City combines planning, building functions to speed up permitting

March 28, 2012

NEW — 5:30 p.m. March 28, 2012

The reorganization of City Hall entered a more intense phase Tuesday, as officials announced a plan to bundle municipal departments into a Development Services Department — a super-agency meant to streamline planning and building functions.

Bob Harrison

The change is accompanied by a more muscular effort to attract and retain businesses. Leaders said the Development Services Department is meant to smooth the process apply for a permit to construct a project or open a business in Issaquah.

The centerpiece is a plan to offer applicants the option to pay additional fees to expedite the evaluation a project receives. The setup is akin to Disney’s Fastpass. Only, rather than theme park guests standing in line for shorter stretches, permit applicants choose a speedier permitting process.

City Administrator Bob Harrison said frequent questions from permit applicants influenced the project.

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City hosts meetings on Central Issaquah redevelopment

March 20, 2012

The long process to transform more than 900 acres in the decades ahead is due to continue in the months ahead — and residents can offer input on the far-reaching proposal.

City Council and Planning Policy Commission members plan to delve deeper into the Central Issaquah Plan — a long-term proposal to remake more than 900 acres in the business district along Interstate 90.

The next meeting related to the Central Issaquah Plan is the Committee-of-the-Whole Council on March 27.

The council, council committees and the commission plan a series of public meetings in March, April and May to discuss details proposed in the plan. In recent years, planners outlined a broad proposal to turn acres of low-rise office buildings, shopping centers and self-storage units on land near Interstate 90 and state Route 900 into pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods.

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Hazardous conditions impacted response to January storms

March 6, 2012

The battle against the elements created dangerous conditions for city crews during a snowstorm and a rare ice storm in January, officials said in a recent update on response to the storms.

City crews scrambled to keep pace as the storms battered Issaquah and the region. Sometimes, limbs crashed onto city streets mere moments after a snowplow scraped snow and ice from the surface.

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Hazardous conditions impacted response to January storms

March 5, 2012

NEW — 6 a.m. March 5, 2012

The battle against the elements created dangerous conditions for city crews during a snowstorm and a rare ice storm in January, officials said in a recent update on response to the storms.

City crews scrambled to keep pace as the storms battered Issaquah and the region. Sometimes, limbs crashed onto city streets mere moments after a snowplow scraped snow and ice from the surface.

“You’d clear a road, you’d come back down and you’d have to clear your way back out the same road,” Bret Heath, city Public Works Operations and emergency management director, said in a Feb. 28 briefing to the City Council. “Or you’d clear a road and you’d get a call from somebody else in the snowplow that said, ‘I thought you cleared this road.’ The answer is, well, we did. We were just there, but those trees were coming down so fast and frequent that it was impossible for awhile to stay on top of that.”

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City Council chooses Tola Marts, Fred Butler for leadership posts

January 17, 2012

City Council members chose Tola Marts to lead the board in the coming year, as the council reorganizes City Hall and delves into a long-term plan to redevelop the business district.

Tola Marts

Fred Butler

In unanimous decisions Jan. 3, council members elected Marts to the top spot on the board — council president — and longtime member Fred Butler to serve in the No. 2 position.

The council president leads the legislative branch of city government. The responsibilities for the role include running semimonthly council meetings and monthly Committee-of-the-Whole Council meetings, handling committee assignments and representing the city if Mayor Ava Frisinger is absent.

Marts joined the council in January 2010 and succeeded longtime Councilman David Kappler. Butler joined the council a dozen years ago.

The shift represents the only change in council leadership since 2009, after former Councilman John Traeger succeeded then-Council President Maureen McCarry in the top spot. (Both officials have since left the council.)

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City Council bids farewell to outgoing member John Traeger

January 17, 2012

In a dignified sendoff Dec. 19, City Council members bid farewell to Council President John Traeger.

John Traeger

Traeger decided in late April to step down after a single term as a councilman after leading the council through a busy period.

Other council members elected the technology consultant and Squak Mountain resident to lead the board for 2010 and again for 2011. Under Traeger, council members preserved the forested Park Pointe site near Issaquah High School, hired City Administrator Bob Harrison and embarked on a landmark reorganization of city government.

In addition, the council president runs semimonthly council meetings and monthly Committee-of-the-Whole Council meetings, handles committee assignments and represents the city if Mayor Ava Frisinger is absent.

“I will miss Councilmember Traeger’s presence on the council and his thorough research and good, solid work as a council member,” Frisinger said at the last council meeting Traeger attended as a member.

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City plans website overhaul

December 6, 2011

The difficult-to-navigate municipal website — a portal to City Council documents, event schedules and emergency preparedness information — is about to receive a makeover.

The council plans to spend up to $125,000 to overhaul the outdated website early next year. The action follows a council discussion last year to remake the website, www.ci.issaquah.wa.us. Funding for the overhaul comes from the Cable TV Fund — dollars from the franchise agreements between the city and cable providers.

Autumn Monahan, city communications coordinator and the point person on the redesign, collected input from department chiefs, council members, Mayor Ava Frisinger and website managers in other cities to prepare a plan for overhauling the website.

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Citizens can offer input on proposed redevelopment

November 22, 2011

City leaders could seal a deal to redevelop almost 80 acres in the business district next month.

In the meantime, citizens can offer input on the proposed development agreement between the city and Issaquah-based Rowley Properties at public meetings in late November and early December.

The hearing is the latest step in a decadeslong process to reshape 80 acres near Interstate 90 and state Route 900 — land dubbed Hyla Crossing and Rowley Center.

City Council members plan to review the proposal through mid-December and reach a decision by Dec. 19.

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Bellevue College construction in Issaquah could start next year

October 25, 2011

City, college partner to plan Issaquah campus

Bellevue College could start construction on a campus in the Issaquah Highlands as early as next year, college and city officials announced, as the project gains momentum despite budget cuts and a dismal forecast from Olympia.

The college purchased about 20 acres last year in a complicated transfer of development rights designed to preserve Tiger Mountain forestland from construction and open additional highlands land to builders.

“In a time when a lot of the news in our part of world is very depressing, in terms of budget cuts and things, this is something we can look forward to,” Laura Saunders, Bellevue College interim president, said in a presentation to City Council members Sept. 27. “This is a way of building to the future.”

Throughout the summer, crews built and paved a road to access the planned campus.

Keith Niven, city Major Development Review Team program manager, said the timetable for construction is a surprise.

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Issaquah City Council balks at joining regional fire authority

August 2, 2011

Issaquah is all but certain not to participate in a regional fire authority, due to concerns about higher property tax bills for city homeowners.

On July 26, City Council members indicated Issaquah should not proceed in the formation of a regional fire authority. Unlike Eastside Fire & Rescue, a regional fire authority could tax residents to fund emergency services.

Officials from Issaquah and rural fire districts formed a planning group in late 2009 to consider a regional fire authority in the EFR service area.

“We did that so we were at the table and could participate in the discussion as we went through a process,” Councilman Fred Butler said at a Committee-of-the-Whole Council meeting. “We’re at the point right now where, I think, it’s fairly obvious which way we want to go. It’s not to our benefit or to our citizens’ benefit.”

Contributions from member cities and fire districts fund EFR. Issaquah contributes about $5 million per year to the agency.

Issaquah homeowners contribute 76 cents per $1,000 in assessed value for emergency services under the existing arrangement.

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