The disputed development of the Snoqualmie Mill site can now go to City Council for final approval, after a hearing examiner ruled in favor of the developers and the city, delaying an administrative challenge against the project.
In her 79-page decision released June 28, hearing examiner Sharon Rice upheld the adequacy of the project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) with respect to the Environmental Policy Act of the United States. State. She also ruled that the site’s 15-year master plan complied with state land use laws.
The decision comes after the Snoqualmie Community Action Network (SCAN), a small nonprofit organization of Valley residents, appealed the city’s final EIS after it was released last December. This appeal was to stop the project on the grounds that the EIA did not fully consider traffic impacts or how to protect the Snoqualmie River and other water sources from contamination.
SCAN’s appeal regarding the EIA and master plan compliance were the subject of two separate public hearings held in April. These decisions have been consolidated into a single decision document. The master plan review is required by state law, while SCAN’s appeal triggered the other public hearing.
Once the decision has been made, the proposed master plan can be submitted to the municipal council for final approval. If approved, Snoqualmie Mill Ventures LLC, the project developer, can begin applying for building and construction permits. It’s unclear when council will consider the plan, but a vote is expected this summer, according to the city.
A city spokesperson said it could not provide a permitting and construction timeline at this time.
Steve Rimmer, owner of Mill Ventures, said through a spokesperson that they were pleased with the hearing reviewer’s decision and would work to address environmental concerns in view.
“We are committed to being thorough and delivering a project that revitalizes a brownfield site and creates jobs and economic benefits for the Snoqualmie Valley community,” he wrote in a statement.
Snoqualmie Mayor Katherine Ross echoed Rimmer’s comments.
“This project will revitalize this long-vacant property, improve the environment, create jobs and positively benefit our local economy,” she said in a press release.
SCAN member Lacy Linney said the group would review the decision and consult with their attorneys to determine next steps. In the meantime, she said they will continue to focus on grassroots efforts and awareness.
“We’re obviously quite disappointed, but I don’t think we’re shocked to be a small community group taking on the city,” she said. “We will continue to focus on protecting the city’s water supply and the Snoqualmie River.”
The Mill Site property has been part of the city’s overall plan since the 1990s. The project itself has been in the works for about a decade, with the decision marking a significant milestone.
The city annexed the 261-acre Mill Site property north of downtown in 2012 alongside a pre-annexation agreement with Snoqualmie Mill Ventures.
Mill Ventures submitted the now-confirmed commercial and industrial master plan for the project in 2017. This plan proposes the construction of 1.83 million gross square feet of restaurant space, apartments, offices and warehouses in three phases over a period of 10 to 15 years.
The proposed development site has made headlines as it is heavily polluted. An assessment of the site by the Department of Ecology last August found it posed a “high risk to human and environmental health” and ranked among the most polluted sites in the state.
This pollution, which includes PCBs, petroleum, arsenic and other chemicals, was first discovered around 1990. Other areas of contamination were discovered between 1991 and 2005.
The master plan submitted by Mill Ventures covers the entire construction of the project, but only provides a detailed analysis of the first phase – which notably has no known pollution. The second and third phases are currently “conceptual,” according to a report from city staff.
The first phase of the project covers a portion of 102 acres in the northwest section of the site. It would bring 604,000 square feet of properties, including 160 residential units.
Last August, Tom Sroufe, the developer of the project, told the Valley Record that he hoped construction could begin as early as next year.