November 2, 1998
Who declared the Valley the soccer capitol of the Northwest?
Last week, I attended the Hollywood Hill Association's (HHA) annual meeting. While there was a wide range of topics slated for presentation by the HHA, much attention was demanded by a raucous group representing the Northshore Soccer Assn. (NSA) who had a much narrower scope of concerns centering on its quest for more soccer facilities in the Sammamish Valley.
As the dad of two young soccer players who play in the well-run Northshore Soccer League, I recognize that north King County needs more sports facilities, but they should be spread out amongst the outlying communities where a shortage exists, not in the Sammamish Valley, where we already have a high concentration of soccer facilities.
In advance of the meeting, the NSA crowd had been whipped into a frenzy by a campaign of misinformation directed against the HHA by individuals from the NSA. These individuals claimed to represent the interests of the soccer playing community, but I can assure you that these individuals did not represent the interests of my soccer players nor of the community in which I reside.
The debate stems from attempts by the Northshore Soccer Assn. (and others) to expand their facilities on lands where long-standing zoning regulations have expressly forbidden such facilities.
The HHA has become a lightening rod for these groups due to its continuing vigilance in defending the rural and agricultural designations of Hollywood Hill and the Sammamish Valley below it.
To their credit, the HHA ran the meeting in a calm, level headed manner, showing admirable patience in their attempts to broaden the discussion beyond the kids vs. squash mentality of the NSA group.
But the NSAers would have nothing to do with discussions of the bigger picture. Instead, they came back with personal insults and observations such as "... if our children can't play soccer, they will spend their time throwing beer bottles out of speeding pickup trucks."
The NSAers' narrow-minded view of the world blossomed through the evening as one preposterous observation gave way to the next. Much of it attempted to discredit the notion of the Sammamish Valley being a farming area. For instance, they claimed "... sod farms aren't real farms."
But I grew up on a sod farm. On each end of that sod farm were vegetable farms. They were all profitable.
In time, the demand for sod decreased, so the sod farm gradually converted to vegetables, which are to this day profitably sold to local supermarkets, restaurants and through their own farm stands.
The fact is that there are a number of viable agricultural businesses operating in the valley. There would be more except for two factors. First, there are several speculators who own property in the valley, but refuse to allow agricultural uses on it.
Their purpose is to give the impression that ag uses are dead so that it can be rezoned commercial. Meanwhile, the land remains well suited for agriculture.
Second, farmers who would love to farm such fertile land so close to major markets are hesitant to invest their resources due to concerns over the long term designation of the land.
One reasonable attendee posed the questions as to who had declared this valley to be the soccer capital of western Washington and aren't there any other locations that would work for soccer? The answers were: nobody and yes.
The valley already has a high concentration of soccer fields relative to other communities in our region.
The overcrowding stems not from local players, but from players who have no facilities in their communities and come here to play. It makes sense to disperse future athletic field development to these other communities so that those players can play closer to their homes, rather than drive across the county during rush hour.
In the final analysis, the only reason that Northshore Soccer Assn. wants to put its private soccer fields on Sammamish Valley farmland is it is inexpensive to buy.
What is lost on the NSA crowd is that there is but one reason why these lands are cheap, and that is because they are zoned and taxed for agricultural use only. And for our children and community's sakes, they should stay that way.
Michael Tanksley, Hollywood Hill