Commission questions rezoning of parkland
May 3, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
The city Planning Policy Commission raised questions April 28 before rezoning downtown open space to accommodate a long-planned park.
The city needed to rezone the park parcels from open space to community parks before the development process could proceed. The site encompasses Tollë Anderson, Cybil-Madeline and Issaquah Creek parks. The city Parks & Recreation Department intends to develop the parcels as a single park. The city cannot develop a community park on open space due to zoning restrictions.
“We’re rezoning all of them because we’re treating the confluence park as one big community park,” city Associate Planner Jason Rogers said in a presentation to the commission.
The proposal prompted some grumbling from Planning Policy Commission members.
“If you’re asking me to approve the zoning so we can have a large park area, I agree. I have no argument with that,” Commissioner Irv Levin said. “If that’s as far as I’m involved, then I have no argument. I am curious with what you’re going to do with all of that park area.”
The city hosted public meetings last year to gather input about the site. Residents can comment about the parks again at a May 4 community conference — a public meeting to gather additional input about the proposal.
“I know the public has input, but I can’t go to all of the meetings, and you’re not telling me what the output of those meetings are either,” Levin continued. “So, I’m not sure if you’re asking me to give you a blank check or not. I’m very leery about voting on this right now.”
Lou Novak, a resident in the neighborhood adjacent to the park site, raised similar questions about plans for the site. The city pitched the site as a location for trails and other passive recreation options.
Restrictions attached to the land limit the uses on the land. The rules supersede the zoning and prohibit certain features, such as ball fields, allowed in a typical recreation area from the creekside park.
“It’s just giving them the ability to plan,” Commissioner Joan Probala said. “At this point, they can’t even plan because it’s open space.”
Construction is expected to start on the initial phase in 2012, after the city issues permits for the project, and municipal boards and the public adjust the design.
The planning team encouraged Planning Policy Commission members to attend the community conference and offer input on the process.
The landscape architect spearheading the project offered a bold proposal for the site late last year. The early design outlined boulders for climbing, meandering paths, community gardens and a horseshoe-shaped pedestrian bridge across Issaquah Creek and the East Fork.
“This is what, so far, based on all of the public input, what is being proposed,” city Senior Planner Christopher Wright told commissioners. “There will be chances for more input.”
The effort to develop the creekside site is the largest parks project since the city built Squak Valley Park South in 2008 and the most ambitious plan since the city laid the groundwork for Tibbetts Valley Park more than 20 years ago.
Issaquah Creek-side parks community conference
- 7 p.m. May 4
- Council Chambers, City Hall South
- 135 E. Sunset Way
- The conference is being held to gather public input about the parks project; no decisions are made at such a meeting.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.