Council sees ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ in Park Pointe deal

March 22, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 8 a.m. March 22, 2011

The city is on the verge of preserving more than 100 forested acres on Tiger Mountain and in the Issaquah Highlands due to a series of agreements the City Council adopted Monday night.

In a landmark decision, the council agreed to accept ownership of the long-disputed Park Pointe property — 102 acres on Tiger Mountain near Issaquah High School. The other agreements, described as housekeeping items by city leaders, cleared up access and boundary issues related to the highlands land.

Now, after years of negotiations, the complicated transfer of development rights to preserve Park Pointe and add more density to the highlands is almost complete.

Park Pointe transfer of development rights sites

“It certainly is the light at the end of the tunnel — and that’s not a freight train coming at us,” Councilman Fred Butler said. “It is what is going to allow us to secure Park Pointe and deal with some of the minor technicalities associated with the other transaction. It’s another big step forward.”

Since the council adopted another round of important Park Pointe agreements in December, the money to complete the transfer and build additional infrastructure in the highlands has been placed into escrow until the transaction is finalized.

The funds came from Bellevue College and local developers planning to build on the highlands land.

The council adopted the latest agreements Monday in a 6-0 decision, after little discussion. (Councilwoman Eileen Barber did not attend the meeting.)

“That indeed is a step moving forward to the completion of escrow,” Mayor Ava Frisinger said after the unanimous vote.

In December, the city opened 35 acres in the highlands to Bellevue College and homebuiders. Port Blakely Communities, the developer behind the highlands, agreed to sell the land to the college and other developers.

(Bellevue College could break ground on a satellite campus in the highlands within the next several years.)

Under the transfer-of-development-rights agreement, the city also preserved a 43-acre forested parcel in the highlands.

Meanwhile, the Park Pointe landowner, Seattle-based Regal Financial Bank, requested to donate the Tiger Mountain property to the city in order to stop the levy of taxes on the land. On Monday, the council took a step to accept ownership.

The decision marks the latest milestone in the effort to preserve Park Pointe. The city launched the transfer-of-development-rights effort in 2008. The process progressed last year, as administration officials, council members and King County leaders laid the foundation for the deal.

The former landowner once proposed dozens of homes on Park Pointe, a slice of Tiger Mountain near Issaquah High School . File

“I also wanted to thank the administration for the complex work that it’s done here in this housekeeping effort,” Council President John Traeger said at the Monday meeting.

The recession caused the price for Park Pointe to dip from $18.9 million in early 2009 to about $6 million in late 2010 — a critical boost for the deal.

Regal Financial Bank foreclosed on Park Pointe in March 2010, months after the former landowner, Wellington Park Pointe LLC, declared bankruptcy.

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.

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