Issaquah will see another Christmas before the citywide moratorium is lifted.
The Issaquah City Council voted unanimously after a public hearing at the Aug. 7 meeting to extend the moratorium on certain development through the end of the calendar year, drawing the moratorium out to a total length of about 16 months.
The council had previously voted on Feb. 21 to extend the moratorium through Sept. 6 of this year.
The moratorium was put into place as an emergency ordinance at the Sept. 6, 2016 council meeting as a way to halt development not meeting the standards of the 2012 Central Issaquah Plan.
Over the past year, the administration has been working on defining the Central Issaquah standards of architectural fit, urban design, parking, affordable housing, vertical mixed use and district visions. The six work plan items are scheduled to be completed by November, according to Economic Development and Development Services Director Keith Niven.
“This is a time in town when we’re actually sort of recreating ourselves to some degree … so this is probably the hardest thing Issaquah will go through,” Deputy Council President Mary Lou Pauly said. “It’s hard, and we have to have the right toolkit. And we started out with the wrong toolkit.”
During the public hearing, Chamber of Commerce Director Kathy McCorry asked the council to choose to lift the moratorium on behalf of the city’s economy and business community.
“Growth is still strong, however, all key indicators are showing it is slowing,” McCorry said. “Worst case scenario we hope to avoid is that the moratorium continues and by the time we are ready, the opportunity to welcome new business to Issaquah has passed.”
Pauly agreed with McCorry and acknowledged that “we are going to see a dip,” but emphasized that “the right thing to do is keep the moratorium in place.”
“I’m confident that we will again be welcoming to businesses and growth, done smartly after the moratorium has finished its important work,” Councilmember Tola Marts said, calling the moratorium “a tuneup.”
Other speakers during the public hearing, such as Elizabeth Maupin, stressed the need for affordable housing in Issaquah.
Marts pointed out the rather shocking statistic that the average house in the Seattle area has increased in value by $100,000 in the past year.
Councilmember Paul Winterstein brought up the fact that the affordable housing component of the moratorium applies to the city as a whole, rather than just Central Issaquah, but said that Niven had only spoken of affordable housing for the Central Issaquah Area.
“Should we really be considering lifting this moratorium right now when we are in fact not completing the full housing strategy that we originally envisioned?” he said.
Niven said that the “housing strategy as a whole” should be “put to bed” by the end of 2018.
Projects exempted from the moratorium according to the original ordinance include properties covered by development agreements; development having to do with public transit; public facilities like fire stations; public schools and Village Theatre; projects involving the sale and development of land owned by the city and public capital projects; remodels and tenant improvements; single-family homes on lots already vested through platting approvals; developments considered to be affordable housing, which are defined as being at least 40 percent comprised of affordable housing units; and emergency repairs or construction due to a natural disaster or similar cause.