In Issaquah, Sustainability Spelled C-I-P

Matt Bott

The following column appeared in the 12/14 edition of the Issaquah Reporter. 

In Issaquah, Sustainability is spelled C-I-P

By Gene Duvernoy and Matthew Bott

The Central Issaquah Plan (CIP) presents a bold vision that shifts away from office parks, strip malls and vast parking lots and directs Issaquah’s future towards walkable neighborhoods with a lively mix of homes, shops and thriving businesses. To be successful in the long term, Issaquah must balance economic development, environmental sustainability and human services, commonly known as the three legs of the sustainability stool. The CIP is a 30-year vision for the redevelopment of Issaquah’s valley floor that responsibly addresses growth and transportation needs to provide for a vital and vibrant community. With the Issaquah City Council poised to approve this plan at their December 17th meeting, it has the potential to significantly strengthen Issaquah’s economy, sustainability and quality-of-life.

A strong and competitive local economy is important to provide the commerce and inbound resources that make a community function and fuel its operations. Having a diversified business community, high-paying jobs and a prepared workforce supports a vibrant and prosperous economy. Without jobs for residents, resources go elsewhere and the entire community suffers. So how does a community attract and retain high paying jobs? It’s a complex formula but much has to do with providing a blueprint and vision for where the community is heading. This provides certainty and clarity about whether businesses want to invest and how much to invest in business expansion, or whether moving a business operation to the community is a good or bad decision. Businesses constantly evaluate their communities to determine whether their enterprises can be successful. The communities that will win out are those who thoughtfully and responsibly plan for success. But it is not only business climate that matters, it is also quality-of-life and, in Issaquah, the connection to nature, the outdoors and the environment.

Along with creating a vibrant, local economy, the CIP will protect and enhance the spectacular natural environment in and around Issaquah. The Central Issaquah Plan implements the Cascade Agenda, by creating great communities and conserving great lands. By redeveloping the 75% of the valley floor that is currently underutilized parking lots and parcels into new neighborhoods containing a mix of local businesses and new homes near transit, we can create new walkable, affordable, urban neighborhoods. This redevelopment in turn will protect Issaquah’s natural environment by linking new growth to acquiring and preserving open space, enhancing access to recreation opportunities and protecting salmon bearing streams such as Issaquah creek. By linking new development to the creation of affordable housing and open space protection, the plan creates a true win-win proposition.

A sustainable and successful community supports its citizens and families to help ensure they are able to lead safe, healthy and productive lives. This includes support for our most vulnerable, access to quality health care and human services, excellent schools and more. A community must provide for and support these needs, from both a moral perspective and as a fiduciary responsibility and good of the whole. It involves things like workforce housing, direct access to quality healthcare, and support for appropriate safety nets to protect and provide for those facing troubled times. The need for, and supply of these services is a function of resources and prioritization, and is deeply connected to other areas of community sustainability.

After close to five years of good work by many community members, hardworking volunteers, elected leaders and city staff, Issaquah is poised to move forward with this important plan. This is the right thing to do for the citizens, businesses and the environment in Issaquah. Sustainability is about optimizing balance among multiple priorities, identifying shared vision and moving forward with bold leadership to reach collective goals. The Central Issaquah Plan is the way to create a sustainable future for Issaquah and the entire community will benefit from its passage and implementation.

Gene Duvernoy is President of Forterra, Washington’s largest conservation and community building organization. (his is the picture with the moustache)

Matthew Bott is CEO of the Greater Issaquah Chamber of Commerce, a coalition of over 550 businesses working to support the local economy.

Added on 12/16/2012

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