hope that at least one ball field

can be returned to the Ridge, but I am realistic enough to know that it may

no longer be practically possible. WRECO — having perhaps saved millions

— will have no interest in revisiting this contract. I suspect they are laughing

all the way to the bank.

MATT LARSON is a resident of

Snoqualmie.

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