The Issaquah city council voted unanimously to find ways to try and purchase a property in the surrounding mountains to keep it from being developed.
The action is the first the council has taken to preserve the 46-acre property on Cougar Mountain — known as the Bergsma property — from development. The project was proposed in 2017 by Windward Real Estate Services, which is seeking to build 57 houses on the mountain.
A community group known as Save Cougar Mountain was formed in opposition to the development and the Aug. 8 vote by the Issaquah city council was in line with the group’s requests to preserve the mountainside as open space. In the resolution, council said they anticipated that any funding packages would include a variety of funding sources from grants and government funding. Council is working with the Trust for Public Lands and much of the coming work will be done behind closed door in executive session. No price estimates were attached to the resolution and property owners are under no obligation to sell the land to the city.
The vote was welcomed by opponents of the project like Susan Neville, who said she was glad the council took a position.
“I was very excited about it, yes,” she said. “It’s what we’ve been asking about for a year.”
Neville is part of Save Cougar Mountain and said they have been petitioning the city to act since the project was proposed. The vote signals that the city is interested in preserving the mountainside.
“This public announcement is basically what we asked for because we weren’t sure if the city was even interested in undertaking this,” Neville said.
The Trust for Public Lands involvement bodes well for those who want to see the hillside remain undeveloped, Neville said. It may mean an acquisition is more likely. Now, Neville hopes the county and state sign on to the effort too. The group has already contacted state Rep. Paul Graves and Sen. Mark Mullet.
“Everywhere we’ve gone, people are open to hear it and understand the benefits,” Neville said.
Windward President Jim Tosti was contacted for this story but had not responded by the time of publication. In previous reporting he told the Reporter the development will benefit the city by providing more housing as well as making improvements on Newport Way.
The development area includes six wetlands and three streams as well as associated buffers and many portions of it are located on steep slopes. A legal comment drafted by the firm Bricklin and Newman on behalf of Save Cougar Mountain claimed some 22 acres of trees would need to be removed.
In previous coverage, Save Cougar Mountain member Kay Haynes said she hoped the city and county would band together to purchase the land and potentially add it to the county’s Cougar Mountain Park which abuts the property.
It is unknown how much the property is worth or how expensive the houses would be, but they could sell for more than $1 million each based on real estate trends in the area.