A map of the five neighborhoods designated by the cities new Central Issaquah vision plan. Courtesy Image

A map of the five neighborhoods designated by the cities new Central Issaquah vision plan. Courtesy Image

Issaquah city council ends development moratorium, passes city vision plan

The city of Issaquah’s development moratorium has ended.

Originally enacted in 2016, the moratorium was lifted after the City Council approved the final moratorium-related ordinance at their meeting on May 21.

Their last work item was to pass an ordinance fundamentally reworking the neighborhood visions that state how the city wants to see the Central Issaquah sub-area develop over time.

Keith Niven, director of Economic Development and Development Services, said that city staff have been working on six work items regarding development in the area since the moratorium was put into place in September 2016. The Central Issaquah district visions were the last of the work items, following up work on architecture and urban design, affordable housing, parking and vertical mixed use.

“The reason why this one was last and this took the most time was because this was the least defined work item. The council basically thought the vision language that was in the sub area plan was too broad,” he said. “… as we started that conversation and working primarily with the Planning Policy Commission, we basically reworked the entire visions for all of Central Issaquah. What got adopted Monday is holistically different than what previously existed.”

Previously, the 800 acre Central Issaquah area was divided into 10 districts. The new ordinance splits those 10 districts into five neighborhoods: West Newport, Pickering, Gillman, Eastlake, and Confluence. These areas are going to keep developing as distinct neighborhoods, Niven said, and the city wants to make sure they are developed in a way that is in keeping with the vision of creating an accessible and livable space, especially as the city prepares for the arrival a sound transit light rail station.

To achieve their goal, the city has implemented a set of developer obligations for building within the Central Issaquah boundaries, city implementing actions and an outline of goals to measure the success of the work done by the city and developers. In the visions plan, each of the five neighborhoods have very specific and detailed descriptions what what they are like today, what the city plans for their future and a list of goals for each area.

Niven explained that the five neighborhoods also have their own set of developer obligations to fit each area. One of the obligations shared between multiple neighborhoods is for developers to provide amenities, such as trails or outdoor seating, to connect people with nearby open space areas. Another requires developers to have weather protection for primary pedestrian walkways and provide transit stops.

One obligation, no net loss of non-residential square footage, was added back to the ordinance during the council meeting after being left off of during committee discussion. Niven said this obligation was in place to prevent developers from removing business space for residential units.

“We could lose a significant number of jobs,” he said. “That’s why they added back in the requirement that you couldn’t take out retail or commercial square footage without putting something back, that’s an obligation.”

While it didn’t make it in to the ordinance, the council discussed the need for historic preservation of various Issaquah locations as a topic that needs to be looked at in the future.

The council approved the ordinance 6-1 with council member Paul Winterstein voting against. Winterstein felt that with the changes already made to the other moratorium-related work items, as well as a specificity of the neighborhood breakdown in the vision plan, the developer obligations were a step too far in controlling developer action.

With the approval of the ordinance, Issaquah’s development moratorium has been removed. Niven said that the new vision rules will take 90 days before they take effect, giving developers a chance to understand the new obligations and alter any plans accordingly.

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