In the relatively subdued proceedings of the April 16th regular City Council meeting, Council members and a small number of citizens discussed the sale of public land in the Highlands and funding of a 3rd of July fireworks display. The proposed actions had the potential of affecting all Issaquah residents in that they would have budgetary consequences, could affect local businesses and developers, and would have direct impact on recreational opportunities and safety.
Yet, information about the agenda items was difficult for members of the public to obtain.
"If somebody wanted to find out about this and they went to the agenda bill for today's meeting, the key documents [...] aren't there," noted ex-council member David Kappler in the public hearing. "Also they're not mentioned in the notice and the web site about this meeting."
Should we care about a woonerf?
The Issaquah Environmental Council attempted to make up for any lacking in public information and discussion by publishing a short summary and a video about the main item on the Council meeting's agenda: the sale of a parcel of land in the Forest Ridge development in the Issaquah Highlands.
This .34 acre parcel, known as Parcel 3, is currently owned by the City of Issaquah. It is heavily wooded and accessible only via a woonerf, which is a roadway used primarily by bicycles riders and pedestrians. This particular woonerf connects the subdivision's open space with the extensive Highlands trail system and beyond.
The City proposed to sell this parcel of land to a developer to raise $80,000, which would be applied to currently unfunded projects including restoration of vegetation on nearby public property, monitoring of nearby wetland, and stewardship of Park Point.
The primary issues raised by the council members and the two citizens who spoke in the public hearing portion of the meeting were safety and tree preservation.
Per current plans, three driveways will connect with the woonerf, raising the risk that automobile drivers will collide with pedestrians and bicycles when backing out. There is a 90-degree turn in the existing trail before it meets the woonerf, which raises the risk further.
The numerous mature trees on the property are also at risk. The developer plans to build a single family home on the property, and will need to cut down several significant trees to do so. Because the proceeds of the sale would be applied, in part, to restoration of other land, citizens have questioned whether the gain in vegetation in some open space is worth the loss of mature trees on Parcel 3. "Does it make sense to cut down 80 to 100 year old trees in order to plant tiny ones?" asked Janet Wall during the public hearing. "Surely the money could be obtained in other ways."
After some discussion, the Council members voted five to one to sell the property with three conditions to be met prior to occupancy. First, the buyer will design the residence, particularly the driveway, to minimize the potential for conflict between vehicular traffic and trail users. Second, the buyer will be encouraged to site the house so as to retain some of the trees and help protect the trees by marking and fencing them during construction. Third, for every significant tree the buyer removes, the buyer will plant two evergreen trees on the adjacent city-owned open space parcel, up to a maximum of twenty trees.
It is too late for fireworks
Although the meeting was tightly regimented and quiet, as is the norm for Issaquah City Council meetings, there were fireworks in the form of Agenda Bill 6390. This bill proposed to take no action in organizing a fireworks display in the summer of 2012 and to instead explore sites and options for a potential display in 2013.
The Council members voted three to two to support this bill because such a display could not be covered by the budget at this late date, even though Council member Mullet offered to pay for anything that could possibly be a third-party cost.
Delaying potential fireworks until 2013 will reduce budgetary risk and enable the city to secure more business and volunteer participation.
Boards and commissions get new members on a temporary basis
The final agenda item concerned appointment of volunteers to the City's boards and commissions. In the absence of other public participation, the boards and commissions ensure some public input in the form of advice and recommendations from their members.
This year's appointees and the current position holders do not have any guarantee that they will be able to serve for the duration of their terms, however. As part of the effort to make the government more efficient and streamline the process of approving proposals, the existing boards and commissions will be reviewed and may be restructured and consolidated.
The City Council plans to vote on agenda items of critical importance to Issaquah's residents and businesses in the near future. These include a decision on the Central Issaquah Plan, the Lakeside Development Agreement, and the proposed plastic bag ban.
Attend the upcoming special City Council Meeting on 30 April 2012 at 7:00 in the Council Chambers, located at 135 East Sunset Way.