City Council opens highlands land to Bellevue College development
December 7, 2010
By Warren Kagarise
NEW — 8 a.m. Dec. 7, 2010
Bellevue College could construct a campus in the Issaquah Highlands and dozens of homes could be built nearby in the coming years due to a series of agreements the City Council approved Monday night.
The council directed city staffers to facilitate the sale of three parcels on 35 acres owned by highlands developer Port Blakely Communities. Revenue from the sales is then to be used to purchase Park Pointe — 102 forested acres on Tiger Mountain near Issaquah High School.
If the complicated process – called a transfer of development rights — succeeds, the 102 acres and another 43 rural acres near the highlands should be preserved. In addition, the 35 acres under consideration could be developed.
The council selected Bellevue College and local homebuilders to develop the three highlands parcels.
Bellevue College Trustee Vicki Orrico said the process could take more than 20 years for the campus to be completed — if college administrators decide to buy the land in the highlands and construct a campus.
“We’re a community college,” she said. “Just what the name implies, we’re a college of the community, and that’s our intention in coming here. We plan to do a great deal of learning and listening to you about what you want.”
Bellevue College announced interest in a highlands site in August. The college is in the midst of a traffic study to gauge the impact of a potential campus in the neighborhood.
In October, the city started to solicit proposals from potential buyers for the parcels.
The sales should generate enough dollars to purchase Park Pointe. The city also aimed to select buyers based on a willingness to providing a “community benefit” — such as affordable housing — as part of developing the parcels.
Planners then scored each proposal based on common criteria. The top scorers differed for the available parcels.
The city recommended Bellevue College for the northernmost parcel, near Northeast Park Drive. The price for the site is $5.2 million.
The Burnsteads — a home builder in the highlands, Talus and other Puget Sound communities — is the No. 1 choice for the southernmost parcel. The land costs $1.5 million.
The top candidate for the middle parcel is zHome builder Ichijo USA. The price tag for the parcel: $2.5 million.
Bellevue College proposed 372,000 square feet of institutional space, 56,000 square feet of additional space and 1,645 parking spaces.
The Burnsteads outlined a plan to build 40 single-family homes to eco-friendly standards. The proposal includes eight smaller units.
Ichijo USA offered a mix of affordable housing units and residences accessible to disabled tenants. The proposal includes 60 units.
Though the City Council faced opposition from highlands residents before a critical transfer of development rights decision in August, no residents spoke against the latest action Monday.
“This has been a long time coming,” Councilman Fred Butler said before the unanimous decision. “This secures in perpetuity the forested area on lower Tiger Mountain through a transfer of development rights, but in addition to that, provides additional major amenities for the community.”
The long process to preserve Park Pointe has progressed in recent months, as the City Council and King County Council approved agreements crucial to the project.
The city launched the effort to preserve Park Pointe through a transfer of development rights in 2008, but the project stalled amid financial problems for the landowner.
The defunct landowner, Wellington Park Pointe LLC, entered bankruptcy in late 2009, and a Seattle bank foreclosed on Park Pointe in March.
In the mid-1990s, the former Park Pointe developer intended to build a hillside urban village similar to the highlands or Talus. The proposal folded amid public outcry about possible consequences to the environment and surrounding neighborhoods.