City Council should not cave in to pressure

Guest Columnist

  • Friday, October 3, 2008 4:16am
  • Opinion

Shame on Puget Western, pressuring the Snoqualmie City Council to make a decision on Falls Crossing by the end

of December! Alarm bells, yellow flashing caution lights and whistles go

off in my mind. One of the best lessons my father ever taught me was,

“Never allow anyone to pressure you into any major decision with taunts of a

limited-time offer.” Decisions made under pressure usually result in

hidden problems not revealed at the time of sale/approval.

Why is Puget Western suddenly pressuring the city council to make

a decision on Falls Crossing by the end of the year? What

advantage to the city is it that Mountains to Sound Greenway

is offering? Much of the land they would be interested in is already required

to remain open space due to floodplains, or has been proposed as an

exchange for mitigations for parks.

Unfortunately, some of the lands involved are also toxic cleanup

sites, sites which at one time were storage yards for electrical transformers

containing PCBs. PCBs, and additional substances of questionable toxic

nature, still remain in the soils. Attempts to remove them from as deep as

26 feet have made the parcels non-usable. The Department of Ecology has

been asked to supply a sign-off letter stating that “this is as good as it gets.”

These parcels are in the floodplains. These toxins have the

potential of moving anywhere within the flood areas of the city of

Snoqualmie, including Kimball Creek. When flood waters recede, these toxins will

flow over Snoqualmie Falls, into Fall City and the Lower Valley. Toxins, such

as PCBs, affect not only fish, but also the immune systems and

reproductive systems of people who catch and eat fish. Anyone who saw the movie

“Erin Brokovich” should get the concept.

Why should the city of Snoqualmie take on the

responsibility of such dangerous land when the problem was created by Puget

Sound Energy, parent company of Puget Western?

I, as a citizen, am not satisfied with the plan the city has, which is a

letter that says: “The city cannot be held liable.” This is not an acceptable

response to any citizen who finds themselves, or their pets, dealing with

tumors and medical issues. Do not even consider becoming a certified

organic farmer.

The Planning Commission did not spend a year rooting out 694

findings and proposing 136 conditions while assuming that further review and

considerations from the City Council would be rubber-stamped. Only

Puget Western seems to presume no further evidence is needed.

The City Council is comprised of individuals, elected to represent

the citizens of the city of Snoqualmie. The Planning Commission is made up

of individuals who have volunteered to sort out the details of any

property owner who wishes to build, etc., in relation to the Snoqualmie

comprehensive plan, state and federal requirements, etc.

Why are these elected and volunteer citizens continually being

impressed upon that their responsibility is to make sure that “the city” will

not be sued by the applicant (Puget Western)? Why are they under the

belief that they personally can be sued? Washington State RCW code

states those persons serving on city councils or commissions cannot be

personally sued for decisions made in the course of fulfilling their duties. They are

required to present potential conflicts of interest. Not doing so could create

legal issues on a personal level. But having informed the public of any

conflicts and assuring us, the citizens, that they are able to make a neutral

decision, they cannot be personally sued determining via the evidence that

a specific project should or should not be approved. This law was

established to protect those individuals volunteering or running for office. Who

would be willing to serve in such positions if they risked losing their homes or

savings?

A property application is not a judicial matter. It is quasi-judicial

(more like a civil case). A preponderance of the evidence can decide the

matter. There are 694 issues of concern in the Falls Crossing application.

The City Council has several options. They could return the matter

to the Planning Commission, stating that they are not willing to consider

the issues until all of the studies have been completed. They could require

a change in wording within the conditions from “should” to “shall.”

Without this wording, we are pretty much letting the fox be in charge of

the chicken coop (issues we have seen with the Ridge), or

they could deny the project because of a

preponderance of evidence, or any combination of

the above.

The concept of shortfall agreements has contributed greatly to

this current conflict. Any way you slice it, if you allow someone to put funds

up front, you have set the stage for approval, before due process. But I

have not found any documents that state approval of a project is

guaranteed even if the applicant spends money trying to address the issues

required by the codes.

Linda Nelson is a resident of Snoqualmie

Linda Nelson


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