Will the City Council finally settle on future development regulations for Issaquah Highlands?
If you follow development in Issaquah Highlands, you know that a 20-year Development Agreement (DA) has been in force since 1996. This “Agreement” governed how Issaquah Highlands was built from parks to streets, homes to movie theatres. Since its term is up, the DA will be replaced with City regulations.
However, after a year of public process, land use and development rules referred to as “replacement regulations” have not yet been adopted. The proposed regulations had been scheduled to go in force at the beginning of the year.
Why does this matter? First, the Highlands are not fully built out yet. The replacement regulations could determine what will be built on now empty parcels of land. And second, these regulations will govern how already built-on parcels are redeveloped.
What’s taking so long? Most of the replacement regulations have been unanimously supported. However, a few topics remain unsettled. The City of Issaquah, Council Land and Shore Committee is tasked with sorting through the replacement regulations and making a recommendation to the full council. See links to their recent meetings below.
Which topics are holding up the process? They are vesting (which determines whether developers work with the old Development Agreement or the replacement regulations), minimum density regulated by minimum Floor Area Ratio (FAR) and parking structure requirements. The purpose of the latter two regulations is to fulfill the vision of Issaquah Highlands and to apply Central Issaquah standards intended to prevent suburban-style development dominated by parking lots.
For over 20 years, development in Issaquah Highlands has been regulated by a Development Agreement (a DA is a contract) between the master developer, Port Blakely, and the City of Issaquah. All the Highlands were zoned Urban Village and development was determined by allowed uses counted in units or square footage, along with building regulations. The Development Agreement (DA) replacement regulations will consist of city zoning, overlays and code that govern future development and redevelopment.
The process to replace the DA began early in 2017. First, City of Issaquah officials hosted a meeting at Blakley Hall to discuss the need for the regulations and how the process would go forward. Then the Urban Village Development Commission and the Planning Policy Commission held combined public meetings to review the regulations. On September 28th the Planning Policy Commission recommended approval of the regulations to the City Council. The Council assigned their Land and Shore Committee to work out the details.
According to the City of Issaquah web page dedicated to the next steps after the DA, “Issaquah’s goal is to keep the existing character of each urban village [Issaquah Highlands and Talus] and make land use rules more consistent with the rest of Issaquah.”
The City of Issaquah returned to Blakely Hall on February 7, 2018, hosting a meeting to share progress made with the replacement regulations. More information here>>.
The Land and Shore committee of the City Council convened what appears to be its final meeting on the replacement regulations (re: Agenda Bill (AB) 7523) on March 1st. A video of this meeting can be seen here >>.
On March 5th the full City Council were expected to discuss in Executive Session (not open to the public) the issue of vesting as it to pertains to retiring the Issaquah Highlands Development Agreement and the replacement regulations.
The City Council meets on Monday, March 19th in what should be the final meeting on this matter.
There is more information on issaquahwa.gov. Search for the “Development Agreements Page.”
Aerial photo used for the story was taken and contributed by Scott Moffat, Manchester Court resident.
FULL COUNCIL MEETING
The City Council is expected to vote on proposed replacement regulations for residential redevelopment, new commercial and retail development, as well as future redevelopment in Issaquah Highlands
City of Issaquah / City Council
Monday, March 19th at 7pm
Link to the AGENDA
135 E Sunset Way
The public is welcome. Addressing the council will be allowed during “audience comments.”