On Monday evening, August 27th, amidst a packed house, the Snoqualmie City Council once again took up the topic of the building height limit in its downtown historic district.
Discussions regarding increasing the height limit of 30 feet in the historic overlay district zone to match the 35 foot limit in the underlying Business Retail zone have been ongoing since spring, including multiple committee and council meetings.
Numerous residents showed up, filling the council chambers and voicing opposition to changing the height limit, including former mayor Fuzzy Fletcher.
Over the past few weeks, resident Jane Storrs and her homemade protest signs have been a familiar sight at the city-owned, vacant King Street lot proposed to be sold and developed into a wine production facility, restaurant and boutique hotel. Selling the King Street lot, currently used for parking, has been part of the city’s downtown revitalization plans for over a decade.
After a lengthy discussion, council members approved the increased height of 35 feet by a vote of 6-1. The council did throw in a surprise, though. Councilmember Lasse proposed removing amendment language that provided an allowance for flood code elevation, which would allow new downtown buildings to surpass the 35 foot limit. Lasse said he wanted the flood and building height issues to be separated.
In a move that Mayor Larson described as surprising, by a 4-3 vote, the amendment’s flood elevation allowance language was removed, which will most likely ensure that any new building in the downtown historic district is capped at 35 feet. The code does allow appurtenances to surpass that limit, though.
According to the City of Snoqualmie, the current tallest building downtown is the Woodman Lodge at 33 feet.
When asked how she felt about the council vote, Jane Storrs said she felt it was a win. She added, “The ‘flood allowance’ could have been who-knows-how tall and it was an unprecedented excuse to inflate height.”
Storrs, who is very concerned about reduced parking and river access, seemed glad to see the council acknowledge the importance of protecting public access to the river and that parking issues need to be evaluated and addressed.
With the municipal code’s inconsistent downtown building height issue – something city officials say triggered the in-depth discussions – resolved, the city said via press release that when it closes on the sale of the King Street lot, purchaser Sigillo Cellars will “need to complete detailed architectural plans and apply for permits, including Historical Design Review Board approval. Construction would follow approval of permits.”
The closing of the sale was extended until September 30th while council finished debating downtown building heights. Any new building on the King Street lot would have a total height not to exceed 35 feet from street level to the roof.