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Thursday, March 11, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Bigger lodge to benefit city, Snoqualmie says
By Ashley Bach
Snoqualmie city officials are excited about a large, multistory hotel that will likely take shape on a hill across the street from Snoqualmie Falls, while some tribal officials oppose the project.
The expansion of the historic Salish Lodge will include a 250-room hotel and conference center. The lodge will also build up to 110 homes on the land. The City Council, which approved a development agreement and annexation for the project this week, says the new facility will help keep tourists within city limits, rather than having them retreat to hotel rooms in Issaquah or Bellevue.
The lodge now has 91 rooms, but city officials say more capacity will better serve the strong local tourism industry.
"It's going to be a great addition to the city," Mayor Fuzzy Fletcher said. "It's a good revenue source and good for the (Snoqualmie) Valley."
There has been almost no public opposition to the expansion in recent years, and after building permits are secured, construction could begin on the hotel as early as next year.
But two people from a Native American group spoke against the project for the first time at this week's meeting. And the Snoqualmie Tribe, while not actively campaigning against the project, said this week it also opposes the new buildings because the land around the falls is sacred.
The land around the falls includes tribal burial grounds, and according to tribal legend, the water cascading over the falls connects heaven and Earth, he said. The area was a gathering spot and trade route for tribes around the region, he said.
The tribe wants the river to flow naturally and is opposing a long-term license for the Puget Sound Energy hydroelectric plant at the falls, Mattson said. This public fight has taken away time the tribe could have spent on an active opposition to the Salish expansion, he said.
"We have to prioritize or make decisions just like any other government," Mattson said.
Two members of the Snoqualmoo Tribe told the City Council they opposed the project because they also considered the land sacred. And they vowed to fight the project this year.
"We're going to get right in the middle of this," said Ron Lauzon, the tribe's natural-resources director.
The Snoqualmoo Tribe is not federally recognized and Mattson said he does not consider it qualified to speak against the expansion.
"We don't believe they have a right to be articulating that position," Mattson said.
Lauzon, who lives in Aberdeen, said the Snoqualmoo and Snoqualmie peoples lived near the falls for thousands of years. He said he doesn't mean to offend the Snoqualmie Tribe and only wants to rally support from other tribes against the expansion. "We have to pull together," he said.
Rachel Nathanson, project manager for the lodge expansion, said Gateway Cascades, the California company that owns the lodge, hired an archaeological firm to examine the construction site. The firm determined that the land didn't show any signs of "significant finds."
Nathanson also said Ray Mullen, the Snoqualmie Tribe economic-development committee chairman, told her in 2002 he was OK with the site.
Mullen said he told Nathanson to conduct an archaeological survey, but he was not aware a survey had already been completed and without a tribal member present. He gave no endorsement of the site, he said. "I would never say I'd approve of them building ... around our sacred land."
Nathanson said she was unaware the tribe had objections and would contact tribal officials to find out their concerns. The lodge is moving forward on design and permits for the hotel this year, and the tribe will have an opportunity to be involved, including in any possible archaeological surveys, she said.
Few details were available on what the lodge will look like.
The building will probably have a rustic, Northwest feel similar to the Salish Lodge, with use of wood, stone and other natural materials, Nathanson said. It will take up no more than 90,000 square feet of space and be taller than it is wide, she said.
The building will sit on a hill above the lodge, across Highway 202, but the only car access will be from Tokul Road Southeast. Guests will get to the lodge and falls by foot. The new hotel will probably not be visible from the falls below, Nathanson said.
The hotel will be marketed to corporate conferences during the week and to tourists on the weekends. The new homes on the land 93 for single families and 17 affordable-housing units won't be built until the hotel is finished, no earlier than 2007, Nathanson said.
Ashley Bach: 206-464-2567 or email@example.com
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