Snoqualmie City Council Affirms the Decision of Historic Design Review Board Regarding the Rails/Hovinga Project Downtown

On Monday, March 28th, 2022, the Snoqualmie City Council voted to dismiss and/or deny appeals brought by several city residents regarding a Downtown Snoqualmie development project.

The appeals were first discussed at the Snoqualmie City Council meeting on March 14th, 2022. The Rails/Hovinga development project was approved by the Historic review board on January 18th, 2022, at which point several residents filed appeals.

According to city municipal code 17.35.170, “Snoqualmie City Council shall hear the appeal within 45 days and render its decision within 70 days of the appeal finding.”

At the March 14th meeting, after a brief explanation of the Appearance of Fairness Doctrine by city attorney Bob Sterbank and a poll of the members to ensure the sanctity of the quasi-judicial land use hearing, council members heard the Rails/Hovinga development appeal.

Assistant City Planner Dylan Gamble introduced the project to the participants. The lot in question is along Maple Ave between King and River streets, kitty-corner from city hall.

The building would be three stories on a lot that is zoned business retail 2, described as “pedestrian-oriented retail and service uses that serve as a shopping catalyst to other like businesses, as well as limited office and professional uses.”

The proposed use of the building would be retail on the first floor, with the upper floors consisting of eleven market-rate apartments with a rooftop deck. *Note: project renderings include a stairway silo design feature that the Historic Review Board did not approve.

Next to speak on behalf of the ten appellants was Snoqualmie resident Dane Stokes. Mr. Stokes, a member of the architectural community, expressed concerns regarding “blatant errors made in the approval process of this building that directly put our Historic District’s architectural integrity and value as a tourist destination at risk.”

Stokes listed four main points of concern:

  1. The new building does not relate in style, massing, materials, and fenestration to at least one contributing structure. SMC 17.35.210(B)
  2. That business retail 2 only allows “Second Story Single-Family or Multi-Family Dwelling Units above Nonresidential Uses”; and does not approve third floors or roof decks above that third floor. SMC 17.55.020
  3. The group questions the legality of the appurtenances displayed in the proposal; if the base of the roof deck is at the 35’ height limit, they believe everything physically mounted on that roof should be considered an appurtenance. SMC 17.20.040
  4. Lastly, the group questions if the project was reviewed by the historic preservation officer, who shall inform the King County Office of Cultural Resources of all such applications. The historic preservation officer shall make a staff report and recommendation to the historical design review board. SMC 17.35.150

Mr. Stokes ended by saying the appellants want the council to “make sure this building contributes to, rather than detracts from, the unique sense of place that makes Historic Snoqualmie distinctive and attractive, and the place we love to call home.”

Next to speak on behalf of the applicant was Nicole De Leon, a land-use attorney. De Leon noted that the applicants understand that this project proposal is different from what residents are used to in the area but that the site was recently rezoned BR-2 (see description above). The project is consistent with the intent that the area is used differently now.

De Leon argued that two of the appellant’s arguments were not properly appealed and could not be considered by the council. Additionally, she pointed out that the appellants have the burden of proof and must leave every council member with a firm conviction that a mistake was made in the approval process. If the appellants have not done so, they have not met their burden.

Interim Community Development Director Jason Rogers spoke on behalf of the city and noted that appeals 1-6 and 7-9 “fail to identify the factual and legal grounds for an appeal and therefore should be dismissed.” He went on to note that appeals 6&10 were regarding land use and not design and therefore not appealable to the city council.

After rebuttal from the applicant, appellant and questions from council members Mayhew, Laase and Benson, the council voted unanimously to table the decision until more information could be provided.

At the March 28th, 2022, council meeting, after a closed session, council member Mayhew moved to “affirm the decision of the historic design review board for the Rails/Hovinga project and request the city attorney prepare a resolution to the effect for adoption at the April 11th regular city council meeting.” Councilmember Wotton seconded the motion.

When asked for comment, Dane Stokes noted on behalf of the appellants, “We feel that despite the fact that the city denied our appeal, all of the points in this appeal are still valid. We are also concerned that this decision was not made by a properly trained Historic Design Review Board, but rather the Planning Commission acting in this capacity.”

[This article has been changed to reflect that the project vote, during the council meeting of March 14th, was during an open, not closed door session]

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