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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Bring questions about planned highlands road to Wednesday meeting

January 10, 2011

NEW — 6 a.m. Jan. 10, 2011

Plans call for a road to be built in the Issaquah Highlands behind Grand Ridge Elementary School soon.

The proposed road is meant to alleviate traffic congestion on Northeast Park Drive and offer access to a series of parcels eyed for development.

The city has planned a meeting for parents of Grand Ridge Elementary students and other community members Wednesday. Participants can examine the proposed road design, offer input about changes and ask questions.

The project is also designed to reduce traffic congestion and improve safety at the school during peak drop-off and pick-up times for parents and students.

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City Council opens highlands land to Bellevue College development

December 14, 2010

Park Pointe transfer of development rights

Bellevue College could construct a campus in the Issaquah Highlands and dozens of homes could be built nearby in the coming years due to a series of agreements the City Council approved Dec. 6.

The council directed city staffers to facilitate the sale of three parcels on 35 acres owned by highlands developer Port Blakely Communities. Revenue from the sales is then to be used to purchase Park Pointe — 102 forested acres on Tiger Mountain near Issaquah High School.

If the complicated process – called a transfer of development rights — succeeds, the 102 acres and another 43 rural acres near the highlands should be preserved. In addition, the 35 acres under consideration could be developed.

The council selected Bellevue College and local homebuilders to develop the three highlands parcels.

Bellevue College Trustee Vicki Orrico said the process could take more than 20 years for the campus to be completed — if college administrators decide to buy the land in the highlands and construct a campus.

“We’re a community college,” she said. “Just what the name implies, we’re a college of the community, and that’s our intention in coming here. We plan to do a great deal of learning and listening to you about what you want.”

Bellevue College announced interest in a highlands site in August. The college is in the midst of a traffic study to gauge the impact of a potential campus in the neighborhood.

In October, the city started to solicit proposals from potential buyers for the parcels.

The sales should generate enough dollars to purchase Park Pointe. The city also aimed to select buyers based on a willingness to providing a “community benefit” — such as affordable housing or public spaces — as part of developing the parcels.

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King County approves boundary change critical to Park Pointe preservation

November 2, 2010

Park Pointe transfer of development rights

King County has adjusted the area for urban growth in the Issaquah Highlands, as part of the long-running effort to preserve about 140 forested acres.

In a unanimous decision, King County Council members added 35 acres near Central Park to the urban area open to dense development. The council adopted the change to the countywide growth blueprint, or Comprehensive Plan, Oct. 18.

The decision is part of a push led by Issaquah officials to preserve 102 acres at the Park Pointe site on Tiger Mountain, plus a rural parcel adjacent to the highlands.

The deal, a complicated transfer of development rights, aims to set aside about 140 acres — the Park Pointe land near Issaquah High School and another 43 acres adjacent to the highlands.

Port Blakely Communities, the developer responsible for the highlands, owns 78 acres in unincorporated King County near Central Park. The proposed transfer calls for Port Blakely to preserve 43 acres and open the remaining 35 acres — the land addressed in the Comprehensive Plan change — to construction.

Issaquah Mayor Ava Frisinger said the boundary decision represented a milestone in the effort to preserve Park Pointe and add density to the highlands.

“It was very, very important that it be done,” she said. “Otherwise, the ability to have the whole TDR transaction take place would have been in jeopardy.”

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Updated development rules could boost chances for highlands retail

August 24, 2010

Long after slick sales brochures and pitches from real estate agents promised the chance to live, work and play in the Issaquah Highlands, the neighborhood may become more appealing to businesses.

Or maybe not.

Milestone development measures passed by the City Council last week loosened the rules for parking and signage in the highlands — sore spots for potential tenants. Read more

Park Pointe development swap raises questions

July 27, 2010

Issaquah Highlands would absorb density

Issaquah Highlands residents raised questions last week about a proposed deal to preserve Tiger Mountain land near Issaquah High School and, in turn, allow more residences to be built in the highlands.

The city and highlands developer Port Blakely Communities hosted a July 28 open house about the proposed transfer of development rights — a long-running effort to keep the forested Park Pointe site undeveloped.

The open house — hosted at Blakely Hall by highlands visionary Judd Kirk and Keith Niven, city Major Development Review Team program manager — covered familiar territory.

The transfer aims to prohibit development on about 140 forested acres — 102 acres at Park Pointe and another 43 acres adjacent to the highlands. The deal aims to allow 500 additional residences in the highlands. The city hopes to complete the swap by December.

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City works to preserve Tiger Mountain land

May 11, 2010

The long process to preserve the Park Pointe property inched forward last week, as the City Council agreed to initiate the complicated steps to preserve the Tiger Mountain land and, in exchange, allow more residences in the Issaquah Highlands.

Mayor Ava Frisinger proposed the transfer of development rights in September 2008. The recent bankruptcy of the developer behind Park Pointe and subsequent foreclosure on the property by a Seattle bank presented city leaders with the latest opportunity to complete the exchange.

If city officials and landowners can pull off the proposed transfer of development rights, about 140 forested acres will be preserved — 102 acres at the Park Pointe site near Issaquah High School and another 43 acres adjacent to the highlands.

Before the land can be set aside for conservation, however, officials must sign off on separate bills to initiate the transfer of development rights and amend the agreement with highlands developer Port Blakely Communities to address the undeveloped land near the hillside community. The amendment seeks to allow Port Blakely to build 500 additional residential units in a proposed highlands town center.

City Council members referred the dual measures to the Council Major Planning & Growth Committee. Members will discuss the legislation May 24.

“So, what we’ve done is try to develop a scenario that might work in a few different ways that could ultimately lead us to preserving 140-plus acres of open space that the community would see as being a benefit,” Keith Niven, program manager for the city Major Development Review Team, told council members May 3.

Port Blakely owns 78 acres near Central Park in the highlands. Under the existing zoning, the company could develop the unincorporated King County land as five-acre residential properties or for institutional uses, like a church or a school. Instead, Port Blakely offered some of the land for preservation, or as part of the transfer of development rights.

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Leon Kos will retire from city after 33 years

April 27, 2010

City administrator leaves behind a bigger, stronger Issaquah

Leon Kos

The past three decades can be attributed to — or blamed on — legendary City Clerk Linda Ruehle.

Issaquah needed a new city administrator in early 1977. Leon Kos, a recent Seattle transplant from California, applied for the job.

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Port Blakely president will step down Jan. 15

January 12, 2010

Alan Boeker

Alan Boeker

Port Blakely Communities President Alan Boeker will step down Jan. 15, the company announced last week. The executive will leave as the Issaquah Highlands developer works to bring additional commercial options to the decade-old community.

René Ancinas, president and chief operating officer of parent company Port Blakely Companies, will assume responsibilities for the real estate division. Ancinas will work alongside Judd Kirk — a senior vice president, the chief real estate strategist and a key player in establishing the vision for the highlands — and other managers after the transition.

A statement from the company said Boeker would “pursue other development opportunities in the real estate industry.” Read more

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