Highlands gas station plan sputters forward

July 15, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

UPDATED — 1 p.m. July 16, 2009

Issaquah Highlands residents could someday fill up vehicles with gasoline or alternative fuels without leaving the hillside community — just not anytime soon.

Council Land Use Committee members approved plans for a highlands gas station Tuesday night, but voiced reservations about the plan during the process. Officials cited concerns about the environmental impact of a gas station and the construction of a fueling facility in the highlands while other promised retail options have lagged.

“It’s the pinnacle of my disappointment of how we haven’t gotten what we were hoping to get in the highlands,” Councilman John Traeger said. “I’m very frustrated about that.”

Officials will likely review the proposed agreement to allow a gas station in the highlands when the full City Council meets Aug. 17.

Executives at highlands developer Port Blakely Communities have asked city officials to consider adjusting a development agreement with the city to allow construction of a gas station in the highlands. Port Blakely executives envision an eco-friendly gas station designed to blend in with the surrounding community.

But Port Blakely President Alan Boeker said highlands residents would probably not be able to grab a snack with a fill up.

“We are not considering any sort of Brown Bear or 7-Eleven type of full-service mini mart,” he said, noting how the proposed site for the gas station is located across from a proposed grocery store.

When the agreement was drafted, officials worried that contaminants from a gas station could infiltrate the nearby Lower Issaquah Valley Aquifer, because of the location of the development and the geology beneath the site. Officials have said how advances in technology and increased knowledge about the geology rendered the concerns moot.

The aquifer is a source of drinking water for city residents.

Discussion stalled as committee members debated whether to include Swedish Medical Center as part of the revised development agreement. Hospital executives will break ground on a medical center campus in the highlands in late September.

Land Use Committee members said Swedish wants to include underground diesel tanks to hold fuel for emergency generators as part of the planned hospital campus. Members delayed discussion on the proposed fuel tanks.

In the meantime, city staffers will add language to the development agreement to allow underground fuel tanks for “essential public facilities,” such as  hospitals.

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