Highlands gas station decision is delayed
December 29, 2009
By Warren Kagarise
Questions about commercial development in the Issaquah Highlands prompted developer Port Blakely Communities to ask city officials to postpone a decision on a highlands gas station.Port Blakely President Alan Boeker asked city officials to postpone the key vote less than a week after a city commission postponed a residential project in the highlands until Port Blakely answers questions about commercial development plans.
City Council members were set to consider a change to the agreement between the city and Port Blakely to allow a highlands gas station, banned when the agreement was drafted due to concerns about ground water contamination. Officials scheduled the measure for a Dec. 21 vote.
City officials and highlands residents subjected Port Blakely to criticism in recent months because additional commercial development has failed to materialize in the highlands. The gas station amendment also received a lukewarm reception from the Council Land Use Committee, the panel tasked with reviewing major development decisions.
Detractors argued a gas station would be a poor fit for a community billed as “green” and pedestrian-friendly. Proponents and Port Blakely executives billed the gas station as a cutting-edge “energy station” with alternative fuels and electric-vehicle charging stations.
“Conversations about the energy station with both the city and the local community have been very productive over the past few months,” Boeker wrote in a Dec. 21 letter to Mayor Ava Frisinger. “The strong merits of the energy station, however, are often overshadowed by a larger question — the timing on the successful development of a vibrant mixed-use town center.”
Boeker said the gas station issue would be revisited during the first quarter of next year.
“We know this question is of great interest to the entire community, which shares our goal of moving forward with the town center,” Boeker wrote. “Further discussions will help everyone understand where we are today and what can be done to help accelerate development.”
Boeker asked for the delay six days after the city Urban Village Development Commission postponed a decision on a 240-unit residential complex proposed by Devco, a Bellevue developer. Commissioners postponed the Devco decision as a way to demand answers from Port Blakely executives about highlands commercial development.
The commission, formed to oversee major projects in the highlands and Talus, heard from several citizen activists and highlands residents about commercial development in the community. Although the highlands includes several restaurants, shops and offices, residents said the reality differed from the vision offered by Port Blakely more than a decade ago.
Commission Chairman Geoffrey Walker, a longtime highlands resident, said people were “hoodwinked” with promised-but-unrealized amenities, like a grocery store.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.