Critics slam Park Pointe proposal; developer touts preservation
February 24, 2009
By Warren Kagarise
City planners are seeking comments from residents regarding the latest proposal for Park Pointe, a proposed Tiger Mountain housing development announced more than a decade ago and since revised numerous times. Comments will be accepted until Feb. 27, and will be included in a city environmental report about the controversial development.
How Park Pointe will be built — with 344 homes or 251 homes — and even the location of the development remain unanswered questions. The developer, which proposed two options for the 67-acre Tiger Mountain site, is also pursuing a development-rights swap with another homebuilder. If the swap was successful, homes would be built in the Issaquah Highlands instead of the proposed Park Pointe site.City planners released a draft environmental impact statement about the project last month. Now, they are collecting comments related to it. A final report incorporating those comments should be released by the end of June.
City Environmental Planner Peter Rosen said he received comments from 17 people, all of whom were opposed to the project. He said most of the opposition was related to the development itself, rather than specific findings included in the impact statement.
If Park Pointe were to be built, the development would preserve forest but would also displace wildlife, according to the statement. Depending on which building option is chosen, “52 percent to 79 percent of the site would remain as forested open space,” the report states. The document also addresses the potential impacts Park Pointe could have on factors such as groundwater and traffic.
Storm water runoff would be collected, treated and then released into the soil through a storm water management system. Pollutants would be removed before the water is released and the impact on groundwater would be minimal, according to the report.
Development would avoid wetlands on the site, but “wildlife dependent upon this vegetation as habitat would be displaced, resulting in local reductions in populations of some species,” the report said. Other, wider-ranging species would be less affected.
Impacts on noise and traffic would be limited.
Ron Slater, vice president of project developer Wellington Park Pointe LLC, said his company was working with city officials and homebuilder Port Blakely Communities to pursue a development rights swap. The swap is known as a transfer of development rights, frequently shortened to TDR.
“Everybody’s first thrust is to do the TDRs,” he said.
Port Blakely built the highlands, home to nearly 7,000 people. Under the complex deal, Port Blakely would be allowed to build more densely in the highlands if the company bought the Park Pointe land from Wellington and then deeded the land — and an additional Port Blakely-held parcel — to the city. In turn, the city would preserve those tracts from development.
Rosen, addressing the city River & Streams Board Feb. 17, described the draft environmental report as a step forward for the slow-moving Park Pointe project. But “people want to see the site preserved as open space,” he told board members, referring them to the comments he received. Eight years ago, the City Council said the land should be preserved.
Park Pointe has undergone numerous revisions since the development was first proposed, prompting one River & Streams Board member to refer to the project last week as a “many-headed hydra.”
The latest proposal includes two development options for the Tiger Mountain site. Under the so-called lower bench option, 251 residential units consisting of 121 single-family attached units and 130 multifamily units would be built on 14 acres of the lower slope.
“Our preferred option, by the way, is just to develop the lower bench,” Slater said.
Another option would develop 32 acres on the lower tier and on top of the slope. The development would include 344 residential units — 59 single-family detached, 145 single-family attached and 140 multifamily units.
Another possibility is for the property to remain undeveloped.
Slater countered critics and said Park Pointe would not contribute to suburban sprawl. He noted the proposed development’s proximity to businesses, schools and historic downtown Issaquah
“I don’t believe that’s sprawl at all,” he said. “We’re proposing a low-impact development on that site.”
Earlier plans called for Park Pointe to be connected to the controversial Southeast Bypass, a proposed roadway that would have been built across the lower slopes of Tiger Mountain between Interstate 90 and Issaquah-Hobart Road. In 2008, the City Council axed plans for the bypass, citing environmental concerns.
The updated proposal links the development to the city street grid via Southeast Evans Street.
Slater said any decision about breaking ground at either the Park Pointe or Port Blakely site would hinge on the outcome of the city permitting process and the development-rights swap negotiations.
When to break ground on a development is up to the applicant, Rosen said.
Issaquah retiree Woody Bernard said the small-town character of the city drew him here two years ago. He opposes Park Pointe because of its potential to reshape a slope of Tiger Mountain.
“Here, the hills are all green and not developed like everywhere else,” he said.
Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.