This is the guiding document for cities and counties in Washington. It sets policies on everything ranging from the environment to development to transportation to parks, from utilities to zoning and job and growth targets.
Under State law, there are specific legal meanings to specific words. Three of these words were important in the creation of Sammamish’s Comp Plan: “may,” “should” and “shall.”
Simplistically, “may” means the City has the clear option of doing something, or not. “Should” means the City ought to do something unless there is a good reason not to. “Shall” leaves the City no choice (in theory): it must do something.
A Comp Plan must be (or “shall,” if you prefer) rewritten every 10 years, and changes or updates are required to be considered annually. This is on the reasonable premise that the Comp Plan is a living document and that the environs don’t stall still for 10 years, or even one.
Often zoning adjustments are made annually. Policies that were adopted may prove to be unwise or inadequate.
A full public process is required through in the preparation, approval and changes of the Comp Plan. Public sessions and legally designated public hearings (there is a distinction) are required under State law. The City staff does the research and foundational work. The Planning Commission interacts with the Staff to review their work, suggest changes, contribute to the drafts and vote on a final draft to send to the City Council, where the elected officials have the final say. The Council may do anything it wants with the Planning Commission’s recommendation, ranging from outright approval, modification or rejection and remand or rejection and rewriting the document itself.
Throughout, the Commission and Council hear public comment, evolving into the legally required public hearings. Public comment may result in the Commission or Council accepting suggestions, or rejecting them.
It’s all very tedious and often controversial.
In addition, sub-area plans may be held open to focus on a specific part of town or neighborhoods. Bellevue, with its activist areas, has sub areas in its Comp Plan. There was an effort with the proposed Klahanie area annexation in 2014 to carve out a sub-area for specific representation (the Council rejected this request). For the Comp Plan, it would evolve that a desire to speed adoption of the Comp Plan produced a carve-out for later planning what would become the Town Center.
The Planning Advisory Board
Planning Commissions are small bodies (seven members in our case). Because Sammamish was brand new, there was a lot of interest in participating in the creation of the City’s first Comp Plan. The City Council decided to postpone creating the Planning Commission in favor of a Planning Advisory Board (PAB) in order to have a broad representation of the diverse interests across the community. The PAB functioned as a Planning Commission, following the same legal procedures required for the PC.
The first City Council, made up of the six conservative Republicans The Sammamish Comment has discussed on previous occasions, plus liberal Democrat Kathy Huckabay, chose to create a 15-member PAB. There were also four alternates.
Despite the conservative ideology of the Council, and to its credit, the PAB indeed was a broad representation of the community and its various interests. Environmentalists, developers, business people and activists were named. Liberals, moderates and conservatives were represented.
Some had been active in the incorporation and City Council campaigns. Some would become key players in the City and in other government agencies in the future.
Some of the members of the PAB were:
- Bill Baldwin: Business owner. Baldwin, a conservative, became chairman.
- Lee Fellinge: Fellinge wasn’t active before appointment to the PAB. He would go on an be appointed to the City Council in 2004 to fill the vacancy created when Troy Romero resigned. Fellinge was elected to a full term in 2005.
- Scott Hamilton: Hamilton became known as an anti-growth activist with his three (successful) appeals of projects approved by King County before incorporation. Aligned with the SHOUT group and supporting the SHOUT-backed candidates for City Council in 1999 (all of whom got thumped in the election), Hamilton would later be appointed to the Planning Commission He created Sammamish Comment in 2003, turning it over to Tom Vance (another individual who would figure prominently in Sammamish in future years) while on the PC. Hamilton resume publishing The Comment in 2010, after leaving the PC.
- Vali Eberhardt: Environmental advocate.
- Jolie Imperatori: A developer.
- Sally Jarvis: A retired developer, Jarvis was named vice chairman.
- Keller: Keller ran for Council in the primary but did not make the final 14. After the PAB, he would become a civic leader for the Sammamish Kiwanis, an applicant for a Council vacancy and finally elected to the Council in 2013.
- Karen Moran: A leader of SING, one of the two groups advocating incorporation, Moran was later appointed to the King County Boundary Review Board. She unsuccessfully ran twice for the City Council. Moran was a close ally of the winning Republicans in the 1999 City Council election and was active in the 5th Legislative District Republican Party. She would be appointed to a vacancy on the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District (as it was then known). She was elected in her own right in 2015.
The PAB would spend 18 months writing the Comp Plan.
Next: The PAB gets to work.