Each time King County updates its Comprehensive Plan, a door is opened to possible development in rural [zoned] areas of the county, including the Snoqualmie Valley.
Around the Valley the topic, or the “D Word”, is contentious: Development. And at the heart of the matter is zoning.
In King County a zoning change can take a piece of land once labeled “rural” and give it a new title – “urban.” Once that change happens, that land is added to the King County Urban Growth Area (UGA).
With that piece of the puzzle complete, cities can then choose to annex that UGA land into their city limits. Once that occurs, that particular city controls the specific type of urban zoning for that newly added land – like residential or commercial.
Those zoning changes happen when the King County opens up its Comprehensive Plan for updates, which is happening now. The Public Review Draft of the 2016 Comp Plan was released in November.
Both North Bend and Snoqualmie had land under consideration/study for that key rural-to-urban zoning change: land near the I-90/SR 18 interchange in Snoqualmie and land near exit 32 in North Bend.
Snoqualmie Expansion Request
The City of Snoqualmie tried a third time to change the zoning on land just north of the busy 90/18 interchange to increase its retail offerings for residents – and once again the county is recommending no UGA expansion.
According to the Draft 2016 King County Comprehensive Plan, the City of Snoqualmie has sufficient buildable land capacity to accommodate forecasted job growth through at least 2031 and there is ample countywide capacity to meet both employment and residential growth targets of the city.
Basically, the county feels the city has enough commercial land capacity to meet residents’ needs and feels there are businesses in nearby towns to also meet those needs.
North Bend Expansion Request
Some North Bend land owners were also requesting the county consider rezoning fourteen land parcels (nearly 100 acres) at I-90 exit 32, near the Snoqualmie River and including Cascade Golf Course. Three corners of the exit 32 area are already in the county’s Urban Growth Area.
The majority of the land studied over the summer is in the floodway and floodplain, with the main area located outside the floodplain being the golf course.
Even with an email from the North Bend City Administrator supporting the rezoning request and asking that the issue be included in the Comprehensive Plan update scope of work, the recommendation was to deny the UGA expansion at this time, but “consider a Four-to-One proposal should the property owner(s) apply.”
According to the draft comprehensive plan, a final decision had not been made as to whether all of the property owners involved would coordinate on a crucial Four-to-One proposal. Zoning changes are subject the 4-to-1 development program, meaning for every one acre of land added to the UGA for development, four acres would be added to King County’s dedicated, permanent open space system.
Even if this land is added to the UGA in the future, per the 4-to-1 development guidelines, only about 20 acres could actually be developed and the rest would be designated open space.
Fall City Business District Expansion Request
Also under consideration in the Comprehensive Plan was an expansion of the Fall City Business District Boundaries.
Although the county is recommending no expansion at this time, stating “the expansion is premature as not decisions have been made regarding a needed wastewater treatment facility or alternative treatment method,” King County did state that it will re-evaluate the expansion with the community once a wastewater treatment analysis is completed. That analysis will assess the feasibility of developing a new wastewater treatment system for Fall City.
Upcoming Community Meeting
King County has scheduled four community meetings to share and listen to community comments regarding the 2016 Draft Comprehensive Plan.
One of those meetings will happen in the Snoqualmie Valley on Wednesday, December 2, 2015 – at the Fall City Fire Station, 4301 334th Place SE in Fall City from 6:30PM to 8:30PM.