Are we ready for another development in Snoqualmie?

Record Editorial

With the upcoming hearings on the proposed Falls Crossing happening in the next few weeks, it would be prudent to again point out concerns regarding the development and press the

planning commission to take a long hard look at continued growth in this small town.

The biggest concern for anyone in this community – or in the state, for

that matter – should be the viewshed protection for Snoqualmie Falls. The Falls

are critical to the Valley’s tourism trade, and any impacts on its viewshed

could also affect the long-term viability of the state’s tourism trade. I would

venture to say that it is one of the top five tourist attractions in the state.

With that in mind, the company hired by the city to study the

viewshed impacts, Jongejan, Gerrard and McNeal, made these observations:

“The success of screening efforts depends upon maintaining the health

of trees to remain, and establishing supplemental planting. There is some

risk that trees which currently provide visual screening could be lost to either

gradual processes or sudden events. Gradual processes include shedding lower

branches or loss of trees to shading, disease or root damage. Sudden events which

could reduce visual screening include blow-down after development (due to

reduced wind protection from the southwest, and winds tunneling between

structures), fires or landslide.”

I wonder what the winds are like now, rolling over Snoqualmie Ridge

to the Falls. As we all know, this place can feel a lot like Ellensburg as

winter winds howl, blowing rain sideways. I also wonder how many trees have

fallen since clear cutting large sections of the Ridge.

In conclusion, we believe that portions of proposed structures could

be visible from the observation platform and public walkways at the Salish

Lodge under the current proposal. The applicant’s current proposal includes

measures that will help to address potential view shed issues. The additional

mitigation measures described in this report could be required by the City in order

to minimize short and longer-term impacts on observers from the falls.

However, some visibility of structures through the powerline corridor (particularly

from the southern portions of the pubic walkways) seems almost unavoidable as

the proposal is currently configured. Peripheral views of the village retail

area may also occur. As the applicant has stated, it may be necessary to

reexamine height limits and screening for specific lots in areas of the highest

concern (especially the historic district area and powerline corridor) as the

approval process continues in order to determine whether specific houses will be

visible; simply stated, it may necessary to reexamine height limits and

screening for specific lots in area.

A city ordinance has stated very clearly that no new structure should

be visible in the viewshed. Let’s hold to that line, and if the project is

approved, make sure measures to protect the viewshed are in place. And monitor

the process so that the first glimpse from the viewshed results in an

immediate stop-work order on the whole development and revisions to the plan are

made that are acceptable to the city.

But should viewshed protection be our only concern? Heck no. The

jobs generated in the new Falls Crossing development, (i.e., gas

station/convenience store and small shops) are predominantly lower wage jobs. And it is very

likely that those folks won’t be able to afford housing in Snoqualmie or anywhere

in the Valley. Affordable housing is not a reality in East King County, and it

amazes me that every EIS lists areas of affordable housing. It is affordable if

your income level is above the $60K mark, I guess.

There is already a real shortage of employees for local businesses.

Granted, jobs in our community typically don’t pay the wages of an eastside

professional. But the jobs generated by Falls Crossing are exactly the same as

the ones already here. And many a business owner can tell you how hard it is to

fill these jobs.

So what about traffic? Well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to

determine that continued development will increase the traffic problems. What we need

is a higher-level plan. Not a North Bend or Snoqualmie plan but an

entire-Valley plan, created and controlled by a group with interests here. (Hmmm,

sounds like a great reason to start a new county …. sorry, just amusing myself for

a second).

The staff report states: … “Pursuant to that

ordinance,” (A City ordinance which sets a level of service at intersections of D)

the City prohibits any development that will cause the level of service of a transportation facility

to drop below the City’s accepted level of service unless transportation

improvements to accommodate those impacts are made concurrent with

development of the project. By its terms, the City’s concurrency ordinance applies to all

of the intersections included in the City’s Comprehensive Plan. The City’s

Plan included road improvements that are not owned by the City. By

requiring concurrency on all roads listed in the Comprehensive Plan, the

City’s concurrency ordinance arguably goes farther than that required by the

Growth Management Act in that RCW 36.70A.070(6)(b) only requires a showing

of concurrency for “locally owned transportation facilities.”

So by having patches of development such as Falls Crossing, there is

no way to restrict development that will have widespread impacts on traffic?

This seems to be a problem similar to a neighboring community, the

Sammamish Plateau, and look at what efforts are now being put forth to mitigate some

of the congestion they face on a daily basis. A Valley transportation plan is

badly needed and continuing further development without it will create more

traffic congestion. Maybe the planning commission can require Puget Western to

facilitate such a plan through the creation of a commission?

Here’s one that makes me feel real good that someone has a handle

on traffic: Development of Falls Crossing simply moves forwards the time

when levels of service cross the threshold to unacceptability. These intersections

except the I-90/SR18 westbound ramps do not have identified funding sources.

Last but not least ( there are many other details worth researching) is

the impacts on the existing business corridor in Snoqualmie.

The staff report states: Explore means by which the City can support

the retention and development of small business. The potential impact on

existing City businesses from the proposed new retail development is unknown.

Creation of new residential and retail development could, on the one hand,

generate increased market for all businesses in the City, as well as the

businesses proposed in Snoqualmie Ridge. Alternatively, the proposed Neighborhood

Retail uses could compete with, and ultimately replace, some of the existing

businesses within the City. The proposed Village Retail area has the potential

to encourage the development of new, locally owned small businesses.

This is a farce. Based on the current and future economic conditions

of what is quickly becoming a bedroom community, it is highly unlikely

that local, small business owners could afford the rents that would likely be

asked for new retail space. In addition, other economic factors, such as the

Internet, are already creating substantial competition from businesses outside the

area. The future of local retail will substantially change over the next several

years and be radically different by the 2006 build-out. Service-related

businesses will not likely change substantially during this time period.

I feel that the only businesses that will be able to afford these types of

rents will be franchised, larger businesses, whose economic interests do not lie

in the community but rather lie in the bottom line.

I urge the planning commission to discuss the impacts of Falls