“We need King County,” Sammamish says; now we know why

  • Variety of public works projects need King County cooperation and support.
  • Klahanie annexation a factor.
  • East Lake Sammamish Trail development a factor.
  • City doesn’t know the value of its Staff time devoted to the East Lake Sammamish Trail-King County issues.

During the disputes early this year over King County’s development of the East Lake Sammamish Trail North End (Section 1) and proposed design of the far South End (Section 2A), many urged the City to take a firm hand with the County.

Some, including at one point City Council Member Tom Odell, urged the City to issue a Stop Work Order on the North End while the City reviewed problems that developed as the County destroyed “significant” trees (ie, good quality, mature trees), young trees and scrub trees; damaged sewage lines, while denying responsibility; building a trail that effectively denied access by some homeowners to their own garages; and other issues that came up.

Sammamish Comment detailed these problems last January in an 18-page investigative report.

At the same time, the County was designing Section 2A, that part of the trail from the 7-11 south to the Issaquah City Limits. Residents along the trail, interested parties and the City submitted comments to the County. When the 60% design was issued, these parties were enraged to see that the County had largely ignored the comments. The City was particularly unhappy that none of its comments were addressed.

As the permitting agency, the City held power over the County. Officials threatened to withhold permits for the Southern sections 2A and 2B (which is still to come). Holding up permits would threaten the loss of federal funding.

But the City was reluctant to issue a Stop Work Order on the North End, terminate an interlocal agreement with the County governing the Trail, or take other measures, because “We need King County.”

Officials at the time wouldn’t detail what this meant.

What was meant became clear with the July 7 City Council meeting and subsequent events. Officials were reluctant to take a firmer hand over the Trail because:

  • In anticipation of the Klahanie area voting to annex to Sammamish, cooperation with and services from King County were desired.
  • Discussions are underway with King County over the improvement of its portion of Sahalee Way, north from the City Limits to SR202.
  • The City wants the County’s cooperation (along with Issaquah and the State) to get local, state and federal grants for Sahalee Way and Issaquah-Fall City Road improvements.
  • The City is working with the County for it to acquire forested, undeveloped land adjacent Sammamish to further complete what’s called the Emerald Necklace around the City.
  • The City wants the County to be flexible on Section 2B of the Lake Trail, the most difficult portion to develop because of the proximity of homes to the Trail. (I will especially note here that most of the homes along the East Lake Sammamish Trail, and especially along 2B, were permitted by the County before Sammamish became a City. This hasn’t stopped the County from being ham-handed in its treatment of the property owners, however.)

The City also wants King County to adjust the Urban Growth Boundary line around a section called “the Notch,” about 50 acres along Duthie Hill Road adjacent the Trossachs and High Country developments. The Notch, as the name implies, is a carve-out of the UGB line that otherwise follows Duthie Hill Road. With this portion of the road outside Sammamish’s jurisdiction, the City is faced with improving Duthie Hill Road north and South of the Notch, but unable to connect the links with an improved road.

This is similar to the challenge facing the City with Sahalee Way. Although the Sahalee Way proposal is already controversial, and improving Duthie Hill Road so far is not, the fact that the County owns the Duthie Hill Notch and Sahalee Way from the City limits to SR202 complicates City plans to improve traffic flow.

If legal under state law to spend money outside the City limits to improve a road, one way to possibly improve these sections might be through an inter-local agreement between King County and the City. In the case of the Notch, making an adjustment to the UGB and annexing the Notch would give Sammamish control of the road to do with it what it wants.

Sahalee Way is more problematic.

East Lake Sammamish Trail and City staff costs

The City hasn’t billed King County for City staff time to process applications and issue permits for development of the Lake Trail. Given the inordinate amount of time Staff has devoted to dealing with a bullying and obtuse King County on the North End and the South End, the staff time and cost is not inconsequential.

Several Council Members believe Laura Philpot, a deputy city manager, quit her job in part because of the work overload, brought on in large part by dealing with King County and the extra oversight required to deal with the Lake Trail issues. She recently took a high level position with Maple Valley, where she lives, so one could also infer that she would rather commute to work within her town of residence rather than from Maple Valley to Sammamish and back.

Regardless, it is routine for any government, including King County, to bill a developer for staff time.

But not in this case.

Sammamish and King County have an inter-local agreement that, among other things, covers the East Lake Sammamish Trail. King County does the design and environmental review. Sammamish issues the permits.

If all had gone well, this arrangement should have worked efficiently and economically. But as we now know, things didn’t go at all well.

This required the City Staff to step up and devote huge amounts of time to oversight and negotiating with King County to fix things on the North End and revamp its design on the South End twice, to the 90% design stage and again to the 95% design stage.

No tracking of Sammamish employee time–and therefore cost to Sammamish taxpayers unknown

The question has arisen, what has been the cost to Sammamishy taxpayers for this inordinate amount of staff time to correct King County mistakes, negotiated solutions and to become involved in the South End Section 2A design.

The answer is: The City doesn’t know.

A Public Records request was filed seeking a host of information, starting with the time spent, the value (wages or billing time) of staff, any reports generated by staff or consultants, how much time has been billed to King County and how much King County has paid.

Here is the City’s response:

  1. Sammamish City Staff cost as measured in salary, hourly cost and/or wages measured by any other standard for the staff time dedicated to the oversight, studies, permitting process and review, staff interaction with King County and any all staff time associated with the development of the East Lake Sammamish Trail (ELST) Section 1 and Section 2A.

The review of this permit falls under the Interlocal agreement between the City of Sammamish and King County for permit processing. Under the agreement, there are no costs to the County for City review.  Therefore, there is no need to, and the City did not track staff time related to this project.  City staff generally only track their time through the permitting system for fee-based projects/permits. As a result we have no documents regarding staff costs for reviewing and interacting with King County regarding the ESLT.


  1. The City’s cost of developing studies, alternative plans and proposals to King County plans for ELST Section 1 and Section 2A. Please identify the studies (by title or other similar description) the companies producing the studies.

The city did not develop any separate studies, plans or proposals as described in your request, and accordingly did not expend any funds for any such records. 

  1. The total hours of Staff time accrued and the total staff cost accrued during the periods requested devoted to processing and issuing the permits for ELST Section 1 and 2A.

Again, because this permit falls under the Interlocal agreement with King County, staff does not track their time and we have no documents regarding the total costs devoted to processing and issuing the permits for ELST Section 1 and 2A.

  1. The cost of any consultants or other professionals retained by the City in connection with the processing and issuance of permits of ELST Section 1 and Section 2A, or for any other services (including legal services) of professionals and consultants in connection with ESLT Section 1 and Section 2. Please identify the Consultants, Professionals and/or Companies and the dollar amounts attributable to each.

The City did not hire any professionals or consultants specifically in relation to the ELST, although the City Attorney’s office has reviewed certain aspects of the processing and issuance of the permits for ELST Section 1 and 2A.

5. Total sum of all costs requested in Numbers 1-4

Please see explanation above.

  1. The amounts, if any, billed to King County for permit processing or issuance of permits for the ELST Section 1 and Section 2A

The city does not have any documents regarding billings to King County for the ELST. See explanation above.

  1. The amounts, if any, paid by King County (as a developer) to the City of Sammamish for City staff time in connection with permit processing and issuance of permits for the ELST Section 1 and Section 2A.

The City does not have any documents relating to costs paid by King County to the City regarding the processing of the ELST. Please see explanation above.

There are a few clarifications requested. If relevant upon receipt, Sammamish Comment will update this information.

We need King County

The July 7 meeting of the City Council has a lot of explanation of how Sammamish “needs King County.” Pay attention to the discussion of the Klahanie annexation, Sahalee Way and the set-to between Odell and Council Member Ramiro Valderrama toward the end of the meeting.


1 thought on ““We need King County,” Sammamish says; now we know why

  1. Pingback: Buddying up to King County doesn’t stop its appeal of City’s permit for East Lake Sammamish Trail | Sammamish Comment

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