Development group, Snoqualmie Heights Partners, has spent the last two years working on multiple pieces needed to bring forth their proposal for a 800-home, 55 and over age restricted community to the Snoqualmie City Council.
Even with ongoing land owner negotiations, as well as land use, engineering, water rights and transportation anlysis, the group says the proposal is not a “now project.”
It’s a far in the future project – and not a done deal, with many steps, planning, studies and communication needed before any new homes could be built in Snoqualmie on the needed 260 acres currently owned by approximately 35 different parties.
The proposed development would take about 12-14 years to complete. If it moved forward, the first home wouldn’t be constructed until 2021 and build out is predicted for 2030.
In a presentation to the Snoqualmie Economic Development Commission on May 17, 2017 Snoqualmie Heights partner Chip McBroom clarified the most critical piece needed for the project’s future: a land annexation approval from the city council.
But first let’s start with the roots of this proposal
The needed 260 acres of land sit between Snoqualmie Ridge, downtown Snoqualmie and the Snoqualmie casino – in the city’s Urban Growth Area referred to as Snoqualmie Hills West.
The city’s comprehensive plan is a key factor in what has brought this development proposal forward. All city’s have comprehensive plans. They are required by the state. ‘Comp plans’ are a 20-year road maps, providing authority and the policy framework for development and conservation within cities and their urban growth areas.
The plan guides a city’s decision-making regarding things like community character, land use, housing, transportation, sensitive areas/natural environment, capital facilities and utilities.
The location of future developments often trace back to a comprehensive plan – and what a city envisions for their urban growth areas, which is the unincorporated county land cities are allowed to annex guided by King County Urban Growth Act.
In the case of Snoqualmie’s Comprehensive Plan, Snoqualmie Hills West has designated land uses that include an “innovative mixed-use” development defined to included “a mix of residential types, sizes, costs, and living arrangements to expand the range of housing choices within the City, and may include small-scale or compatible retail and service uses…and could include age restricted, independent or assisted-living housing for seniors.”
The proposal: Snoqualmie Heights, Master planned, Active Adult Community
So now you know how we got here. With a strong job market, King County is growing fast. Cities within the county aren’t immune from that growth. The Growth Management Act essentially requires cities plan for and manage growth per their comprehensive plans.
According to the Snoqualmie Heights presentation, age restricted – often referred to as “retirement”- communities are lacking in King County, and the 55+ age group is predicted to be region’s fastest growing demographic in the coming decades. In fact, the proposed Snoqualmie project already has the interest of four national builders.
For the project to be viable, it requires 800 units, which is proposed to be a mix of 2-3 bedroom, single family homes ranging in size from 2,000 – 3,000 sq. ft, townhomes, and smaller condos. Those homes would be located on 220 acres. What would go on the remaining 40 acres would in part be determined by city needs, community input – and designated in a future mixed-use plan if a land annexation is approved.
An earlier presentation from the Snoqualmie Heights Group identified those 40-acres to contain retail with 400 apartments above and possibly an assisted living facility, but the group said this was just an early idea and there is flexibility for the city to decide what is most needed and appropriate.
But what about traffic, roads, water, affordability?
With any new development proposal comes many questions and objections, but the development group said it believes it is bringing forth a project with benefits for the city including: minimal new population pressure or burden on schools; lowest impact of daily commuting on roads, especially at peak hours; an age demographic that likes to shop locally; needed age diversity and balance within the city.
With the location of the proposed development, connector roads would have to be constructed, including access to downtown Snoqualmie, North Bend Way near the Casino and Snoqualmie Parkway. According to the presentation, this would be determined as the land use agreement was drafted and with community input.
As for increased traffic, according to the developer’s traffic analysis, the proposed project would generate less traffic than approved in city’s comprehensive plan for the Snoqualmie Hills West area upon development. The presentation also noted the importance of the I-90/SR 18 improvement project starting later this year and being completed about the same time as the first homes would be constructed in 2021.
Mayor Larson brought up the concern of water rights, saying it was his number one issue – that he would not let this project risk the water rights of other projects already in development. According to the group’s Water Rights attorney, they have identified some existing water rights and have been extensively working on the issue, but didn’t believe it would hold up their project.
It was noted that a pre-annexation agreement could contain language addressing water rights, stating there is reasonable expectation that water will be available, but establishing that no homes could be built until those rights were secured.
Economic development commission members brought up the need for affordable housing within the city, asking if the project would contain affordable housing options. The developers noted, again, that would be determined as the mixed use agreement was developed if annexation was approved. Mayor Larson noted that Snoqualmie Ridge I and II required 15% of homes be ‘affordable, a standard the city deems important.
Do Landowners Want to Sell?
As stated, the proposed development hinges on the city council approving a land annexation. The developer has been in contact with the approximate 35 land owners of the needed acreage, stating the value of the 260 acres is around $100 million.
While Snoqualmie Heights partner Chip McBroom stated all landowners were supportive, Mayor Larson pushed back saying that some residents had been in contact with him who not in favor of selling. One landowner in attendance stated he believed a majority of owners were in favor, but not all were supportive at this juncture.
Council member Brad Toft asked about holdouts. In the case of this private development, eminent domain would not come into play, but if there was a landowner who didn’t want to sell – a 10-acre parcel was used as an example – they would be subject to new zoning if they decided to sell in the future and the development could be designed around them.
The development group stated repeatedly during the presentation that they have been reaching out to ‘stakeholders’ and plan more community outreach. They reiterated that annexation is the first step – and although there are important questions to answer and studies to do – the group is prepared to take those steps in the future, but wasn’t ready to invest millions of dollars doing them before a land annexation was approved.
In order for the project to stay on its established timeline, the development group desires a land annexation formally approved by spring of 2018. In the meantime, they would work with the city to develop a pre-annexation agreement and annexation implementation plan.
It would all begin with the filing of a formal ‘Notice of Intent to Annex,’ which is expected to happen later this spring or summer.
IF the annexation happens, it would take about three years to develop a land use plan; do environmental reviews; create a development agreement; and secure required engineering approvals.
After those steps were completed, phased-in home construction would start in 2021, with full build out estimated for 2030.
When dates are established for Community Meetings on the proposed Snoqualmie Hills Active Adult Development, we’ll keep you posted.
You can read our earlier story on this proposed development HERE