March 29, 2011
Preserving Park Pointe is a triumph for entire city
The momentous effort to preserve Park Pointe is complete.
Issaquah leaders and residents can celebrate after more than a decade of squabbling and maneuvering to stop hundreds of homes from rising on the land.
The transfer of development rights benefits the entire city.
Park Pointe, a majestically named parcel on Tiger Mountain near Issaquah High School, is forever preserved as public open space. So, too, is a 43-acre forest near Central Park in the Issaquah Highlands.
In exchange, homebuilders can construct up to 500 residences on 35 acres in the highlands. Despite the large figure, developers proposed far fewer homes for the site.
The deal protects land ill-suited for development and shifts construction to a site near roads and utilities.
In addition, the added residents to the highlands could help attract the retail businesses promised to neighborhood residents so long ago.
The deal is not perfect, but the benefits outshine the problems.
Indeed, the incentives attached to the exchange make the prospect of additional construction in the highlands easier to stomach.
Motorists should benefit from the construction of roads to alleviate congestion on traffic-clogged highlands streets. Countless hikers and mountain bikers can use trails and other recreation facilities promised in the agreement.
The entire community, most importantly, stands to benefit from the planned construction of a Bellevue College campus in Issaquah. The long-sought campus has the power to transform the community for the better.
Though many leaders — elected and unelected — and citizens deserve a share of the credit for preserving Park Pointe, former City Administrator Leon Kos merits special recognition.
Kos, alongside Mayor Ava Frisinger and point man Keith Niven, Major Development Review Team manager, steered the complex — and at times convoluted — agreement through difficult patches. Many times, the process seemed stalled or undoable, but the city did not waver in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
Sometimes, the opponents included Issaquah residents. City Council members and other city leaders held firm last year despite protests from highlands residents concerned about additional construction and skeptics doubtful of the city’s ability to pull off the deal.
Ironically, the recession helped seal the deal.
Park Pointe’s developer could not weather the tough economy, and the land headed into foreclosure. The downturn also dropped Park Pointe’s price from the stratosphere to a more attainable level, aiding the transfer of development rights.
Preserving Park Pointe marks a milestone for Issaquah, and all residents stand to reap the benefits of the deal in the years ahead.