20 reasons to ♥ Issaquah

July 2, 2011

The spectacular landscape is a reason to love Issaquah. By Connor Lee

Discover 20 reasons to love Issaquah, from the highest Tiger Mountain peak to the Lake Sammamish shoreline, and much more in between. The community includes icons and traits not found anywhere else, all in a postcard-perfect setting. The unique qualities — Issa-qualities? — start at the city’s name and extend into every nook and neighborhood. (The lineup is not arranged in a particular order, because ranking the city’s pre-eminent qualities seems so unfair.)

Salmon Days

The annual salmon-centric celebration is stitched into the city’s fabric. Salmon Days serves as a last hurrah before autumn, a touchstone for old-timers and a magnet for tourists. The street fair consistently ranks among the top destinations in the Evergreen State and, for a time last year, as the best festival on earth — in the $250,000-to-$749,000 budget category, anyway.

Issaquah Alps

The majestic title for the forested peaks surrounding the city, the Issaquah Alps, is a catchall term for Cougar, Squak and Tiger mountains. (Credit the late mountaineer and conservationist Harvey Manning for the sobriquet.) The setting is a playground for outdoors enthusiasts. Trails — some official and others less so — for hikers, bikers and equestrians crisscross the mountains, like haphazard tic-tac-toe patterns.

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Issaquah City Council sets goals for 2012

June 21, 2011

Less than a month after gathering to brainstorm ideas for the coming year, City Council members set ambitious goals for 2012, including possible solutions for cash-strapped Lake Sammamish State Park, a more citizen-friendly budgeting process and a commission to address economic vitality.

The council OK’d the list June 6, and sent Mayor Ava Frisinger priorities for the months ahead. The decision represents the initial step in the process to shape the 2012 municipal budget. The unanimous decision came after council members met for a rare Saturday meeting May 14 to outline goals.

“In my view, these are a balanced set of goals that cover just about every aspect of city government,” Councilman Fred Butler said during the June 6 meeting. “There’s something in there for everyone.”

The list calls for the city to join with the DownTown Issaquah Association and the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce to determine options for a structured parking study. Issues related to downtown parking — a headache during ArtWalk, Fenders on Front Street and other summertime events — emerged as the top priority at the retreat.

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Issaquah City Council sets ambitious goals for 2012

June 14, 2011

Top priorities include downtown parking, Economic Vitality Commission

NEW — 8 a.m. June 14, 2011

Less than a month after gathering to brainstorm ideas for the coming year, City Council members set ambitious goals for 2012, including possible solutions for cash-strapped Lake Sammamish State Park, a more citizen-friendly budgeting process and a commission to address economic vitality.

The council OK’d the list June 6, and sent Mayor Ava Frisinger priorities for the months ahead. The decision represents the initial step in the process to shape the 2012 municipal budget. The unanimous decision came after council members met for a rare Saturday meeting May 14 to outline goals.

“In my view, these are a balanced set of goals that cover just about every aspect of city government,” Councilman Fred Butler said during the June 6 meeting. “There’s something in there for everyone.”

The list calls for the city to join with the DownTown Issaquah Association and the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce to determine options for a structured parking study. Issues related to downtown parking — a headache during ArtWalk, Fenders on Front Street and other summertime events — emerged as the top priority at the retreat.

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Crews start construction on highlands’ College Drive

June 7, 2011

Construction started late last month on Northeast College Drive in the Issaquah Highlands.

Plans call for the road to snake for about a half-mile behind Grand Ridge Elementary School and link to the existing street grid at Central Park. The road is meant to serve as access to a Bellevue College campus planned for the highlands.

In addition, the road through The Highlands at Wynhaven apartment complex is due to be improved and turned into 15th Avenue Northeast. College Drive is planned to form a T-shaped intersection at 15th Avenue.

The road project is occurring at the same time as residential construction on nearby land. The project is ultimately meant to provide another east-to-west access point to Falls Drive Northeast.

In order to accommodate the project, a city maintenance yard is to be constructed immediately south of the Central Park Reservoir.

The south access path to the school from Central Park is due to close until fall. Parkgoers should also expect short-term closures along the park access road.

The road should be completed at about the start of the 2011-12 school year.

Crews start construction on highlands’ College Drive

May 30, 2011

NEW — 8 a.m. May 30, 2011

Construction has started on Northeast College Drive in the Issaquah Highlands.

Plans call for College Drive to snake for about a half-mile behind Grand Ridge Elementary School and link to the existing street grid at Central Park. The road is meant to serve as access to a Bellevue College campus planned for the highlands.

In addition, the road through The Highlands at Wynhaven apartment complex is due to be improved and turned into 15th Avenue Northeast. College Drive is planned to form a T-shaped intersection at 15th Avenue.

The road project is occurring at the same time as residential construction on nearby land. The project is ultimately meant to provide another east-to-west access point to Falls Drive Northeast.

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Major renovation for aging Julius Boehm Pool is a priority

May 17, 2011

The long-discussed plan to redo the outdated Julius Boehm Pool inched ahead May 14, as City Council members listed priorities for 2012 — a key step in determining how leaders decide to spend next year.

In addition to confronting increased maintenance costs as the pool ages, a 2009 city-commissioned study declared the facility as inadequate for the community.

“We’ve gone to tactical mode,” Council President John Traeger said. “We’ve got to fix the pool.”

The pool emerged as a major focus early in the session, as council members and department chiefs gathered in a map-lined Public Works Operations Building conference room. Other priorities included downtown parking, economic development and Lake Sammamish State Park.

The price tag to expand and upgrade the downtown Boehm Pool in a major renovation is estimated at $21 million. Other options could cost less.

The popular pool no longer meets demand for high school and club swim teams, recreational swimmers and children’s swimming lessons due to its age and other factors. Still, passing a municipal bond to salvage the facility might be a tough sell.

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College Drive construction starts soon in highlands

April 26, 2011

Construction should start in early May on a road to access the Bellevue College satellite campus planned for the Issaquah Highlands.

Crews plan to start staging equipment and clearing land for Northeast College Drive soon. City permits for the project need to be issued before roadwork can start.

Plans call for the road to snake for about a half-mile behind Grand Ridge Elementary School and link to the existing street grid at Central Park. In addition, the road through The Highlands at Wynhaven apartment complex is due to be improved and turned into 15th Avenue Northeast. College Drive is planned to form a T-shaped intersection at 15th Avenue.

The road should be completed at about the same time as the start of the 2011-12 school year.

Though the project is not far from the Grand Ridge Elementary campus, the road is not designed to alleviate congestion during busy mornings and afternoons at the school.

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County seeks proposals for youth sports facilities

April 26, 2011

Youth sports organizations can apply for King County grants to build or upgrade recreation facilities.

The county Parks and Recreation Division is accepting applications from qualified groups for Youth Sports Facilities Grants. Applicants must partner with a public agency, such as a school district or municipal parks department, to develop or renovate sports facilities.

The fund has helped organizers build or renovate hundreds of public sports amenities in neighborhoods throughout the county.

Past grant recipients in the Issaquah area include city-run Central Park in the Issaquah Highlands and county-run Duthie Hill Park in Sammamish.

“Thanks to robust partnerships with community groups, we are using our limited resources to bring new or improved recreational amenities for King County residents that otherwise wouldn’t be possible,” County Executive Dow Constantine said in a release.

The program provides matching grant funds of up to $75,000. Grant requests range from $5,000 to $75,000.

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City preserves Tiger Mountain forest in historic milestone

March 29, 2011

Park Pointe protection occurs after years long effort to stop proposed construction

By Dona Mokin

The long-running saga to preserve Park Pointe — a slice of Tiger Mountain forest near Issaquah High School — ended late March 24, after more than a decade of public and behind-the-scenes negotiations to halt construction of hundreds of houses once proposed for the land.

The tradeoff: Under the agreement, city leaders steered construction from Park Pointe to the Issaquah Highlands instead, and, as a result, preserved more than 140 acres in the process.

“I think that this will transform the community in a very, very positive way,” Mayor Ava Frisinger said, minutes after the deal closed. “It has the three elements of sustainability. It has the environment — the environmental protection and preservation. It has a huge social element. It has economic vitality benefits as well.”

The historic conservation effort is part of a complicated transfer of development rights.

City planners and officials shepherded the agreement through the arduous process after Frisinger outlined the landmark opportunity to preserve Park Pointe in late 2008.

In the years since, representatives from the city, highlands developer Port Blakely Communities and other partners pursued the project until the recession scuttled the developer behind the proposed Park Pointe development.

Since a Seattle bank foreclosed on the land from the defunct developer last March, the preservation effort lurched into gear. Issaquah and King County officials adopted a series of agreements late last year to advance the process.

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Press Editorial

March 29, 2011

Preserving Park Pointe is a triumph for entire city

The momentous effort to preserve Park Pointe is complete.

Issaquah leaders and residents can celebrate after more than a decade of squabbling and maneuvering to stop hundreds of homes from rising on the land.

The transfer of development rights benefits the entire city.

Park Pointe, a majestically named parcel on Tiger Mountain near Issaquah High School, is forever preserved as public open space. So, too, is a 43-acre forest near Central Park in the Issaquah Highlands.

In exchange, homebuilders can construct up to 500 residences on 35 acres in the highlands. Despite the large figure, developers proposed far fewer homes for the site.

The deal protects land ill-suited for development and shifts construction to a site near roads and utilities.

In addition, the added residents to the highlands could help attract the retail businesses promised to neighborhood residents so long ago.

The deal is not perfect, but the benefits outshine the problems.

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