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Change is in the Air…Why You should Care

By September 27, 2016January 12th, 2017Connections, Development, Front Page, Uncategorized

Three stories covering the latest news regarding development in Issaquah Highlands

Moratoria Everywhere
Development News

by Nina Milligan, Highlands Council, Connections Editor

ISSAQUAH (September 13th, 2016, Issaquah Press) –
Out of nowhere, Issaquah City Council Enacts Six-month Development Moratorium

SAMMAMISH (September 20th, 2016, Issaquah Press) –
Sammamish City Council to Consider Development Moratorium

Local headlines are full of moratoria! But none apply to Issaquah Highlands.

Listed among the exclusions to the City of Issaquah moratorium are “Properties covered by approved Development Agreements”, which covers all properties in Issaquah Highlands. Our main Development Agreement (DA) expires in 2017. (See “Issaquah Highlands’ Future” on page 7 for more information on our expiring DA.)

Furthermore, even if Development Agreements were not called out by name in the ordinance “exclusions”, an amendment to the moratorium ordinance states “―…Nothing in this ordinance shall be construed to extinguish, limit or otherwise infringe upon any permit applicant’s vested development rights…” Issaquah City Council Deputy President Mary Lou Pauly clarifies, “An approved DA is vested. The Highlands are currently being developed under an approved DA.”

Surrounded by moratoria and open space public lands, will Issaquah Highlands experience an acceleration in its allowable development? Impacts on Highlands development are anyone’s guess, however, Council Deputy President Pauly explains, “Though the moratorium is city wide, there are a lot of exemptions listed in the ordinance. Single family homes, tenant improvements, and at least 10-20 projects that have submitted applications prior to the moratorium.” Therefore, Issaquah Highlands is not the only place for current pent-up development to go in Issaquah.

Pauly projects into the future, “In the short term, residents will not notice a decrease in building activity for one to two years. The effect of the moratorium is likely on projects that will be built two or more years from now.”

Development in Issaquah Highlands is more effected by the impending expiration of the Development Agreement in 2017 than it is our neighbor’s moratoria. In this feature, we endeavor to clear up questions circulating about potential development in the Highlands.

oct-16-image-1Issaquah Highlands Development Agreement Expiring

by Nina Milligan, Highlands Council, Connections Editor

As anyone can see, Issaquah Highlands is not “done” yet. There are land parcels that may still be developed. Bellevue College owns 20 acres of developable land on College Drive, behind Grand Ridge Elementary. There are two small parcels on 10th behind Marshalls, one entitled for residential development, the other for commercial uses. And then there is the land between Grand Ridge Plaza and West Highlands Park, north of Discovery Drive. 290 homes are “entitled” and in various stages of permitting, planned for the western most parcel in that space. The 21.5 acre parcel along 9th Ave NE, from High Street to Discovery Drive is entitled for 1.86 M sf of commercial space.

“Entitled” is wording that comes with the Development Agreement that charted the Issaquah Highlands, 20 years ago, signed on June 18, 1996. Different than traditional zoning, a Development Agreement defines “entitlements” for future development, and a term. Issaquah Highlands was planned to be built out over a 20-year term.

This mix of entitled uses was intended to create an Urban Village, a self-sustaining community, where residents could live, work and play. The plan for Issaquah Highlands became world renowned.

This Development Agreement, a contract between Grand Ridge Partnership, later known as Port Blakely Communities, and the City of Issaquah, made way for an innovative development model. It preserved open space and concentrated development. The zoning took on the name “Urban Village”. The contract, its entitlement and zoning has guided Issaquah Highlands’ development to date.

As the Development Agreement term ends (defined by 20 years from the first permitting, rather than the date of signing) the City of Issaquah will determine what zoning will guide future development and land uses. On currently have single family housing, multi-family housing, retail, and commercial entitlements.

“The map is intended as a tool to assist the City Council discussions about the end of the Development Agreement for Issaquah Highlands,” Niven explains. “Since the City has not ended a development agreement before, City staff are still working to understand all of the codes that would need to be applied, and how to ensure property rights are maintained.”

20-years-existing-land-uses-map-oct-2016The City could transition the Issaquah Highlands sub-area to more traditional zoning, such as the map describes. The map differentiates land uses by type (e.g. single family, retail, etc.) and has been drawn to represent what has been built; or, for those properties that are vacant, what could be built under the development agreement. To give the generally simple map more detail, City staff envision an overlay would be applied to all non-single family properties to establish the number of units, or number of square feet that could be built.

The process to end the development agreement is progressing. Watch for opportunities to engage. The City intends to work with the community to ensure the replacement regulations meet our expectations. Such opportunities will likely begin after the first of the year. Make sure you are getting the weekly Issaquah Highlands E-Letter for notices. (Sign up at

For the last 20 years “entitlement” as defined by our Development Agreement has governed land uses and development in Issaquah Highlands. As the Development Agreement advances towards its expiration in 2017, the City of Issaquah is working on what zoning or code will replace it. Such regulation not only guides development on vacant land, but also how currently built on land would be redeveloped. Follow the City of Issaquah Council, namely the Land and Shore Committee, for details and opportunities to provide your opinions on the matter.

oct-16-image-2Residents Weigh in on High Street Collection

By Tyler A. Saldaña, Discovery Heights (reprinted from September 2nd blog post on

Nearly thirty Highlands residents gathered at Blakely Hall on August 29th to share thoughts and concerns as well as pose questions about the Shelter Holdings property, part of the land previously owned by Microsoft, 21.5 acres along 9th Ave NE in Issaquah Highlands.

IH resident Chelsea Musick proactively organized this informal meeting after viewing multiple concerned comments on an Issaquah Highlands Facebook page regarding the potential use of the property. She asked Issaquah Highlands resident and President of the Issaquah City Council, Stacy Goodman, to attend and answer questions.

Before opening the floor to her fellow community members, Council President Goodman provided a brief summary about the land and project proposed.

As she handed the room over to the community, Goodman expressed her concerns, namely the lack of “work” in the Highlands, a community touted as a place where people can “live, work, and play.”

“Issaquah Highlands residents should stay engaged with the council and Shelter Holdings in order to influence the outcome.”
Stacy Goodman, IH Resident and President of the Issaquah City Council

The nearly ninety-minute session was predominantly dialogue focused on people’s concerns over Shelter Holdings proposed 1,800 additional residences, the traffic they would produce, and the effects the new residencies would have on the community’s infrastructure.

Questions commenced with resident David Norris, “Essentially, how is the Growth Management Act enforced?”

“Where do we go from here?” inquired another gentleman. “It seems as though Shelter is waiting [the Development Agreement] out. Can we block them?”

Council President Goodman responded, and said several times that evening, that there is currently no need to block Shelter Holdings from constructing the contentious 1,800 housing units because they are only entitled to build three. (See sidebar details.)

“Just because the land is zoned for commercial use doesn’t mean companies will come,” a resident pushed back.

Resident Tony Cowan, added, “Sure, it would be ideal for Microsoft or Google to open up a campus here. However, it seems unlikely. I’m not sure how we entered this agreement without expecting this.”

oct-16-high-streetGoodman clarified that the city did not enter into an agreement with Shelter Holdings when the company purchased Microsoft’s Highlands property in 2013. “They bought the property knowing exactly what they were entitled to.”

Tony added, “I’m in favor of their [conceptual designs]. I’m willing to give up some space on the roads if it means all of this.”

Numerous attendees iterated their lack of desire for the additional medical offices proposed, alluding to the “many vacant medical offices and even other commercial spaces in Issaquah already.”

Other attendees shared concerns about a lack of affordable and senior housing in the community.

“Will there be or are there plans for affordable housing for the commercial workers?” questioned Elizabeth Maupin, Coordinator of the Issaquah Sammamish Interfaith Coalition. Elizabeth described how difficult it is for retail workers in the community to find affordable housing within a 45-minute drive.

Geoff Walker, Chairman of the Urban Village Development Commission and one of the first to move to Issaquah Highlands, commented referring to the potential 1,800 housing units, “This is not what the community needs or was intended to be.”

He continued, stating that the Highlands has already surpassed the amount of housing units that the original plan intended while simultaneously lacking in commercial options for the community. “I fought to get the commercial we have now. And it came nearly ten years after it was promised!”

When asked to speculate whether the City Council would vote in favor of rezoning the 21.5 area parcel or not, Council President Goodman said that while she had not polled the other council members, she would be surprised if the council supported the current proposal.