“For Sale’ signs sprouting where timber once stood

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ROSLYN, Wash. – The moose that ambled down the street in “Northern Exposure” is long gone, but Roslyn remains the quintessential Northwest town.

Locals say hello to strangers entering a restaurant; people take their gripes to the mayor’s home; icicles the diameter of baseball bats hang above storefronts.

So the prospect of golf courses and million-dollar homes rising in the forest above town rattled Roslyn native Dawn Abourezk. But if the Suncadia resort was unavoidable, she decided she’d better embrace it.

The 31-year-old mother of two launched Copper Crest Concierge, marketing herself as one-stop-shopping for wealthy vacation homeowners. She’ll buy groceries, plow snow, solve plumbing emergencies, water plants, book pedicures.

And, like others in this town of 1,000, she’ll keep a watchful eye on the transformation.

“There are angry people. There are excited people. And there are people who really don’t care,” Abourezk says. “It will be interesting to look back in 10 years and say, ‘This is how it turned out.’ “

Like dozens of towns across the United States, Roslyn is being reshaped along with the timber industry. Companies scour their real estate portfolios for land to develop – a national trend hitting Oregon via the state’s property rights law.

Plum Creek Timber Co. made way for Suncadia by selling 6,300 acres near Roslyn. A company representative says the area cried for a resort because it offers fishing, hunting and skiing in a breathtaking setting 80 miles east of Seattle in the Cascades.

Suncadia is owned by Oregon window company Jeld-Wen, Sunriver developer Lowe Enterprises and Portland real estate firm PacTrust. When construction is done, 3,200 vacation homes will attract buyers from the Puget Sound area, Portland and beyond.

Roslyn started as a company town, drawing immigrants from all over the world to work in the coal mines. Shops, pubs and brothels buzzed along the main drag.

But mines sputtered, eventually closing in the 1960s. Many people turned to the town’s towering green backdrop – fir trees – for work.

Just when timber began to fade, “Northern Exposure” producers picked Roslyn as the stand-in for fictional Cicely, Alaska. From 1990 to 1995, daily tour buses delivered fans dying to eat at the Roslyn Cafe and pump locals for insider trivia.

Suncadia’s marketing director, Steve Dunn, describes Roslyn like this: “It’s real. It’s not made up. It’s not Disneyland.” He says potential buyers, who can tour the area by helicopter, appreciate Roslyn.

Dunn hopes locals will feel the same way about Suncadia. When construction is finished in a few years, the resort will employ 700 people and generate about $5 million in annual property taxes.

So far 100 homes are under way, with the cheapest selling for $1 million. Guests can stay at a boutique inn overlooking one of three golf courses. In 2008, a central village will open with condos, shops and an ice rink.

But many Roslyn residents thought of this forest as their own. They didn’t like the prospect of being outnumbered by millionaire city slickers. And, they figured, Suncadia signaled the death knell of the timber industry.

Long before Plum Creek sold property, Peg Bryant and Cordy Cooke formed the environmental group RIDGE to promote sustainable forestry. Members lobbied the county to designate land near town for long-term timber use.

But the county saved its forestry zone for remote areas, assigning land between Roslyn and nearby Cle Elum to a general rural category. A few years later, a master-planned resort was approved.

Bryant and Cooke say they don’t love Suncadia, but they can live with it. A development agreement permanently protects 1,200 acres along a meandering river. Resort trails are public. And lighting can’t illuminate the night sky.

Most important, Suncadia donated more than 300 acres to Roslyn as a buffer – part of it abutting Bryant and Cooke’s yard. “Our city is forever preserved as a little town in the forested mountains,” says Cooke, a city councilor.

Laura Oppenheimer is a staff writer for The Oregonian of Portland, Ore. She can be contacted at loppenheimer@news.oregonian.com.

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