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Home Building and Conservation Can Go Hand in Hand

A creative compromise among a developer, a county, a city and an environmental organization will protect about 9,600 acres of forest land adjacent to Snoqualmie Falls. Known as the Snoqualmie Preservation Initiative, the deal was officially completed this summer. The success from this initiative blazes a trail for other deals such as the recently announced Cascade Foothills Initiative.

What started it all was 150 acres directly behind Snoqualmie Falls and about 3,500 acres of land within the Raging River basin and the Upper Snoqualmie Valley; views of these lands from the popular Snoqualmie Falls Park and adjacent lodge could have been altered by subdivisions across the water.
Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Company (Quadrant Homes), King county and the city of Snoqualmie helped buy the 150 acres south of the falls, which was slated for the Falls Crossing development. Quadrant Homes also gave up development rights to 2,800 acres in the Raging River Valley and 650 acres north of the falls.

In exchange, the city speeded the approval process for Quadrant’s Snoqualmie Ridge urban village, which ultimately will include 4,400 homes. The agreement enables the construction of new homes and businesses in an area where infrastructure already exists and growth can be more easily accommodated. Quadrant also was able to add 268 homes to the first phase of the project.

Additionally, the developer provided 12.5 acres in Snoqualmie Ridge to the city of Snoqualmie for building up to 30 units of affordable housing.
County Executive Ron Sims added: "The initiative is a creative way to advance the public's interests in preserving critical areas. The teamwork the parties have brought to the table has been outstanding, and the result is a balanced proposal that will resolve pressing questions about future development in the Snoqualmie area."

In a recent Seattle Times article, Peter Orser, president of both Quadrant and the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish counties said the transaction was a milestone. “Those are strange bedfellows to be working together,” he said. “You know it and I know it.”

Another forestland property owner in the Raging River Valley, Fruit Growers Supply, who owns approximately 6,000 acres adjacent to the Weyerhaeuser forestlands has also expressed interest in being part of this initiative and has begun negotiations.

The deal not only protects the state’s second-most-popular tourist attraction (after Mt. Rainier), it shows that meeting what may at first appear to be mutually exclusive needs can sometimes be met.

“Conservation and homes are not anathema,” said Gene Duvernoy, Cascade Land Conservancy’s Executive Director. “This is one of those cutting-edge projects that change the way we do business.”

Sources: The Seattle Times, The Cascade Land Conservancy and the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties


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