Gas station comes with a grocery store for Issaquah Highlands
By CELESTE GRACEY
Issaquah Reporter Staff Writer
December 19, 2011 · Updated 9:48 AM
Mention plans to build a gas station in the Issaquah Highlands, and neighbors give a lukewarm response.
Add that the gas station comes with the community's first grocery store, and the support is clear.
The Issaquah City Council will hold a public hearing for Monday and is expected to vote on the project.
A gas station is now a prerequisite for signing grocery stores, said John Shaw, a consultant for master developer Port Blakely.
A Safeway representative testified to that reality at a Land and Shore Committee meeting last week.
While developers haven't announced what grocery chain they're negotiating with, some speculate Safeway's presence at the meeting was a sure sign.
Once written out of the Highland's master plan, the gas station proposal comes with debate.
At one time the city was concerned that a spill could contaminate the Highlands aquifer, but new technology and further geological studies has the city convinced the risk from a spill is no greater than anywhere else in the city, said Keith Niven, program manager at Issaquah public works.
Some residents say the plan goes against the pedestrian-friendly community first envisioned, Niven noted. Regardless, a study from an independent polling company showed strong support for the plan.
About 66 percent of people supported a gas station, and that number jumped to 75 percent when people were told a grocery store was contingent on it, Shaw said.
"Does it reflect the original vision for the Highlands? I don't know," said Tola Marts, the councilmember who chairs the Land and Shore Committee. But "the last time we looked at this, we didn't have Swedish."
Adding the gas station would help reduce travel for hospital employees, who'd have to go to the valley floor to fill up, he said.Two years ago, a gas station without a grocery store made it onto the City Council's agenda, but Port Blakely pulled the request at the last minute.
"Our lifestyle center was falling apart," Shaw said. "It was better to take that off the table and wait for better times."
Now the proposal comes with a grocery store.
While the gas station could go anywhere, the most likely spot is where Ninth Avenue and Highlands Drive Northeast merge near the hospital, Shaw said.
A grocery store, larger than 15,000 square feet, would be constructed just north of Northeast Ellis Drive.
"It's a real win," Marts said. "We're getting so much better of a deal than we would have two years ago."
Contact Issaquah Reporter Staff Writer Celeste Gracey at email@example.com or 425-391-0363.