Issaquah funeral home proposal raises traffic congestion concerns

June 20, 2011

NEW — 4:15 p.m. June 20, 2011

Concerns about traffic congestion prompted downtown Issaquah residents and business owners to mobilize last week in a neighborhood effort to thwart a funeral home operator from opening a facility in a church along East Sunset Way.

The municipal Planning Department is considering a proposal from Service Corporation International, a Houston-based funeral products and services provider, to renovate Abide Baptist Church, 425 E. Sunset Way, into a funeral home. (The company also operates Sunset Hills Memorial Park in Bellevue and Greenwood Memorial Park in Renton, plus funeral homes in the same cities.)

The applicant’s parking proposal attracted the most ire from project opponents. Plans call for aisle parking, similar to the lineup near a ferry dock, to accommodate about 20 vehicles for services and visitations at the funeral home. The proposal also calls for using a parking attendant to direct vehicles before and after events.

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John Traeger decides against another City Council term

May 3, 2011

Candidate Paul Winterstein enters race for seat

Paul Winterstein

The race for another City Council seat launched last week, as John Traeger opted not to run for re-election and Human Services Commission Chairman Paul Winterstein announced plans to campaign for the seat.

Traeger, elevated to the council in 2007, decided to step down after a single term. Since early 2010, the Squak Mountain resident has served as council president, the top spot on the board.

“With my term on council such a personally rewarding experience, it was a difficult decision to return to private life,” he said in a statement released April 28.

Traeger, a technology consultant, said he intends to make his career a top priority after his term ends Dec. 31.

“While after my term I will be turning more of my focus to my professional responsibilities, I look forward to continuing to be involved in serving the citizens of our community,” he said.

The council president also endorsed Winterstein in the race for the Position 6 seat.

“Through his work as chair of the city’s Human Services Commission, advocacy for transportation options, and continuous outreach to and volunteering with local aid groups, Paul has been a tireless contributor to our community,” Traeger said. “I am grateful to my supporters and especially my wife Annette for helping me with a successful term.”

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Find a niche at Issaquah Hobby & Volunteer Expo

May 3, 2011

Looking for a quilting club? How about a hiking group or a nonprofit that helps veterans?

Hobby hunters and volunteer enthusiasts need look no further than the 12th annual Hobby & Volunteer Expo, held at the same time as the Issaquah Farmers Market May 7 at Pickering Barn.

“It has just been a fantastic tradition, an annual event, in which community programs and hobby groups can get together and, one, network with each other, and two, put the word out that they exist and they are looking for members,” Issaquah Recreation Coordinator Cathy Jones said.

The expo targets a number of people: youths looking for volunteer opportunities; Issaquah newcomers looking for groups to join; empty nesters or recent retirees searching for new outlets; and just about anybody in need of a new venture.

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In council election shakeup, John Traeger is out, Paul Winterstein is in

April 29, 2011

NEW — 7:45 a.m. April 29, 2011

The race for another City Council seat launched Thursday night, as John Traeger opted not to run for re-election and Human Services Commission Chairman Paul Winterstein announced plans to campaign for the seat.

Paul Winterstein

Traeger, elevated to the council in 2007, decided to step down after a single term. Since early 2010, the Squak Mountain resident has served as council president, the top spot on the board.

“With my term on council such a personally rewarding experience, it was a difficult decision to return to private life,” he said in a statement released Thursday night.

The council president also endorsed Winterstein in the race for the Position 6 seat.

“Through his work as chair of the city’s Human Services Commission, advocacy for transportation options, and continuous outreach to and volunteering with local aid groups, Paul has been a tireless contributor to our community,” Traeger said.

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City celebrates Arbor Day at Ruth Kees Grove planting

April 20, 2011

Volunteers gather along Issaquah Creek on April 16 to observe Arbor Day. By Margaret Macleod

NEW — 4 p.m. April 20, 2011

Issaquah leaders gathered on a less-than-springlike day April 16 to observe Arbor Day and plant a grove to honor Ruth Kees and the community’s other top environmentalists.

Like the top environmental honor in the city, the grove is named for the late Kees. The bespectacled environmentalist fought for decades to protect Issaquah Creek, Tiger Mountain and the Lower Issaquah Valley Aquifer from development-related threats.

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Interstate 90 pedestrian bridge is late, over budget

April 19, 2011

Opening is delayed until at least June

The spindly pedestrian crossover bridging the westbound on-ramp at Interstate 90 and state Route 900 is at least $200,000 over budget and not expected to open until June, months after the expected completion date.

Blame unstable soil at the site and soggy conditions for delaying the connector from April until early summer. The additional construction could increase the $6 million project budget. City Public Works Engineering Director Bob Brock said planners could ask the City Council to authorize additional dollars for the project, depending on the remaining construction.

“We would like to get it done sooner, but we recognize that this has been a very wet winter, and it just keeps going,” he said.

The long-planned connector at the bustling intersection experienced a construction slowdown last fall after crews needed to dig deeper to find a solid layer to support the piers beneath the bridge. The rain-soaked winter and spring also caused construction to proceed at a slower pace.

Plans call for the completed connector to include a separate 12-foot-wide pedestrian bridge across the westbound interstate on-ramps. Crews also modified the existing state Route 900 overpass to install a 10-foot-wide pedestrian crossing.

The city relied on federal dollars and a $400,000 grant from Sound Transit to offset most of the project cost. The city contributed about $341,000 for the connector and is responsible for cost overruns.

Construction on the project started last July.

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Legislators consider $30 fee for public lands, state parks

April 5, 2011

Proposed Discover Pass could stave off closures

Hikers, mountain bikers and other outdoors enthusiasts using Issaquah as a starting point for treks could face a $30 fee to use public lands and state parks come July.

Lawmakers proposed the statewide fee in order to inject funds into the cash-strapped agencies managing public forests, open spaces and recreation facilities. The legislation aims to create a yearlong pass, called the Discover Pass, to park at trailheads and other state-managed lands. For users uninterested in the annual parking pass, the legislation proposes a $10 day-use fee for using the lands. Otherwise, violators could face a ticket.

By Dona Mokin

Though the Discover Pass proposal attracted broad support from outdoor recreation groups, Issaquah legislators remain concerned about the state imposing fees amid a tough economy.

If the Legislature decides against a recreation fee, agencies could close state lands to public access in order to cut costs. Squak Mountain State Park near Issaquah faces closure from July through 2013 as legislators scramble to patch a $5.1 billion hole in the 2011-13 budget.

David Kappler, Issaquah Alps Trails Club president and a former Issaquah councilman, said the Discover Pass could offer a short-term solution.

“I think some of the fees that they’re talking about are reasonable, at least for a while, until things improve,” he said. “I really don’t think that we want to get into that situation long term.”

Supporters said the per-vehicle pass could be easier to enforce, because officers can check parking areas for vehicle windshields displaying a Discover Pass, rather than tracking down users on trails.

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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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Maureen McCarry receives city’s top environmental award

March 22, 2011

Maureen McCarry smiles March 21 as her husband Tom Knollmann and the City Hall audience applaud her for receiving the Ruth Kees Environmental Award. By Greg Farrar

The latest recipient of the top environmental honor in Issaquah acted as a guiding force — in public and behind the scenes — in the long-running effort to shape neighborhoods and preserve undeveloped land.

Leaders elevated Maureen McCarry into the pantheon alongside other important conservation activists, and bestowed the Ruth Kees Environmental Award for a Sustainable Community on the former councilwoman at a City Hall ceremony March 21.

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Maureen McCarry receives city’s top environmental honor

March 21, 2011

NEW — 8 p.m. March 21, 2011

The latest recipient of the top environmental honor in Issaquah acted as a guiding force — in public and behind the scenes — in the long-running effort to shape neighborhoods and preserve undeveloped land.

Leaders elevated Maureen McCarry into the pantheon alongside other important conservation activists, and bestowed the Ruth Kees Environmental Award for a Sustainable Community on the former councilwoman at a City Hall ceremony Monday night.

Mayor Ava Frisinger cited the countless hours McCarry contributed to forge agreements outlining construction in the Issaquah Highlands and Talus, preserve forested Park Pointe near Issaquah High School and strengthen tree-protection rules.

The mayor and Council President John Traeger selected McCarry for the honor after receiving numerous nominations for the former councilwoman, a Squak Mountain resident.

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