Group urges residents to open ‘Eyes on Issaquah’

March 13, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

The black-and-red signs started to appear on Issaquah street corners and road medians just as city leaders prepared to delve into a long-term blueprint for growth.

Ava Frisinger

In bold letters, the signs asks passers-by, “Re-development at what cost?” and directs onlookers to a website for more information.

The campaign, called Eyes on Issaquah, is the latest effort to encourage citizen oversight as the Central Issaquah Plan advances from proposal to policy.

The organization behind the eyes is the Issaquah Environmental Council, a watchdog group, and the face behind the organization is leader Connie Marsh, a longtime citizen activist and former City Council candidate.

“It seemed important enough to try to get as many eyes as possible on it, so it would be the people’s plan, too, and not just something laid upon them by their government,” she said.

The campaign urges residents to learn more about the Central Issaquah Plan — a proposal to remake more than 900 acres in the business district along Interstate 90 in the decades ahead.

Mayor Ava Frisinger said Eyes on Issaquah raises awareness about the Central Issaquah Plan, but she cautioned observers about information presented in campaign materials.

Eyes on Issaquah estimates possible transportation improvements in Central Issaquah at $300 million in public funds. But the budget, location and timing for such projects remain all but impossible to predict.

“If the City Council chose to fund infrastructure, that could happen, but the more probable thing and the more typical thing is that, as proponents of a particular redevelopment come in, they’re either assessed impact fees or pay mitigation fees,” Frisinger said.

The slick Eyes on Issaquah website includes whimsical videos about redevelopment and the option to send a prewritten letter to the City Council, Frisinger and local newspapers.

Officials said the city hosted at least 50 public meetings related to the Central Issaquah Plan. The city also maintains a website dedicated to the proposal.

What to know

Learn more about the Issaquah Environmental Council’s Eyes on Issaquah campaign at www.eyesonissaquah.org. Read the draft plan and learn about upcoming city meetings related to the plan at www.ci.issaquah.wa.us/centralissaquah.

Marsh said recent layoffs in the municipal Planning Department mean the city is less-equipped to roll out the complex proposal to the public. So, the Issaquah Environmental Council spent about $300 on signs and created the Eyes on Issaquah website.

“It’s not like the Issaquah Environmental Council is anti-growth,” she said. “We just want it to be great, and we want it to be something that the public wholeheartedly adopts and accepts and is eager for. We think people need to know what’s happening and be able to tell what they want Issaquah to be in 30 or 40 years.”

Issaquah Environmental Council members campaigned against the Southeast Bypass — a proposed road along Tiger Mountain designed to alleviate downtown traffic — and criticized a 30-year agreement between the city and Rowley Properties to redevelop 78 acres in the business district.

City Council members nixed plans for the bypass in 2008. The council adopted the Rowley Properties redevelopment pact in a unanimous decision last year.

The agreement to redevelop the Rowley Properties land is seen as critical to the broader Central Issaquah redevelopment effort.

“We can whine forever, but unless we create pathways on solving our problems, then we’re just a bunch of whiners,” Marsh said. “So the next step is, OK, let’s answer the questions and let’s try to make it the best future for Issaquah that we possibly can.”

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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