The preliminary plat for the three last developable parcels in the Talus Mountainside Urban Village, was approved by the Issaquah City Council Monday night, June 2.
There are three parcels in the plat; parcel 7 has been the bone of contention between Talus homeowners and the city. In order to build on this very steep terrain, one of the largest retaining walls in Issaquah will have to be built.
Originally it was planned to be 49-feet tall at its highest point, but that was reduced to 39-feet. Nonetheless, it remains approximately 800-feet long. Making matters even more frustrating for Talus homeowner’s, after two very lengthy public hearings before the Urban Village Development Commission, the issue was deemed quasi-judicial, meaning no more public comment could be heard, council could not discuss it among themselves and their decision had to be made based on only what was on record.
City attorney, Wayne Tanaka first had to verify that none of the councilmembers communicated outside the meeting. Councilmember Josh Schaer had to recuse himself from the discussion because he lives in Talus.
“I am emotionally compromised,” he said. “I am your representative but I’m also a neighbor.”
Several modifications had previously been made to the plat, including four conditions from UDVC. One concern is the dead-end street proposed, which would be the only dead-end in Talus, ending at a lot. The way it’s designed now, fire trucks will have to back around in a hammer head to get out.
Previously, the condition was added that TRIAD, the applicant, must “explore redesigning the northern terminus of road ‘A’ to eliminate or reduce the dead-end portion. Options include moving drive ‘C’ to the north or adding a cul-de-sac which doesn’t meet fire service standards.
”Councilmember Nina Milligan asked about a cul-de-sac not meeting fire service standards. Lucy Sloman, the city’s land development manager said “it doesn’t have to.”
The wall has to be designed in order for TRIAD to obtain the final plat. A permit can be issued for the wall before the final plat is approved. Maintenance of the wall, one of the largest question marks, would have to be addressed in the final plat. The wall — a total of 60,000 square-feet — is a behemoth, and the Talus homeowners have made it clear that they do not want the responsibility of maintaining it or replacing it in the case of catastrophic failure.
Tanaka said who ever takes responsibility for it, even in the event of failure, would have financial responsibility — regardless if they had the money. Sloman said if the Talus HOA isn’t comfortable with taking responsibility of the wall, a sub-HOA of the homeowners in the new subdivision could be created and the wall would be its responsibility. Anyone buying into the subdivision would have to have full disclosure, that the wall was their responsibility.
The applicant has met the rules and laws of the city, said councilmember Tola Marts, so he could see no reason not to approve the preliminary plat. Councilmembers Mary Lou Pauly and Nina Milligan were short of thrilled but voted in favor of the applicant even though they thought it could have been better.
Stacy Goodman pointed out that this is only the preliminary plat and the city and developer should continue to communicate to make sure the development maintains the mountain village character. “Is this the best place to develop?” Goodman asked. “I don’t know.”
Councilmember Eileen Barber was concerned about the fire department getting in and out, and about an HOA potentially being on the hook for the wall in case of catastrophic failure.
After the meeting Talus homeowners who were present at the meeting talked outside. Toni Letendre said the quasi-judicial process concerned him. One resident felt they’d been “handcuffed” by the proceedings.
“The neutrality of the city is in question,” Letendre said.
He hopes that Sloman will meet with he and some of the other homeowners, and the developer, now that everyone can talk about it again. One thing they all agreed on was that a homeowner’s meeting must take place in short order.
Karen Porterfield said the HOA doesn’t have any money because of poor past management. They certainly don’t want to be saddled with a $2 million wall.