Deal poses some problems

Letter to the Editor.

I was in North Bend, having myself a cup of Bad Ass coffee while reading the latest hot edition of the Snoqualmie Valley Record (Feb. 15, 2001), when I got a serious case of the caffeine jitters. According to the dictionary, espresso is: coffee brewed by forcing steam through finely ground, darkly brewed coffee beans. In the case of the articles titled “Deal reached for Falls Crossing” and “County decision unpopular with North Bend officials,” each appear to be consistent with forcing steam through beans.

What caused my jolted reaction from extreme joy about preserving Snoqualmie Falls to somber comtemplation was comparing the comments in two steamy articles about land trades and development in the Upper Valley. Both the Zemp and Falls Crossing proposals are somewhat equivalent regarding size and public benefit, however, very disproportionate regarding impact and potential public cost. Question: Besides the obvious, what’s so good about the $13.3 million Snoqualmie Falls “deal” (182-acre hostage exchange), and what’s so bad about the zero-cost Zemp rezone (160 acres open space)?

Consider how the citizens who labored for years to bring the Falls to the attention of elected officials might feel about shifting an additional 268 dwelling units from the Falls Crossing development to the Ridge Phase I, and a green light on the Ridge Phase II development scheme. Could this be a sugar substitute? The issue to be addressed was the preservation of the physical and spiritual integrity of the Falls, not a development swap with the potential of exceeding growth, facility and infrastructure projections.

The “Falls deal,” according to the Snoqualmie Valley Record, at the cost of $13.3 million: “It’s an important agreement that gives all the parties what they need and value the most, but the biggest winner is the public.” To save Snoqualmie Falls from Puget Western’s unmitigated blight, the city will pay $1.65 million, and Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Co. (WRECO) may eventually pay $11 million for the land adjacent to Snoqualmie Falls. Seven hundred thousand dollars is not accounted for. Perhaps this is for administrative costs, and/or the gratuity (charitable contribution) paid to the Cascade Land Conservancy for its doughnut-dipping effort since last fall.

However, within the creamy, frothy agreement, if WRECO gets the shakes, King County could assume the WRECO debt. It is rumored King County will have a $40 million shortfall next year. It is not clear, in what way, the Falls Crossing agreement will protect and/or potentially preserve acres in the Raging River watershed or Tokul Creek. Are these areas which are already protected from development by zoning?

In contrast to the impact and the uncertainty of potential public costs of the “Falls deal,” the Zemp property rezone (50 acres) preserves 160 acres of scenic land at no cost to citizens in exchange for 17 new homes clustered on three-acre parcels adjacent to I-90. I think the recriminations about the Zemp rezone and the hyperadulation concerning the “Falls deal” are simply election reprisals (District 12) and the work of profit-sharing spin doctors. The entire region should be grateful for the protection of Snoqualmie Falls, however, we could have had a V-8. Oh well, that’s how the biscotti breaks.

Paul Carkeek