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 chooses Tola Marts, Fred Butler for leadership posts

January 5, 2012

NEW — 8 a.m. Jan. 5, 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

In unanimous decisions Tuesday, 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 leading semimonthly council meetings and monthly Committee-of-the-Whole Council meetings, handling committee assignments and representing the city if Mayor Ava Frisinger is absent.

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In landmark decision, buildings up to 150 feet in business district OK’d

December 27, 2011

Rowley Properties could someday build tall buildings on 78 acres in the business district, as shown in the rendering above. Contributed

Rowley Properties plans to redevelop land in decades ahead

Tall buildings could someday punctuate the skyline in the modest business district along state Route 900, after city leaders created a framework Dec. 19 to transform acre upon acre blanketed in storage units, low-slung office buildings and automotive service centers into a dense neighborhood for shops and homes.

In a landmark decision, City Council members approved a 30-year agreement between the city and longtime Issaquah developer Rowley Properties to overhaul almost 80 acres in the coming decades. The council agreed to allow buildings up to 150 feet tall and mixed-use development on up to 4.4 million square feet in Hyla Crossing and Rowley Center — parcels along Interstate 90 and state Route 900.

The landowner, in turn, is required to pay for transportation upgrades, affordable housing construction, Tibbetts Creek restoration efforts and storm-water system improvements.

Leaders said the potential for change in Hyla Crossing and Rowley Center offers a rare opportunity to reshape Issaquah as the city readjusts after a decadelong population boom.

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In major development decision, city OKs buildings up to 150 feet in business district

December 22, 2011

NEW — 9:30 p.m. Dec. 22, 2011

Tall buildings could someday punctuate the skyline in the modest business district along state Route 900, after city leaders created a framework Monday to transform acre upon acre blanketed in storage units, low-slung office buildings and automotive service centers into a dense neighborhood for shops and homes.

In a landmark decision, City Council members approved a 30-year agreement between the city and longtime Issaquah developer Rowley Properties to overhaul almost 80 acres in the coming decades. The council agreed to allow buildings up to 150 feet tall and mixed-use development on up to 4.4 million square feet in Hyla Crossing and Rowley Center — parcels along Interstate 90 and state Route 900.

The landowner, in turn, is required to pay for transportation upgrades, affordable housing construction, Tibbetts Creek restoration efforts and storm-water system improvements.

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City Council sets rules for medical marijuana gardens

December 13, 2011

In a decision meant to balance concerns about patients’ rights and public safety, City Council members set rules Dec. 5 for medical marijuana collective gardens to limit such operations near schools, parks and other collective gardens.

City planners spent months collecting input from medical marijuana patients, law enforcement officers, elected leaders and residents to craft the ordinance. The result is a milestone in the effort to clarify jumbled rules for medical marijuana and untangle different local, state and federal rules for the drug.

The measure requires a 1,000-foot buffer between a collective garden and a community center, school or another collective garden. The ordinance also set a 500-foot buffer between a collective garden and park, preschool or daycare center.

The ordinance also established a limit of a single collective garden per site.

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City Council sets rules for Issaquah medical marijuana gardens

December 7, 2011

NEW — 10 a.m. Dec. 7, 2011

In a decision meant to balance concerns about patients’ rights and public safety, City Council members set rules Monday for medical marijuana collective gardens to limit such operations near schools, parks and other collective gardens.

City planners spent months collecting input from medical marijuana patients, law enforcement officers, elected leaders and residents to craft the ordinance. The result is a milestone in the effort to clarify jumbled rules for medical marijuana and untangle different local, state and federal rules for the drug.

The measure requires a 1,000-foot buffer between a collective garden and a community center, school or another collective garden. The ordinance also set a 500-foot buffer between a collective garden and park, preschool or daycare center.

The ordinance also established a limit of a single collective garden per site.

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Developer requests $3 million from city for Issaquah Highlands retail center

November 22, 2011

In order to complete a long-planned business district in the Issaquah Highlands — and transform 14 acres into a cinema, shops, restaurants and more than 1,700 parking stalls — the developer behind the project said about $3 million in city funds is needed.

The developer, Florida-based Regency Centers, said the highlands project needs the dollars to complete roadwork and other infrastructure.

Regency and highlands developer Port Blakely Communities announced a deal in July to sell the land for a retail center, but before Regency completes the deal, company planners asked city leaders to commit public dollars to the project.

City officials said the retail complex could generate about $1 million in sales tax revenue each year.

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Council allows Issaquah Highlands gas station despite concerns

October 11, 2011

Opponents raise questions about groundwater contamination

City Council members, eager to attract more retail options to the Issaquah Highlands, decided a gas station can open in the neighborhood, but only if groceries accompany the fill-ups.

The council agreed in a 7-0 decision Oct. 3 to change the agreement between the city and highlands developer Port Blakely Communities to allow a gas station in the community. Concerns about possible groundwater contamination led city officials to ban gas stations in the highlands before construction on the neighborhood started in the mid-1990s.

Safeway outlined plans for a gas station to accompany a proposed highlands store, and city officials and gas station proponents said the rule change is a crucial step to attract the grocery chain. The gas station is proposed for a funnel-shaped lot between Ninth Avenue Northeast and Highlands Drive Northeast, next to a future Safeway.

The debate before the council decision exposed a split among highlands residents eager for more amenities in the community, and residents from elsewhere concerned about potential groundwater contamination from gas station leaks.

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Safeway proposes highlands store, council OKs gas station

October 5, 2011

Safeway planners proposed a modern Issaquah Highlands store (above) in a permit application to the city. Contributed

NEW — 4 p.m. Oct. 5, 2011

The plan to open a grocery store in the Issaquah Highlands — a still-unmet target from early goals for the community — reached a milestone Monday, as Safeway submitted a proposal for a store in the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, City Council members adjusted longstanding development rules Monday to allow a gas station in the highlands — a critical factor in Safeway’s proposal to build the store.

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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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