The Issaquah Landmarks Commission decides to award landmark status to the Providence Heights campus on July 27. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

City Church to appeal Providence Heights landmark designation

The battle between the Sammamish Heritage Society and Kirkland-based The City Church’s subsidiary, Plateau Campus, LLC, looks as though it will last even longer; The City Church has filed an appeal with the city of Issaquah to protest the designation of Providence Heights as a landmark.

The city of Issaquah Landmarks Commission voted unanimously at its July 27 meeting to name the former nun’s college, established by the Sisters of Providence in the 1960s, a city landmark.

The commissioners cited as their reasoning the campus’ significance in the history of women’s education, since the college was established at a time when females — especially those in religious orders — had far fewer opportunities for higher education than men.

Last week, Issaquah Hearing Examiner Ted Hunter ruled in favor of the Heritage Society in its appeal of the demolition permit and Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance granted to Plateau Campus by the city of Issaquah. He ordered a new review of the property to be conducted by the city.

The landmark designation was listed as one of the main arguments in Hunter’s conclusion.

“The City did not adequately consider adverse impacts to a site designated as a landmark by the City of Issaquah Landmark Preservations Commission … Because of this, the Hearing Examiner is left with the ‘definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed,’” the findings stated.

The City Church stated as reasoning for its appeal of the landmark designation that the designation “violates City Church’s constitutional right to freely exercise religion” and that the property “does not qualify as a landmark under the Issaquah Municipal Code.”

Because the landmark designation reduces the resale value of the property, City Church officials stated that the subsequent financial “burdens will … deprive City Church of funds it intends to use to further its religious mission.”

The City Church argued that the property does not meet landmark requirements of the Issaquah Municipal Code, stating that it “is not a ‘historic resource,’” that it “has not ‘made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of national, state or local history,’” that it “does not ‘[e]mbod[y] the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, style or method of design or construction’” or represent “‘a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction,’” that “the design elements of the chapel on the Campus are not unique” and that “the building is not ‘an outstanding work of a designer or builder who has made a substantial contribution to the art.’”

“To further its religious mission, City Church needs to be able to sell the Property without any encumbrances, such as a landmark designation,” the document stated.

The landmark designation appeal hearing will be heard by Hunter.

The City Church did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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