Tiger Mountain land buyout to preserve forest

September 19, 2008

By Jon Savelle

Issaquah Highlands to get density from Park Pointe

Park Pointe, a forested 100-acre parcel at the foot of Tiger Mountain, at last may be getting the protection from development that has threatened it for a decade. Details of the plan were unveiled by Mayor Ava Frisinger at the Sept. 15 meeting of the City Council.

In a deal as complex as it is breathtaking, Port Blakely Communities would buy the land from First Wellington LLC, which had plans to develop the parcel with multi-family residential units. Port Blakely would then deed that land and some it now holds to the city as permanent open space and parkland.

In return for this, the city would allow Port Blakely to increase its area of commercial or retail development by 1.1 million square feet, and add 550 residential units. The Highlands developer also would be able to develop 36 of the 78 acres it owns south of Park Drive, commonly known as the WSDOT parcel.

The remainder of that parcel would be left undeveloped. When it is combined with the Park Pointe acreage, the total protected area would be 144 acres.

Port Blakely’s newly developable 36 acres would be incorporated into the Highlands. But this would require first a modification of the county’s urban growth boundary and then annexation of the rural land into Issaquah.

For the city, Port Blakely would build $3 million worth of recreational improvements to Central Park, which are expected to consist of two, lighted, all-weather sports fields. The developer also would sell to the city, at 60 percent of market value, 3.2 acres across the street from Fire Station 73. This parcel could be used to build affordable housing and a human services campus.

In addition, Port Blakely would seek to build 50 housing units affordable to those making 80 percent or less of median income.

Finally, the city would transfer to Port Blakely up to two acres it received from a prior agreement with the state Department of Transportation. This land too would be included in the Highlands.

All of these exchanges between the city and Port Blakely are laid out in Agenda Bill 5891, which proposes amending the two-party development agreement between the city and Port Blakely. Further amendments would be required of the three-party agreement between the city, county and Port Blakely that governs the WSDOT parcel.

The amendments must be approved by the City Council, which referred the bill to a committee for review. That review is expected to run into November, Frisinger said. At the same time, the deal will be scrutinized by the city’s Urban Village Development Commission and planning staff.

The city has no part in the land transaction between Port Blakely and First Wellington, and the price to be paid for the Park Pointe parcel was not disclosed.

Assuming all goes as hoped — and Frisinger cautioned that things could go wrong — the deal will bring to a close a 10-year battle of development versus preservation of the Park Pointe land.

“It really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Frisinger said. “It’s exciting to see something that people have struggled with for years and years, happen.”

Reach reporter Jon Savelle at 392-6434, ext. 234, or jsavelle@isspress.com.

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