Thumbs up, Thumbs Down, Central Park

By Nina Milligan, Highlands Council, Communication Manager

2016 December 19 Update:

The Issaquah City Council meets tonight for one last time about the 2017 Budget. Their proposal to the Mayor is finalized and can be viewed in the agenda online. With regards to the Central Park Improvement Project, they have agreed to fund the basic improvements as laid out below in the $3.729M project. The items that did not make the cut were:

  • Central Park Access Road Signalization & Roundabout

  • Expanding the width of on-street parking on Central Park Lane

  • Upgrading lighting to LED, low-spill, directional lighting

Council President Goodman explains in her budget memo to the Mayor that the Central Park Access Road Signalization & Roundabout are “integral to but not included in, the Central Park Pad 1 Improvement Project”. She explicitly directs the administration to include Central Park in a prioritized list of 2017 transportation and safety improvements, for future council consideration.

Tonight (Monday, December 19, 7pm) is the final scheduled Public Hearing on the 2017 budget.

2016 December 14:

The Issaquah City Council held a work session Monday night in council chambers to discuss several line items in the proposed 2017 City budget. The audience was packed, many there to support funding for Central Park. Six of the seven council members were in attendance.

The discussion regarding funding Central Park upgrades in 2017 was a continuation of one that began on Saturday, December 3 at the council’s special day-long budget work session. At that meeting, additional Central Park funding from the budget’s park mitigation fund failed to pass the informal “thumbs up – thumbs down” vote. Using thumbs is not a formal vote, but rather a way for the administration to track council’s inclinations, and for council to demonstrate transparency in their deliberations.

Monday night Jennifer Olson, City of Issaquah Finance Director, presented a correction to the park mitigation fund balance budgeted for year-end 2017. It appears the draft budget double-counted the $1M in parks mitigation fund appropriation for Central Park that was part of the approved 2016 budget. Assured the parks mitigation fund would have $1M more at the end of 2017 than originally thought, the council proceeded to analyze their options for funding the Central Park upgrades.

Funding and park strategy planning played a significant role in Monday night’s meeting, as it had on Saturday, December 3. Councilmember Paul Winterstein explained, “I actually have a lot more clarity” regarding the strategic planning that Central Park has undergone over the years. Referring to the impression he had at the December 3rd meeting, “It was my belief that Central Park was not ‘vested’ [strategically]… but now I might say Central Park is more vested than Confluence Park” [Confluence Park was where he drew the line at dedicating additional park mitigation funds on Saturday, December 3].

After many people from the audience spoke in favor of the project, and the council deliberated on what they had learned, Council members were all thumbs up for the $3.729M base project which includes the following:

  • Artificial turf field
  • Regular lighting
  • Some spectator seating
  • Some of the field amenities and paths
  • Converting City Operations Yard into interim parking

Then the Council members turned their attention to two specific parts of the proposal where they disagreed:

  • Expanding the width of on-street parking on Central Park Lane ($100K)
  • Upgrading lighting to LED, low-spill, directional lighting ($230K)

Both topics ranked high among the public’s complaints at early community outreach meetings (two of the three meetings were held at Blakely Hall, October 15, 2015 and June 22, 2016). To mitigate impacts to traffic safety, the Parks Department proposed widening the parking spaces from 6 to 8 feet, widening the roadway to accommodate. This parking safety improvement went a long way to gain community support for the Central Park upgrades.

Upgrading the field lighting to directional LED was intended to mitigate the light pollution and impact to the surrounding community, another public concern. Besides impacts to the adjacent wetland habitat, the field lighting will be visible from many of the homes uphill from Pad #1.

Neither of these gained enough “thumbs up” to pass onto the next step with a secure place in the budget. City staff will present options at a future Council Infrastructure Committee meeting on other possible sources of funding for the Central Park Lane parking expansion.

The LED lighting got “thumbs up” from Council Members Goodman, Betisse and Winterstein, not enough to pass (tie votes fail). The discussion will continue when the Parks Department brings more information about LED cost efficiencies and how increased capacity and revenue from Pad #1 could help pay for the increased cost of lighting.

On Monday, December 19 at 7pm the City Council is scheduled to finalize the 2017 budget. Any comments from the public should be provided in advance of that date. However, there will be an Audience Comment period at that meeting for members of the public to present their final comments.

Peter Kim and son, Issaquah Highlands residents living on 24th Ave NE, voiced overall support of the project, but were “concerned about road safety” and pointed out that “LED is a big concern with light pollution.”

Peter Kim and son, Issaquah Highlands residents living on 24th Ave NE, voiced overall support of the project, but were “concerned about road safety” and pointed out that “LED is a big concern with light pollution.”

Issaquah Highlands resident, Mark Burles, also from 24th Ave NE, is against the project on the whole, but stated, “If you are going to do it, do it right!” He reiterated others’ concerns about field lighting saying, “Light impacts are severe!”

Issaquah Highlands resident, Mark Burles, also from 24th Ave NE, is against the project on the whole, but stated, “If you are going to do it, do it right!” He reiterated others’ concerns about field lighting saying, “Light impacts are severe!”

 

Images of public comments were derived from ICTV, Issaquah’s 24-hour government access TV. All city council meetings are televised. They can be seen on a TV with Comcast channels, or online. See IssaquahWA.gov > Your Government > ICTV.