Highlands residential complex halted, officials want answers about commercial development

December 17, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

UPDATED — 8:45 p.m. Dec. 17, 2009

Officials halted plans to build a proposed Issaquah Highlands residential complex Tuesday, after city development commissioners complained about the pace of retail development in the highlands.

A proposal to add 240 units — including apartments, townhouses and stacked flats — on 9.5 acres in the highlands prompted questions about the balance between residential and commercial property in the hillside community. Though Urban Village Development Commission members praised the design, the commission halted the project to deliver a message to highlands developer Port Blakely Communities.

The commission, formed to oversee major projects in the highlands and Talus, heard from several citizen activists and highlands residents before the Tuesday decision. Commissioners did not deny a site development permit for the project. Instead, the commission indefinitely delayed a decision on the permit application.

Commissioner Nina Milligan acknowledged the odd situation the residential developer, Bellevue-based Devco, faced as a result of the delay.

“I like the proposal the developer has brought, and it’s unfortunate that they’re in the middle of a little bit of a feud here,” she said.

Although the highlands include several restaurants, shops and offices, residents said the reality differed from the vision offered by Port Blakely more than a decade ago.

Matt Barry moved to the highlands when the community was new. He described the wait for additional commercial offerings as frustrating.

“You had a vision when you moved in of an urban village and we received promises — maybe a judge wouldn’t find Port Blakely having made any strong promises in writing — but I think we all know that we were given some promises,” he said.

Barry referenced the previous Urban Village Development Commission meeting, where Chairman Geoffrey Walker said he was “ticked off” by the proposal to add residences to the highlands before additional commercial space.

“It’s very frustrating and I do not think Port Blakely has horns coming out of its head. I do not think it’s the personification of evil,” Barry said. “I’m sure they want to get this done and move on, and I’m sure they don’t want to see any more headlines with the chair saying how he’s ticked off. Having said that, enough is enough. Ten years we’ve been waiting.”

Before commissioners decided to postpone the residential project, Port Blakely representative Irma Doré said she would relay residents’ comments from the meeting.

“The message has been clearly conveyed back to Port Blakely,” she said.

Walker also prodded city officials to complete the urban village concept for the highlands, envisioned as a neighborhood with homes, offices and shops built together. He credited Port Blakely for some accomplishments, but faulted the developer for the commercial component in the highlands.

“Everyone was hoodwinked, in this case — real estate agents, people who wanted to build commercial and retail properties,” Walker said.

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3 Responses to “Highlands residential complex halted, officials want answers about commercial development”

  1. Steve on December 17th, 2009 3:16 pm

    The city is just putting on a show for the concerned citizens. The Developer Bait-n-Switch is an institution here in Issaquah, and the city and mayor have ubiquitously given the green light to dense housing without ensuring that long term employment opportunities come with it. Come on, who really expected to see Microsoft and other offices plus shopping in the Highlands after the precedents around town? Remember when East Cougar/Talus was sold to the city as a self-sustained community where everyone was going to live, work, and play? Ha! Maybe it’s true — if people can pay down their homes by caring for octogenarians down the hill. And don’t even get me started about Hyla Crossing, which was supposed to be a richly landscaped job campus with creeks and streams and frog tunnels under the roadways. What did we actually get? A hotel and a security gate around the storage units.

    Keep feigning concern, City of Issaquah. Nobody’s buying it.

  2. Alan Kegel on December 18th, 2009 8:43 am

    I find the articles regarding the development at the Issaquah Highlands quite interesting. There have been many “promises” by Port Blakely Development used to get us to buy homes in the community, yet when it comes to the commercial development it is just mere “puffery”. But there are other issues here too that bring about questions of integrity of the Port Blakely family of companies. Take for instance Port Blakely Residential who provides community management services to the Highlands. In 2008 it was discovered that the IHCA who was under the control of Port Blakely residential engaged into commingling activities of home ower dues and funds. A practice that is strictly prohibited by Wa Law and the Bylaws of the homeowners associations. And when the issue was brought to the attention of the IHCA Board of Directors and Port Blakely it was hushed up and the expensive process of untangling the mess began. I know that our HOA initially lost approximately $17,000 in the scheme, through persistence we got it back. But home many HOA’s don’t even know that this occurred. Port Blakely keeps control up here in the HIghlands, with their staff members calling the shots and apparently manipulating the community Board Members. Haven’t seen a notice for an Annual Meeting in years, The Budget process is a shame, the process is designed to exclude homeowner input.

    The grocery store promise is the biggest joke. Port Blakely now claims that Centrol Market is not coming in due to economic conditions, yet if you ask Central Market it is because Port Blakely did a site swap on them and the location now proposed was unacceptable. So the Issaquah Highlands has a nick name these days. “The land of broken promises”.

  3. Highlands residential complex halted, officials want answers about … | COUGAR WOMEN – Highlands residential complex halted, officials want answers about … on December 18th, 2009 12:56 pm

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