Offer input on Central Issaquah Plan for business district
July 10, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
The historic proposal to transform more than 900 acres near Interstate 90 and state Route 900 in the decades ahead is a step closer to implementation, but before city leaders act on the plan, citizens can comment on the bid.
The long-term 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.
Before the proposal reaches the City Council for discussion and possible implementation, citizens can comment July 12 at a public hearing hosted by the Planning Policy Commission.
The commission is expected to issue a recommendation on the plan and send the proposal to the council in the weeks ahead.
Planning Policy Commission
Citizens can read the environmental impact statement for the proposed Central Issaquah Plan at www.ci.issaquah.wa.us/centralissaquah.
“It is so important for a community to be a part of their future and what they want their future to be like,” said Trish Heinonen, city policy planning services manager. “It’s these times when they need to think of their community in the future and what they love about it and what they want to keep about it, and yet what can make it be a thriving, vital, exciting, wonderful home and workplace and play place for them and future generations.”
Central Issaquah encompasses 915 acres — including retail destinations, such as Pickering Place, and the Meadows and Issaquah Commons shopping centers. The area does not include historic downtown Issaquah.
The upcoming hearing is the latest effort to engage residents in the Central Issaquah Plan process.
In April, commissioners hosted a public open house and hearing on the draft environmental review for the Central Issaquah Plan.
The public process to re-envision Central Issaquah started in November 2007 as planners asked citizens to use Legos to map density in a future Issaquah. The participants, gathered around tables at Pickering Barn, re-envisioned Issaquah as a Legoland of green spaces and a dense business district.
In subsequent years, planners conducted additional public meetings and 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.
City planners kept most recommendations from the task force proposal, but added plans for more housing in the document under consideration.
The environmental review, or environmental impact statement, for the project arrived June 28. The document marks another important step in the effort to implement the plan.
Planners expect diverse opinions about the document at the upcoming hearing and in submitted comments about the plan.
“It’s always good to get diverse groups — that’s what your community is. It’s the 64 colors in the crayon box,” Heinonen said. “We’d love to hear from all of them.”
Issaquah is receiving technical assistance on the Central Issaquah Plan through a program at the nonprofit organization Forterra and a federal grant.
Forterra, the former Cascade Land Conservancy, received a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program — a nationwide program to boost communities’ economic and environmental health — to offer the aid.
The long-term redevelopment proposal also prompted criticism.
Issaquah Environmental Council members raised questions about the possible impacts redevelopment could cause on traffic congestion, mountain vistas and the environment. The group launched the Eyes on Issaquah campaign in February to encourage residents to scrutinize the proposal.
Even as the Central Issaquah Plan process forges ahead, efforts to redevelop the area for the future started late last year.
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.
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.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.