Sammamish faces several big issues this year that will be important for citizens to follow. Among them, in no particular order:
The Budget: Sammamish is a property tax-based community. Revenue diversification is needed (which is what the Town Center is about–see below). Because of the global economic meltdown beginning in September 2008, which dried up the housing market, a major source of revenues for the City declined significantly: permit and impact fees. Although markets appear to be slowly improving, it will be some time before revenues recover. The City Council will have some hard choices to make on expenditures and potentially….
Taxes: Will Sammamish consider new taxes? At the very next meeting after the November elections, the subject of increasing the City’s tax rate by1% came up. Aside from the appalling timing, the Council decided not to increase the tax rate. But don’t be surprised if the subject comes up again this year. For one thing, there is the question of what, if anything, the City might do to jump-start development of the Town Center. The prospect of new taxes to do so will be discussed in this section below. The other recurring tax is Don Gerend’s 10-year campaign to increase the REET, or Real Estate Excise Tax, by 1/2 percent.
But these taxes aren’t the only prospect. Sammamish voters did not provide the Super Majority needed (60%) to approved a parks bond issue in 2008. This would have funded a variety of parks development, including….
Parks at the Sammamish lakefront, Evans Creek Park just outside the northern city limits, a community center and more. The City Council, after dilly-dallying for 10 years, finally made a decision to proceed with a community center without a voter-approved parks bond when it agreed to buy the King County (Sammamish) library at NE 8th and 228th Ave. NE to serve as an interim community center. But there are other park issues facing the Council this year, including whether to install lights and an astro-turf soccer field at Beaver Lake Park. Both issues remain controversial, and the astro-turf potentially has negative implications for the environmentally-sensitive Beaver Lake.
Development of the City’s property along Lake Sammamish is another controversial plan, especially in today’s economy. Staff proposed plans that the 2009 Council rejected as too costly. A similar challenge faces the 2010 Council for Evans Creek Park, some 170+ acres purchased in around 2000 but which has languished ever since. Only some 30+ acres is flatland; the rest is in steep slopes and wetlands. Access, at the moment, is only via SR202. Staff and the Parks Commission had the big challenge to come up with a financially feasible plan to finally make this land available to our residents. The new Council has the challenge to decide whether to finance development in the current economic climate.
The Fire Department service, through the Eastside Fire and Rescue, is going to be a very thorny issue. The 2009 Council was feuding with EF&R over costs and this became an election issue. Everyone agrees EF&R provides excellent service; the dispute is the cost shared by Sammamish taxpayers. Last year’s Council and the City Manager believe EF&R is charging our taxpayers too much. John Curley declared during the campaign he doesn’t favor changing the provider. This will conflict with Curley’s near-Libertarian cost-cutting, no-new-taxes philosophy. This will be a thorny issue for the Council, and for Curley, in 2010.
The Town Center remains on the agenda in 2010. This is one of those things that never seems to end.
Landowners in the Southeast Quadrant want to triple the commercial space approved by the City Council. This article in The Sammamish Review captures the essence of the request. Mayor Don Gerend is clear that he wants to dismantle six years worth of work by Staff, consultants and Council-appointed citizen committees who have labored over the Town Center plan. This is going to be as controversial this year as it has been for the past five years.
Bus Service/Regional Split will be an important issue for Sammamish. King County wants to cut Metro bus service to city’s like ours and redirect it to Seattle. One area where Mayor Gerend has shined has been his advocacy and success in getting more bus service for Sammamish. He and his fellow council members as well as Staff will have their work cut out for them to preserve the current level of bus service, let alone get more. Citizens need to weigh in on this one in particular with County Executive Dow Constantine.
East Lake Sammamish Parkway (ELSP) is another issue that won’t die. Phase 1B is on the agenda; the City obtained $3.5 million in federal money to help pay for this construction project. Many citizens don’t think it is needed. The Council is split.
Issaquah-Pine Lake Road expansion is another issue. Widening is needed to maintain “concurrency.” Watch for this issue.
SE 20th between 228th and 212th will go into make-over this year. It’s been a traffic problem during most of 2009 as a new sewer line was installed. Repaving and installation of a bike lane and sidewalk is slated this year. The problem is that the design may add to pollution on Pine Lake. This issue has yet to get traction.
This is enough to get things started.