JANUARY 27, 1997

 The Edwards Agency

Opinion

Reckless speed on Herbfarm issue

Herbfarm To the King County Council:
   I'm expressing my deep concern over proposed Ordinance 96-574, and the reckless speed at which the Council is pursuing closure to the issue of what becomes of the Herbfarm restaurant.
   More concerning than the speed, however, is the misinformation on what is about to happen. In the last few days, I have seen general confusion in the community as a whole as to what will be built and where; which parcels of land (owned by the Herbfarm) are affected by the ordinance, and specifically, will the operation now sprawl onto the adjacent tracts of land the owners recently purchased?
   The council has backed off on permitting the lodging for now; will this position change soon?
   What is the Herbfarm exactly: a farm, a restaurant, a cooking school, an events organizer, or all of the above, including as yet unspecified future revenue generating enterprises?
   What is driving the haste in allowing the owners to begin construction of an enterprise with a square footage seven times larger than what burned down?
   As a resident of Fall City and a neighbor to the Herbfarm, I will be impacted by any adverse consequences of improper reclassification of the land use. My biggest concern is expansion. The history of the Herbfarm starts with a charming story of herbs in a roadside stand with a glass jar. It has grown every year since that time, and has become a rather lucrative operation, all on what I understand to be grandfathered zoning laws and in structures that did not meet code. Rumors are that now the roadside stand wants to be a four star hotel, eatery, cooking school and megabuck tourist attraction. What next? Where is the bounding limit?
   I do not begrudge the owners of the Herbfarm the right to resume conducting business as before, and I encourage the council to expedite any effort the owners might undertake to replace the structure that burned down with a building that is up to code, provides roughly the same seating capacity, and is in the old footprint.
   Beyond this generous action, however, the council should not define "rebuilding" to mean a huge expansion of the operation without normal due process of all considerations, foremost of which is time for all parties of interest to absorb what is happening.
   I urge the council to reconsider the proposed ordinance carefully, and refrain from taking action so quickly.

Matt H. Travis, Fall City