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Is time right for rezone?
I read Melissa's story last week about the potential additional uses of a portion of the Snoqualmie Ridge business park after returning from vacation. At first glance I sympathized with the business owners who are worried about competition. When my wife and I first bought this newspaper in 1996, there was another newspaper in North Bend, published by the company that now owns this one. Those were dog-eat-dog days, scrapping for every advertising dollar but ultimately, I think, providing a better product than our competition. It did help that we lived here and they didn't.
But as that newspaper closed, several people came up to me and said, competition was good for the Valley Record. It made us work harder to get out and report what was going on in the community. The winner in that case was the consumer.
So would added retail space in the town of Snoqualmie be detrimental to the existing business base? I do think current retail anywhere in the Valley is, for the most part, making ends meet. But, I seriously doubt very many small business owners in the Valley would say they are comfortable. So yes, I could see where added retail will have an impact on those businesses already established on Snoqualmie Ridge.
Is there any way to stop additional retail from coming to the Ridge, or to Snoqualmie for that matter? I seriously doubt it. The old Falls Crossing property just south of State Route 202 along the parkway will soon have retail spaces available. Snoqualmie Ridge Phase II has a retail mix planned and ultimately, the market will drive downtown Snoqualmie toward additional retail uses. Another very wise person once told me, competition is inevitable, you just have to be better. Competition for tenants in retail spaces on the Ridge is also good for the consumer as it may drive commercial lease rates down for a period of time.
Yes, I agree with the City Council in understanding that Snoqualmie will need additional tax base and a stagnant business park doesn't do much for the local economy. Allowing more retail uses does seem to make sense.
But, yes, I always have a "but" ... sorry, no more jokes about that. Is the problem Opus is having filling the business park really a problem for the city? Is the vision of people able to work, shop and live in a planned unit development getting thrown out the window? Can we do more to attract employers rather than converting to retail space?
I am a firm believer that the market will drive the business direction. If there is plenty of retail space available in the city now, why add to the mix? Let the market determine when its time to convert a portion of the business park to additional retail uses. It doesn't appear that the current retail space is saturated. Additional retail space in the old Falls Crossing property and Phase II will have an impact on lease rates and the market will determine which mix works best and thrives.
So the message to the council is to wait. Even if the study comes back and says the city needs more retail use in 2022 at the end of the build out, there is no need to rush out and rezone now. Maybe it's an issue better suited for discussion after the election. Let's focus on immediate economic development and let the market drive our plans in 10 years.