Issaquah officials are to meet next week with the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board to discuss an appeal filed by a Seattle-based...

Share story

Issaquah officials are to meet next week with the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board to discuss an appeal filed by a Seattle-based anti-sprawl group that says the city is violating the state’s Growth Management Act.

At issue for the watchdog group Futurewise, formerly known as 1000 Friends of Washington, is Issaquah’s updated comprehensive plan, which allows fewer than four single-family homes per acre in certain areas.

Futurewise is pushing cities to increase urban densities to at least four units per acre. That, it says, would create more affordable housing.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

“By not using single-family densities wisely, urban growth will expand to rural areas,” said planner Tim Trohimovich of Futurewise. “Low-density housing is unaffordable housing. That’s a huge problem.”

Futurewise filed a similar appeal against Bellevue’s comprehensive plan earlier this month, and the group also is challenging Kent and Normandy Park’s plans.

Tuesday’s meeting will be a preliminary hearing on the legal challenge filed with the board last month. A decision on whether or not the city is in compliance with the state’s Growth Management Act is expected in July, according to a tentative schedule from the board.

City Attorney Wayne Tanaka said it should be up to the city to decide on its best course of action regarding growth and that the areas Futurewise is fighting comprise 6 percent of the city’s residential zoning.

Some areas in the city are zoned for less housing because of environmental factors, such as steep slopes and flood plains, he added.

“There are valid reasons for having densities at that level,” Tanaka said. “It’s not just because we want Issaquah to be a rural type of community. We frankly don’t understand Futurewise’s robotic insistence that every piece of land in a city has to be zoned for four units an acre.

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

This density requirement isn’t written out specifically under the Growth Management Act, but the Central Puget Sound board has supported the guideline in earlier decisions involving Bremerton and Bonney Lake, Pierce County, said John Zilavy, legal director for Futurewise.

Two bills introduced in the state Legislature last week would allow cities more flexibility with planning under the Growth Management Act. Neither has been scheduled for a hearing.

Sonia Krishnan: 206-515-5546 or skrishnan@seattletimes.com