The Planning Policy Commission listens to public comments at the April 27 public hearing. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Updated Olde Town Subarea Plan approved by Planning Policy Commission

After a passionate public hearing and a debate that got into the spelling of the word “old,” the Issaquah Planning Policy Commission sent the Olde Town Subarea Plan update off to City Council, with a few changes.

The Olde Town Subarea Plan was adopted as a way to keep Olde Town Issaquah historic and quaint while still encouraging business and providing residents with all of their needs. Other than an update added in 2009, the plan has hardly been touched since its adoption in 1999.

Project Manager Dave Favour, Senior Planner Christen Leeson and Transportation Manager Kurt Seemann presented the plan’s updates to the commission at its April 27 meeting. They noted that the theme of the subarea plan is still the same, and that many of the changes made by the administration concerned cutting out redundant language.

“There are a couple of principles we applied generously — less is more,” Seemann said. “We tried to say things as simply, clearly and concisely as possible. Our vision is essentially the same.”

One of the major changes in the plan included changing the boundaries of what is considered Olde Town. According to the suggested new boundary, Olde Town would not stretch all the way to Gilman Boulevard. Instead the new boundary would essentially follow the path of Issaquah Creek, with the northern border being Northeast Crescent Drive and the southern end of Confluence Park.

“The commercial parcels north of the East Fork of Issaquah Creek have more of a relationship to the Central Issaquah Plan area and were shifted to that subarea plan,” stated the updated plan. “Confluence Park was partially included in the original Olde Town Plan, because the park has its unique own character [and] it is fully removed from this subarea, although it will continue to have an integral relationship with Olde Town.”

Commissioners and public commentators alike took umbrage with the redesigned boundaries of Olde Town in the plan, wondering why historic Issaquah streets that people traditionally think of as part of the downtown area had been excluded from Olde Town.

“I’m not seeing a strong reason why we would want to remove that area to Central Issaquah … The condensing of Olde Town is a little concerning,” Commissioner Joy Lewis said.

“The task force feels that Olde Town doesn’t really start until you get to Dogwood Street,” Leeson replied.

But commissioners pointed out that this would leave iconic Issaquah businesses, such as the Grange and Boehm’s Candies, blocks outside of Olde Town.

“Boehm’s is listed as a treasure of Issaquah … It helps create that feel of going into Olde Town,” Lewis said. “I see a future where pretty much all we have is Front Street and Sunset Way encompassing Olde Town.”

“When you cross the creek, that’s when you hit Olde Town,” Planning Manager Trish Heinonen told her.

Commissioner Ron Faul suggested making the contested area a gateway to Olde Town, “almost like a debut.”

Residents who gave public comments agreed with him.

“I always envisioned the gateway [to Olde Town] to be the beautifully-landscaped intersection of Gilman and Front,” Issaquah resident Chris Craven said.

Jenny Bingham described driving down Northwest Gilman Boulevard in 1969, when the city was far less developed and when “all you could see were the Darigold lights” from the Darigold plant in the heart of Issaquah.

This is Olde Town,” Bingham stressed.

According to the new plan, the Darigold building would now sit outside of Olde Town.

Bingham also brought up the fact that the spelling of “olde” fluctuated between “old” and “olde” throughout the packet.

“‘Olde’ means quaint — ‘old’ means end of life,” she said. “We are quaint, and we are attractive.”

She added, “I don’t think our city council or our people on Front Street have a right to take or name our town.”

Others agreed that the spelling of Olde Town should stay the same.

“I feel passionately about the ‘e,’” said Andrew Turner. “An authentic sense of place has an e.”

Faul made a motion to continue the discussion at the next commission meeting in June because he said that he did not feel the plan was ready yet. The motion did not receive a second.

The commission then voted 4-1 to approve the plan with the stipulations that the boundary of Olde Town would not change and that the ‘e’ would remain in ‘Olde.’ Faul voted nay.

“I don’t think any part of this agenda is ready for a vote tonight,” Faul stated.

Commission Chair Joan Probala was not present for the vote.

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