Council begins work on Park Pointe land deal

September 23, 2008

By Jon Savelle

Tiger Mountain land west of Issaquah High School would have become Park Pointe housing. File photo.

Tiger Mountain land west of Issaquah High School would have become Park Pointe housing. File photo.

With the announcement last week that the Park Pointe land on Tiger Mountain could be saved from development through a complicated three-way deal involving the city, seller First Wellington LLC and buyer Port Blakely Communities, the focus now shifts to making the deal work.

The first steps toward that goal were taken Sept. 22 by the Major Development Ad Hoc Committee, a part of the City Council formed to tackle the Park Pointe deal. On the committee are Council President Maureen McCarry, Deputy President Fred Butler and Councilman John Traeger, who met with representatives of Port Blakely to outline the work to be done.

Under the proposed deal, Port Blakely Communities would spend at least $16 million to buy the 102-acre parcel from First Wellington, which planned to develop the parcel with multifamily 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 — expected to consist of two, lighted, all-weather sports fields — to Central Park. 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 another 50 housing units affordable to those making 80 percent or less of median income, bringing the total to 708.

To make this happen, the city and Port Blakely must amend the development agreement that governs development in the Highlands. Called the 2-Party Agreement, it is distinct from another one — the 3-Party Agreement — in which the city, Port Blakely and the state Department of Transportation govern the WSDOT land.

At the Ad Hoc Committee meeting, council members were briefed on the agreements by Port Blakely attorney Tom Goeltz and Keith Niven, manager of the city’s Major Development Review Team. Niven read through a synopsis of the proposed changes to the 2-Party Agreement, which cover land uses, design guidelines, expansion parcels (including designation of a potential new one, “Lakeside North-North,” to the north and east of the Highlands park & ride garage), affordable housing, parks and open space.

As for the 3-Party Agreement, Goeltz said close cooperation with the county is essential. But at the moment no county official has been identified as the go-to person.

“We need a point person to move this along as aggressively as possible,” Goeltz said.

Partly because First Wellington wants the sale to go through quickly, the city and Port Blakely are on a tight schedule. Their goal is to see council action on the deal in December.

Besides amending the development agreements, the tasks before the Ad Hoc Committee include review of a transportation management plan for the Highlands and review of the proposal under the state Environmental Policy Act.

Begun in 1998, the Highlands is a master planned community that when finished will be like a small city with housing, employment, retail and entertainment elements concentrated in a dense area. If the Park Pointe deal goes through, the Highlands will eventually contain some 4,500 housing units. To date, some 6,000 people live in 2,800 units.

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

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