City Council sets parks, transportation among 2011 goals
May 4, 2010
By Warren Kagarise
City Council members outlined goals for parks, technology, economic development and transportation to be accomplished next year. The council eschewed broad policy goals and recommended specific projects.
Members culled 62 suggestions into a handful of rough goals. Municipal staffers will then hone the list into a final stack of goals for the council to approve next month.
The council gathered in a Public Works Operations Building conference room May 1 for the daylong discussion to set goals for 2011.
Council President John Traeger encouraged members to offer multiple suggestions.
“There are no bad ideas, and no goal is too big or too small,” he said.
The retreat included initial discussion about the upcoming budget. City department chiefs use the goals set by the council to formulate budgets for the upcoming year.
“The office of the mayor and the departments use it as a way of helping plan work programs and projects throughout the year, and provide, we think, fairly frequent feedback on how we’re progressing and what’s going on with the goals,” Mayor Ava Frisinger said.
Measures to improve parks and attract additional users for the city trails network shaped the discussion.
The council aims to promote Issaquah as a mountain-biking mecca by attracting mountain bikers to the city, facilitating construction of a mountain-biking course in the Issaquah Highlands, and maybe adding a mountain-biking recreation program geared toward tweens and teens.
Officials also hope to attract people headed to the Duthie Hill Mountain Bike Park in neighboring Sammamish to Issaquah trails.
Councilman Tola Marts called for a task force made up of mountain bikers, business leaders and environmental groups to discuss how the city could become more welcoming to mountain bikers.
“Historically — I’ll just be honest — Issaquah has a reputation as being not amenable to mountain biking,” he said. “I think that we have an opportunity we can do it right in such a way that we can address the concerns of groups, such as the [Issaquah Environmental Council] and [Issaquah Alps Trails Club] by including them in the process and really taking a fresh look at whether mountain biking can be done.”
Traeger suggested the summer mountain-biking program as a way to provide activity for pre-teen children.
Councilwoman Eileen Barber called for the city Parks & Recreation Department to take steps to initiate trial programs, like the proposed mountain-biking class.
“Because there are not dollars in the budget, parks staff can’t move forward with exploratory-type programs,” she said.
Klahanie annexation, rebooted
Everyday issues — like how to improve the city website — and long-term planning also received attention.
The council called for the city to prioritize and implement the recommendations of the Issaquah Technology Task Force, a group of residents, business leaders and industry professionals empanelled last year. Frisinger asked the group to outline what technology infrastructure improvements can be made, and how to make the upgrades a reality.
Several council members said the city should overhaul the municipal website in order to make the portal easier for residents and city staffers to use.
Traeger credited staffers for updating the site, but said tools exist to revamp the site — if the city wants to pay.
The council also made plans to address long-term growth issues next year, including a proposal to examine what buildings and facilities the city might need in 20-year increments instead of the six-year system used now.
Marts said the council should vote on whether to annex the unincorporated King County neighborhood Klahanie by the end of next year. The councilman, a former Klahanie resident, said Issaquah officials should also determine if Sammamish intends to annex Klahanie.
Only Issaquah can annex the area under existing growth plans, but Sammamish could take the community instead, if planners in both cities redraw long-term growth blueprints. The last attempt by Issaquah to annex Klahanie — through a 2005 ballot measure — faltered.
Transportation plans advance
The council called for the city to complete a transportation study with the largest employer in Issaquah and then take steps to improve road access to the Costco headquarters complex and flagship store.
Costco, the city and other property owners in the affected area could form a taxing zone — known as a local improvement district — and then shoulder the costs for improvements.
Preliminary plans call for a new bridge across Issaquah Creek between 10th Avenue Northwest and 221st Place Southeast, as well as street improvements near the Costco buildings.
Officials also called for staffers to determine what role — if any — the city should play in building a parking garage in downtown Issaquah.
Officials also plan steps to better link Squak Mountain into the King County Metro Transit and Sound Transit networks. The council listed expanded transit opportunities as a goal for next year.
In December, the council delayed a planned Route 200 bus service extension to Talus and the highlands in order to save money.
Councilman Joshua Schaer said items on past goal lists should be treated as high priorities by the council and city staffers. Regardless, the council indicated the transit expansion should be a priority for next year.
“We have Route 200 up there every single year for the last seven years, now, we know that’s not going to get done in 2010, but the goal is to get it done in 2011,” he said.
Open for business
Officials also asked for information about the challenges and opportunities Issaquah faces as the city competes for new businesses.
The council wants annual report cards on progress toward implementing recommendations outlined almost four years ago by a city economic vitality task force.
Barber, a past Issaquah Chamber of Commerce president and former business owner, said the council should be mindful of how legislation affects businesses.
“We need to begin to understand our actions and how our actions as a council impact the economy of the city,” businesses and, ultimately, the sales tax revenue collected by the city, she said.
The council could add information to proposed legislation to list the foreseen impacts of the measure on businesses. The city already uses a similar element to address how proposed bills synch with the long-term growth plan.
Councilman Mark Mullet, the proprietor of the Zeeks Pizza franchise in the highlands, said the information on legislation could be as simple as a positive, negative or neutral label.
Marts said he did not want the council to create a barrier to prevent members from considering agenda bills. The councilman referenced the food-packaging ordinance passed last November. The legislation outlaws most Styrofoam food containers by next May.
“If, a year and a half ago, we had said, ‘What a cool idea, but we don’t have any staff to do the economic evaluation of that, so we’re not going to consider it,’ that would be unfortunate to me,” Marts said.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or email@example.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.
Progress on the City Council’s 2010 goals
City Council members set nine goals for 2010 last spring, and outlined milestones for everything from improving transportation to preserving salmon habitat. Here are updates on their progress:
Transportation: Crews started construction on the Interstate 90 Undercrossing and completed the roundabout at East Lake Sammamish Parkway and Southeast 43rd Way.
Sustainability: Construction on zHome and Eastside Fire & Rescue Station 72 — both eco-friendly projects — should progress, but the city seems unlikely to open a human services campus by December.
Governance: Staffers continue to develop a format to put quarterly city financial data on the municipal website, and meet service standards.
Parks: City officials will soon pick a landscape architect for a downtown park along Issaquah Creek, but the council rolled plans to promote mountain biking into 2011.
Salmon habitat: Workers and volunteers removed invasive plants in sensitive areas along Issaquah Creek and Lake Sammamish. But the city did not win a federal grant to replace a dam on the creek.
Safety: City officials and workers continued to improve emergency-management operations and outreach efforts, such as National Night Out and Community Emergency Response Teams.
Economy: The council OK’d legislation to waive transportation impact fees for 10,000 square feet of development. Otherwise, officials pushed other economic development goals to 2011.
Regional participation: The mayor and council members continue involvement in Cascade Water Alliance, the Suburban Cities Association and other regional and state groups.
Technology: The mayor appointed members to the Issaquah Technology Task Force, a goal set by the council last year.