On April 8, the Snoqualmie City Council denied an application for a local business to move into the empty IGA grocery store building and rejected all bids for the Koinonia Park Improvement Project.
In October 2018, Snoqualmie-based business Persona Nutrition submitted a land use determination letter with a floor plan for the proposed use of the building. Persona Nutrition is currently located across the street on the second floor of 7713 Center Boulevard SE.
Persona’s proposal to move to the vacant building was rejected by the city because, as community development director Mark Hofman explained, the proposed use did not match with Chapter 12 allowed uses in the Snoqualmie Ridge development standards. That chapter requires the neighborhood center retail area to contain retail businesses, non-retail commercial use and pedestrian-oriented civic uses. Persona was rejected because it did not meet the requirements for any of the three uses.
In staff analysis, Hofman said, the proposed floor plan had only 17 percent of the total square footage of the building listed as retail or retail services. It didn’t match to non-retail commercial business since Persona would not be primarily engaged in offering professional or commercial services. Only about 14 percent of the space was listed as corporate office use.
In Hofman’s letter to the business in November, he wrote that the combined total of both uses only accounts for 31 percent of the total 18,700 square feet of space in the building. The majority of the space is designated as retail fulfillment and warehouse space for distribution. Warehouse use and distribution are cited as prohibited uses in the neighborhood center retail area.
In response to the letter of determination, Persona Nutrition appealed the decision. After approved requests to delay the hearing, the city council held the appeal hearing at its April 8 meeting. Representatives of Persona Nutrition did not attend the hearing, so council members received an explanation of the hearing itself and the reasoning for the city’s determination from Hofman.
“Persona’s proposed retail sales and retail services are simply too small of a percentage of the overall proposed use by a significant margin to be considered allowable,” he said.
Hofman also explained that the building itself was approved as a shell for a retail anchor that would support the commercial center along the street and provide retail sales and services to the community.
“We gave three to four examples of how it is allowed in the existing business park and why,” he said. “Our hope is they have taken advantage in one of those and can stay within our community, but the desire to keep them within the community and not relocate is not enough to overlook the allowable uses or non-allowable uses in the mixed use final plan.”
Council questions surrounded the justification for the rejected proposal. Councilmember Matt Laase asked how the city determined which use “primarily characterized” the proposed business. Hofman replied that a specific threshold did not have to be determined because a significant majority of the proposed use was explicitly prohibited.
Councilmember Peggy Shepard asked if it was possible to reapply for the process. City attorney Bob Sterbank said Persona would need to make a material change to the application for another proposal to be accepted.
The city council voted to deny Persona Nutrition’s appeal in a unanimous 7-0 vote.
Park Bids Rejected
The city council also unanimously voted to reject of all of the bids received for the Koinonia Park improvement plan project. The bids were rejected due to all being significantly higher than the allocated budget.
The city’s budget for the project is $297,000 and the lowest bid came in at $540,836. The city has received a $75,000 grant, which brings the budget closer to $361,000, but still below the lowest-bid.
In explaining the bill to reject the bids, Councilmember Sean Sundwall said the city needs to scale back the work proposed in order for bids to come in at an appropriate budget.
“Much of the really expensive stuff involved a lot of earth moving, so the team is going to go back and reevaluate that,” he said. “This is not suggesting that Koinonia Park will not be improved, it’s just we need to go back to the drawing board and revise the scope of the work.”
Senior planner Nicole Sanders said the project estimates were incorrectly calculated by a parks designer, and the project had been moved to a more experienced parks designer to remove some of the items and calibrate the project to the budget.
The city is hoping to accept a bid this spring, build during the summer, and have the improvements complete by fall.