Welcome to the North Bend city council

Citizens of North Bend have more council members to represent them as of last week, when the North Bend City Council grew from five seats to seven.

With the city growing after years without change, the council is expanding, too. The two new council seats drew tremendous interest from the community. This fall, 11 North Bend citizens came forward and expressed their laudable interest in overseeing their city. They came from all walks of life, from a Snoqualmie Valley Hospital Commissioner to a pizza delivery man, each expressing their wish to learn, grow and serve their fellow citizens.

Ulimately, the council selected one newcomer to public office, and one veteran councilman.

New to the council, Jeanne Pettersen brings a public school administrator’s background. With luck, her people skills will come in handy as North Bend adds residents and explores new services.

The council also chose to reseat Chris Garcia, a 30-year resident of North Bend who previously served on the council for four years. Dubbed a “champion of the little guy” by Mayor Ken Hearing prior to his departure in 2008, Garcia stepped down due to demands from his business.

Garcia told the council last Tuesday that he didn’t feel good about that departure. He gave his word to the council on making a commitment to the job the second time around.

How much of a shoo-in Garcia was for the job we may never know, as the council held a closed, half-hour discussion on the merits of the five finalists.

Now that Garcia and Pettersen are seated and sworn in, the council won’t meet again until January. In the new year, the North Bend council members face the challenging task of weighing new city planning rules that will say whether developers can build a full-service hotel at Interstate 90’s Exit 31. The issue is a thorny one, thanks to the site’s proximity to a large residential neighborhood next door. Well-motivated opposition have challenged such growth in their vicinity, calling into question its impact on their quality of life. Meanwhile, proponents say a quality hotel is a needed service too long missing locally.

Hundreds of comments poured into city mailboxes over the matter. North Bend’s planning commission recommended the change this past October, in a stormy session that ended with one commissioner resigning over the majority decision.

Motels and the Salish Lodge aside, visitors are often surprised that the Valley has no major hotel. The community is now in a race for a hotel, with the Snoqualmie Tribe, the city of Snoqualmie, North Bend and a potentially expanding Salish as possible contenders.

Ultimately, the North Bend council must decide whether Exit 31 is the way to go, basing their decision on what is best for all of North Bend. In the new year, the council, new members included, certainly have their work cut out for them. We wish them strength and prudence in their deliberations.

• Contact editor Seth Truscott at editor@valleyrecord.com.

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