City seeks Regional Growth Center title
May 14, 2013
By Peter Clark
To help the chances of receiving additional transportation funds from the Puget Sound Regional Council, the City Council has decided to apply for the title of Regional Growth Center.
The Puget Sound Regional Council provides transportation grants and support for four counties in the area. Regional Growth Centers have a heightened visibility when money is available for such projects.
Many questions were asked by the council at its April 15 regular meeting regarding the benefits that a city could derive from the title. Specifics were unknown, and so the council could only speculate on how beneficial the title would be for Issaquah.
Department of Economic Development Director Keith Niven said that after an area is selected to be a Regional Growth Center, it must officially plan to include an additional 7,000 housing units into the development plans. The large scope was not lost on him.
“It’s a huge number,” he said. “This is an added density the city said it would plan to accept.”
The inclusion of the extra housing would have to be planned for in the next 20 years, Niven said. However, the city would be safe from punitive action should growth stall actual construction.
“There’s no penalty if you don’t achieve that number, but you do have to include it in the planning,” Niven said of the housing.
The sheer amount of such growth is what caused most of the concern about applying for the designation. Councilwoman Stacy Goodman voiced caution about the expectations involved should the city receive the title.
“My concern is what we are receiving for this,” she said in a phone interview. “It will make us more competitive for funding, but we don’t know how many dollars we will get. Are we getting into this thinking that we are going to get money, and we don’t for various reasons?”
There are currently 20 Regional Growth Centers in the Puget Sound region, including every major city’s downtown area. Niven said that there would still be competition for transportation dollars, but the title would help raise Issaquah’s profile in that regard.
“We should get a higher priority of money than those that aren’t designated a Regional Growth Center,” Niven said.