Snoqualmie Hills landowner: How the Urban Growth Area protects natural areas surrounding the Snoqualmie Valley

This article comes from Duane Johnson. He and his wife are Snoqualmie Hills land owners who are selling to a development group that is proposing 250 acres located within the Urban Growth Area (UGA) be annexed by the City of Snoqualmie in order for an 800-home active adult community to be built.  Duane wrote the piece in an effort to clear up some misinformation regarding what the UGA is and what it is intended to protect in Washington State – and particularly areas surrounding the Snoqualmie Valley.  Read on…

Understanding the Urban Growth Area

The Urban Growth Area, better known as the UGA, is an area contiguous with a City that has been designated for urban growth.  Land outside of the UGA is designated to remain rural.  The idea was to develop a thoughtful and realistic plan to accommodate anticipated growth in a manner that would promote balanced, healthy communities and preserve rural lands.  It has worked.  Less than 2% of all land in our State falls within the UGA.  UGA’s are designed to preserve the local area’s natural beauty and maintain the “Rural Atmosphere” by preventing urban sprawl into the green forested areas.

The City of Snoqualmie, King County and the State of Washington have all agreed where those UGA’s should be located for future planned development. Location of a UGA is not a process that was taken lightly or crafted overnight by the governing bodies making the decision for the boundaries of the UGA.  In fact, designation of Snoqualmie’s UGA began in the mid-1990s.  The designation process was well thought out and intensely studied.  There were many public meetings, with citizens and stakeholder input considered before the UGA was finally approved and adopted.

Another important role of UGA’s is accommodating growth under the state’s Growth Management Act. UGA’s enable cities to plan for growth at densities and in locations that support the efficient provision of urban services. With the UGA in place, small cities like Snoqualmie and large cities like Bellevue and Seattle each will take their share of population growth. The UGA’s and related comprehensive planning processes have enabled cities to plan for growth in a manner that is thoughtful and balanced.

The UGA also is very difficult to expand or modify in any way once it is established.  For example, the City of Snoqualmie has attempted several times to expand the existing UGA to include the area North of I-90 and Highway 18.  The City’s request has been repeatedly denied, even though it was appealed all the way to Superior Court of Washington.  Instead, existing land within the current Snoqualmie UGA should be developed as intended.

Snoqualmie Ridge is an example of a dense urban master planned development within the UGA. This could have instead evolved from the clear-cut tree farm that was its prior use and perhaps would have been developed into 5 or 10 acre lots with a mix of single family homes.  Instead, Snoqualmie Ridge is a very nice place for families and all of us to enjoy.  It also will continue to be a great neighborhood partly because the existing UGA’s will help preserve the rural areas of our State outside the current UGA boundary.

We should not be surprised by plans to develop within the UGA.  Instead, we should be thankful that we are adhering to a plan that is protecting the tremendous natural areas surrounding our city.

~ Duane Johnson


King County Urban Growth areas in pink. Photo: King County.

Comments are closed.


  • Based on King County Parcel viewer it looks like Mr. Johnson owns roughly 45 acres of the 260 acre proposed annexation area, he has plenty to gain if the development moves forward. Terrible news for nearby residents who hold great value in the rural setting where they live.

  • How long have you been there, and where you moving to, Duane? Just curious…

    1. It would be contained in the mixed-use agreement – if it makes it that far in the annexation process. That’s when they usually decide which parcels will be zoned single-family, multi-family, etc. which dictate the dwellings per acre usually documented in zoning code definitions. If the annexation moves along in the multi-step process, the mixed use agreement will have public comment. For now, I suggest looking at the city’s current zoning to see what the dwellings per acre are for each type of residence.

  • It is clear from several of the comments that the individuals are not aware of the many hundreds of hours of personal time and effort that Duane has given to our community as a volunteer on boards and commissions over the years. The primary reason Duane can help us all understand the Urban Growth Boundary concept is because of the knowledge he has gained working for our community – without compensation – other than the satisfaction of being involved in making this a better Valley.

    1. Duane owns a lot of property, and what will be most profitable for him won’t be the best fit for Snoqualmie. The UGA was designed before they made a number of changes to zoning in other parts of the city – so the population is much greater than anticipated at the time that this land was designated as an Urban Growth Area. There isn’t enough water for the proposed development, there are limitations on the waste water treatment plant, the roads they will use will require a lot of work in order to be used by the community, and those roads will require impacting property owners outside the city limits. There are a lot of concerns with this proposal. The ideal of the UGA was a good one, but that was theory – now is reality.

  • I appreciate that Duane has done wonderful things for the community, selling us out to a developer is not one of them. I like this area rural with low traffic. Adding thousands of cars per day onto SE 80th will directly affect my family and my neighbors in a very negative way. I do not like this annexation plan and I hope that it is voted down.

  • Peggy, all I see in all of your posts is how you are totally against any and all developments. I question whether your time would be better spent discussing birth control and population control. I do not have any financial gain involving any of the developments in the Valley. I am a Snoqualmie Ridge Resident. I don’t feel it is upon us to take away the good investments of others who own land in the UGA. The UGA was designed and approved years ago. When I bought my house here I was aware of it. For those who are now opposed to this growth I say they should have looked at what was going in in the future prior to them purchasing property here. And for those who purchased property in the UGA who might see financial gain, congratulations on doing your homework and investing in an area laid out for this type of development. Yes there are always some growing pains with new developments. Yes there are going to be more people and traffic. But unless there is zero population growth we will need to continue providing housing for different demographics of our population. I personally feel that a senior community is great for a person who in the not very far future could be looking for a ranch house, a little smaller in size, with people the same age as me living around me. Or, I can leave the Snoqualmie area in a few years because there is not this type of housing available. I love Snoqualmie, and although part of that attraction is its small town charm, I do not feel all development is bad, and that maybe you should pick your fights rather than opposing all developments whether they are housing, or businesses.

  • Living Snoqualmie