July 20, 1998
Strengthening and diversification of economy would achieve goals
The July 6, 1997 Valley View contained a Letter to the Editor from a member of Friends of Fall City. The author expresses some values we share: protection of the rural lifestyle and strengthening the sense of community within Fall City. These are more than words. Over the past two years we have purchased 12 acres of property. Six acres are to be returned to farming, possibly with a farmer's market. For the other six acres a classic rural get-away inn including restaurant, fly fishing museum, an active sports center (rural activities) and other related uses is planned. Architecture, site planning and layout are to include natural stone underground parking to preserve more green space. The inn site (Fall City Landing) is to include a wide newly planted fish and creature habitat friendly game corridor linkage. We have engaged experts to explore how this Fall City Landing development can result in a more nature-friendly environment than presently exists on this site bordering on the Snoqualmie and Raging Rivers, adjacent to the Colonial Inn, within Fall City.
We have never intended to portray the Friends of Fall City as some sort of left-wing extremist organization with a hidden agenda, as the author stated someone has. However, I have asked who belongs to this organization, what its structure is and who the officers are. Representatives of this group have opposed our planned development asking for a moratorium on our development and we would like to know who this criticism is coming from. Is this 12 people or 300? What is their official status? Are they representing the community in some official capacity or just expressing their own individual views? A view I heard from one Friend of Fall City is that we should leave our business-zoned property as vacant open space to benefit the community, and that this site should not be used for any of its legally zoned business uses.
The most compatible and feasible active use we have identified is Fall City Landing. Nearly half of the site will remain as river buffer and be newly established as a game-friendly habitat. Public fishing access to the river will be maintained. Demanding environmental protections will be met. Yes, visitors will come, shop in Fall City, stay at the inn, fish in the river, spend their money and go home. And some jobs will be created for local Valley residents. The long term success of the type of development we plan depends very much on maintaining the rural character and atmosphere in and around Fall City. Why would guests come here if this was one more suburban or urban place like those found in Redmond, Woodinville, Kirkland, Bellevue, Seattle or Issaquah? By planning the type of development we have, our big investment is in maintaining this rural environment.
A recent demographic review of the Fall City Trade Area (zip code 98024) by Scan/U.S. Inc. shows that in 1997, 31.2% of the households were newcomers (here less than one year), and 69.6% moved here in the last five years. With this type of rapid population turnover, no wonder people are very concerned about change, including some of the Friends of Fall City members.
Our special land use (permitted by existing planning and zoning) would be new to the rural town of Fall City. We hope to be a good neighbor and bring tangible benefits with some basic long term stability that might not otherwise exist here. Many successful small towns in Europe (small towns for hundreds of years) have an inn, several restaurants and such activities as fishing, boating, bicycling, farming, a farmer's market and other uses to support the local economy. These bring in dollars from visitors (not new residential population). The uses, design, layout, materials and character of the development we plan may actually be an effective method to help preserve Fall City as a natural rural place and to avoid becoming another suburban bedroom community. We are counting on this with our own investment.
We hope that informed people and Friends of Fall City members accept our intentions as true- spirited. And we hope they accept the idea that Fall City can remain a viable rural town and that some careful complementary strengthening and diversification of the local economy may be the best way to achieve this goal. We recognize that to be successful, it is very important how this is done. We intend to do the best and most responsible job possible, with attention to details.
J. Thomas Bernard, president of Bernard Development Company