Citizens can comment on long-term plans for business district
April 17, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
Citizens can comment soon on a historic proposal to transform more than 900 acres near Interstate 90 and state Route 900 in the decades ahead.
The draft Central Issaquah Plan is meant to guide redevelopment from shopping centers and low-rise office buildings to a taller neighborhood meant for businesses and residences.
The city is in the midst of a key environmental study for the 915-acre business district, or Central Issaquah. The council is poised to decide on the proposal as early as July. In the meantime, the municipal Planning Policy Commission plans a public open house and public hearing on the draft environmental study April 19.
“The public and the council can use this information to make a better decision on how they want to proceed,” city Policy Planning Services Manager Trish Heinonen said.
The meetings mark the latest effort to engage residents in the Central Issaquah Plan process.
The public process to re-envision Central Issaquah started in November 2007. Planners asked citizens to use Legos to map density in a future Issaquah. The participants, spread across a dozen tables at Pickering Barn, re-envisioned Issaquah as a Legoland of green spaces and a dense business district.
“It was fascinating to hear the different people, elbow to elbow, discussing the merits of where these things should be located,” Heinonen said.
The exercise formed the basis for the next phases — public meetings, a mayor-appointed task force and a series of discussions to nudge the proposal closer to the council for a decision.
“It’s really exciting to have a new plan coming along that people can comment on,” Heinonen said.
Mayor Ava Frisinger appointed a task force in 2009 to examine possibilities for the business district.
The city rolled out the task force proposal in October 2010, after members logged almost 1,000 hours across 13 months to prepare the plan. The proposal put forth by the task force imagined Central Issaquah as a blend of businesses and residences surrounded by a “green necklace” of parks and trails.
“The task force did so much groundbreaking research and rolling up their sleeves and hard work,” Heinonen said.
City planners kept most recommendations in the task force proposal, but added plans for more housing in the draft under consideration.
The final environmental impact statement is expected to arrive in June. The council could start discussions on the plan as early as July, after the Planning Policy Commission signs off on the proposal.
“If all goes well, we’ll have a new vision by the end of the year,” Heinonen said.
In December, a unanimous council approved a 30-year agreement between the city and landowner Rowley Properties to redevelop 78 acres in the business district.
The agreement is seen as critical to the broader Central Issaquah redevelopment effort. The landowner and city planners embarked on the effort in April 2010 to redevelop Hyla Crossing and Rowley Center along state Route 900.
Questions about building height and transportation issues in the business district started long before the city delved into the Central Issaquah Plan process.
Officials could allow buildings up to 125 feet tall in the urban core near the Rowley land. The agreement between the city and Rowley allows buildings up to 150 feet tall on the Rowley parcels.
Though city officials can outline density and steer construction to certain areas, some decision-making — such as extending a light rail line to Issaquah or increasing bus service in the business district — is left to planners at Sound Transit and King County Metro Transit, and is beyond city and landowner control.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.