Council seeks input on land swap, Issaquah Highlands changes
August 10, 2010
By Warren Kagarise
City leaders could allow 550 more residences to be built in the Issaquah Highlands in order to preserve a corner of Tiger Mountain near Issaquah High School.
But before the deal can proceed, the City Council must agree to amend the longstanding development agreement between the city and highlands developer Port Blakely Communities.
Bring comments about the proposed change to a public hearing before the council Aug. 16.
The deal, a complicated transfer of development rights, aims to preserve about 140 forested acres — 102 acres at Park Pointe on Tiger Mountain and another 43 acres adjacent to the highlands.
Port Blakely owns 78 acres in unincorporated King County near Central Park. The proposed transfer calls for the developer to preserve 43 acres and allows dense construction on the remaining 35 acres. The city then intends to annex the 35-acre parcel.
The defunct Park Pointe builder tried to develop the site for more than a decade before collapsing into bankruptcy last year. Regal Financial Bank foreclosed on the land in March.
Besides the change to accommodate 550 additional residences, the amendment includes revisions to landscaping, parking and signage requirements.
Perhaps the most contentious item is the planned revision to the parking rules. Under the updated agreement, developers could create “interim” parking lots in the highlands until 2018. The lots could meet lower aesthetic standards — meaning fewer trees and less landscaping — during the years Port Blakely hopes to foster growth in the commercial area.
The proposal limits the number of “interim” spaces to 725. The agreement mandates for the interim parking to meet normal standards for highlands lots by Dec. 31, 2020.
Port Blakely hopes the relaxed rules act as incentives for developers to build a proposed Regal Cinema, plus other retail offerings.
Highlands residents often complain about the limited retail options in the hillside neighborhood. During a community meeting in early February, Port Blakely executives said a cinema could generate momentum for growth.
Parking has been a stumbling block to building the cinema since Port Blakely and the movie theater operator announced the plan last August.
The proposal also seeks to loosen some sign restrictions for highlands businesses and allow for pedestrian-oriented sign kiosks to be constructed in the planned town center. The updated agreement also calls for larger letters and additional signs for businesses facing multiple streets, plazas or other public spaces.
The urban village concept requires developers to build unique stores to fit into the community. Design standards for retail businesses require multiple entrances and many sides visible to patrons — a challenge for developers accustomed to a strip-mall layout.
City Council regular meeting
Agenda: proposed Issaquah Highlands development agreement amendment
7:30 p.m. Aug. 16
Council Chambers, City Hall South
135 E. Sunset Way
Contact Major Development Review Team Program Manager Keith Niven at 837-3430 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about the proposal.
Find more information about the proposed transfer of development rights on the city website at www.ci.issaquah.wa.us/parkpointe.