North Bend zoning change to pave way for new hotel

In a win for city businesses, the North Bend City Council unanimously approved Dec. 7 a municipal code change that allows for the development of a 65-foot-tall hotel off Bendigo Boulevard in the city’s outlet mall.

The code change itself does not start the construction of a new hotel, but it opens the door for a developer the city has been in contact with over much of the last year to begin permitting for the project.

“I’m excited for it and I think a lot of our businesses are excited for it,” said Beth Burrows, owner of the North Bend Theater and a SnoValley Chamber of Commerce board member. “It’s been hard not having a hotel. It really limits what the city can offer.”

Residents have expressed frustration with the lack of hotel options in the city for much of the past 20 years, North Bend Mayor Rob McFarland said. In 2010, a group with Marriott approached the city with a hotel proposal, but the project ultimately fell through after the developer pulled out following years of delays.

McFarland said several groups with hotel proposals have approached the city over the last few years, with increased interest in the last two years, but cited difficulty acquiring land and height restrictions as barriers to potential projects and profitability.

Last March, McFarland announced that a hotel was coming to the city in his annual state of the city address. This came after a developer, representing Wyndham Hotels, approached the city with a proposal for building a new five-story hotel.

At the time, the city municipal code restricted the construction of buildings taller than 35 feet within its interchange commercial zone — the area around the outlet mall — which prevented the project. With the code change, one hotel up to 65 feet tall is allowed.

Mike McCarty, a senior planner for the city, said North Bend currently only has older motels and many potential guests bypass North Bend when looking for a place to stay.

“For many years the city has desired to see a new hotel within city limits,” he said. “35 feet in today’s real estate market is not a viable height for a middle of the market hotel.”

Wyndham’s proposed design for the five story, 65-foot-tall hotel would feature 121 rooms and a rooftop bar that would be open to the public.

McFarland said the Wyndham project is in the early stages of review and the city expects a formal application from the group, but the project is unlikely to break ground in 2022 because of the amount of time it took to approve zoning changes.

Business owners and the city are hopeful a new hotel will increase traffic to downtown and the outlet mall. Burrows said she sees the hotel as a way to capitalize on visitors coming for recreational activities and youth sporting events, who would otherwise leave.

“With the hotel, we might get people who hike and stay and go shopping, or have dinner, or heck, see a movie,” she said.

The city also expects the hotel and generated sales tax revenues to improve the city’s ability to provide services using visitors’ money and lessen increases in local taxes.

Lucas Haines, the owner of Volition Brewing in downtown North Bend, said many businesses see the hotel as “crucial growth infrastructure.”

However, the hotel did face some opposition from residents at the council’s Dec. 7 meeting. Several residents expressed concerns about the height, negative environmental consequences, and how the construction could hurt the city’s rural character.

Councilmember Mary Miller, the chair of the city’s economic development committee, said she understands the issue is a hot topic for residents, but felt that the council spent a lot of time making a decision and the hotel addressed a number of city needs.

McCarty assured the council and residents that the new hotel would not impact residential owners, nor the view of Mount Si from homes or I-90.

Jean Buckner, president of the conservation nonprofit Friends of Snoqualmie Valley Trail and River, said she and the Friends continue to have concerns about how the city will attain sufficient mitigation water for the new development.

McFarland said the city has the capacity to serve the hotel and additional potential developments in the exit 31 area. He added that an environmental review would be conducted for any potential project, and the project won’t proceed if there is a lack of water or sewer availability.

Councilmember Jonathan Rosen said the council looked at several proposals for the project and chose the option that would lessen the impact on residents and the environment as much as possible

“At the end of the day we need a hotel here and we hope this is a successful one,” he said.

Correction: a pervious version of this story said a hotel up to 65 feet with an additional 10 feet permitted for rooftop architectural features was allowed. That statement was corrected to just 65 feet.