One of the signature mountain views from downtown Issaquah and Interstate 90 — a forested tract on the side of Tiger Mountain — may be saved from development. But there's a trade-off.

Share story

One of the signature mountain views from downtown Issaquah and Interstate 90 — a forested tract on the side of Tiger Mountain — may be saved from development.

But there’s a trade-off.

In exchange for buying 102-acre Park Pointe and preserving it as permanent open space, the developer of nearby Issaquah Highlands would be allowed to squeeze 550 more homes and an additional 1.1 million square feet of office space into the planned community.

Representatives of the city of Issaquah and the developer, Port Blakely Communities, said some terms of the agreement may change and Port Blakely hasn’t completed negotiations to buy Park Pointe from another developer.

Most Read Local Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

The Issaquah City Council set up a special committee Monday to study the deal and report back to the full council Dec. 1. Because it would involve moving the urban-growth boundary to enlarge Issaquah Highlands by 36 acres, the agreement also would require approval by the Metropolitan King County Council.

Calling the proposed deal “the opportunity of a lifetime,” Issaquah Mayor Ava Frisinger said, “I don’t usually say things like that. It really is. It is one that has been hoped for for a very long time.”

The city initiated discussions with the developer late last year in hopes of finding a way to block the plans of another developer seeking to use Park Pointe for the development of up to 356 homes overlooking downtown Issaquah.

A popular path known as “The High School Trail” leads from Issaquah High through the Park Pointe property and into Tiger Mountain State Forest.

“It’s this visible flank of the mountain and something we’ve identified for a long time as worth preserving, a green shoulder of the mountain. Many people in Issaquah have agreed. People have been talking for 10 years about how to preserve this parcel,” said Doug Schindler, deputy director of the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, which works to save natural areas along I-90.

Key elements of the tentative agreement include:

• Port Blakely would preserve 144 acres of forest — 102 at Park Pointe and 42 it already owns next to Issaquah Highlands. The company would add 36 rural-zoned acres to the Highlands under a county formula of preserving 4 acres of open space for every acre of rural land redesignated as urban.

• The developer could add 550 houses and 1.1 million square feet of commercial space on land it owns at Issaquah Highlands, for a new total of 4,500 homes, 4 million square feet of offices and 925,000 square feet of stores.

• Port Blakely would make $3 million of improvements to Central Park, building two lighted fields or upgrading existing fields and other facilities.

• Issaquah would pay Port Blakely $1.5 million for 3 acres as a site for affordable housing and a human-services center the city hopes to build in the future.

• Port Blakely would build 50 more units of housing affordable for families earning no more than 80 percent of median income — bringing to 708 the number of homes reserved for families earning the median income or less.

• The city would give Port Blakely up to 2 acres of surplus property for development.

“I think it’s an ambitious attempt to preserve some important open space, and it could also have some benefits for Issaquah Highlands. That’s why we agreed to work with the city to see if a transaction could be put together,” said Port Blakely CEO Judd Kirk.

He said his company expects to pay $16 million or more for the Park Pointe land.

Connie Marsh, a former unsuccessful candidate for City Council and member of the Issaquah Environmental Council, said it wasn’t yet clear if the agreement is a good deal for Issaquah. “I would hesitate to jump too high for joy, but I’m not weeping,” she said.

Six thousand residents have moved into 2,800 homes at Issaquah Highlands since the first home was completed in 1998. Homes and stores in the 2,200-acre planned community are clustered, leaving more than 1,700 acres of parks and open space.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com