Citizens lined up along Issaquah-Pine Lake Road at 40th Place, across from the Conner-Jarvis development, to protest the large removal of trees to make way for 115 homes.
The project, approved under the prior Sammamish tree retention ordinance requiring retention of 25% of the trees on site, nonetheless caused shock with the community when a stand of trees along Issaquah-Pine Lake Road disappeared.
The current tree retention ordinance, passed last year, requires 35% tree retention and reforestation. It was approved too late to have impact on Conner-Jarvis.
Only two City Council Members, Tom Hornish and Christie Malchow, appeared at the protest to lend their support.
Stacy Wollenberg Peters, one of the neighbors of Conner-Jarvis, unloaded on the City Council Tuesday night.
“I’m here today to share my frustration with the City’s approach to Development and growth. I understand this is a complex issue with various rules and regulations that govern the city’s actions. However, from what I’ve seen, heard, and learned recently, the City’s process seems to be deeply dysfunctional. From my perspective, City Planners appear to be to working alongside and to the benefit of developers, granting variances and mitigations where ever possible. The City Council appears to be impotent, without appropriate oversight of the City Planning Department. Further, current citizens are thwarted from providing meaningful input that would shape the future of our city. I would like to see increased oversight by City Council of the City Planners; adherences to environmental regulations rather than the loose variances granted freely; and focus on infrastructure and the aggregate impact of development on our city’s roads, schools, wildlife and general livability. Thank you.”
She was one of several citizens to say during Public Comment that they were concerned about the loss of trees in favor of development. Mayor Don Gerend responded to one that Sammamish now has the toughest tree ordinance in the state.
The project became an election issue in the 2015 City Council races, a poster child for complaints that the City Staff was approving variances to the City code to approve one project after another. Tree retention was not specifically an issue in this project, however, until the trees began coming down last month.
Facebook and letters to the editor of the local papers lit up with complaints. The City responded that the tree removal was according to the previous 25% code.
The stricter code was adopted after protests over the rape-and-scrape of the Kamp property on 228th Ave. SE at SE 20th and projects along Inglewood Hill Road to make way for new homes.
But by the time the stricter 35% code was adopted, there was only 2.5% of the land remaining in Sammamish that would be affected by the stricter standards. The stricter code was too little, too late.
Although a series of City Councils liked to self-brand as strong environmentalists, none of the members pushed for stronger codes, with toothless enforcement and fines, until early last year–long after it was too late to have meaningful impact.
Gerend and Council Members Tom Odell and Kathy Huckabay have been on the Council the longest of the current members and bear responsibility for failing to have the vision to seek stronger tree retention ordinances. Each is up for election next year. The fourth Council Member up for election next year is Bob Keller, who has only been in office two years. Ramiro Valderrama just won reelection to his second term last November. Hornish and Malchow were elected to their first term last November.
Money talks and unfortunately, the City Council and the City Manager is listening closely, while turning a blind eye to the resulting destruction.
One big problem? The most powerful person in this city is the City Manager, who is appointed by the City Council, not elected, so he is not answerable to the voters. While he supposedly acts within the guidelines framed by the City Council, he is free to interpret the rules as he sees fit. The City Manager in office when these decisions were made was Ben Yazici. We now have a new manager, effective March 1 of this year, Lyman Howard.
It’s too late to be angry at Yazici. Damage is done. Let’s make sure Howard’s name is well known and we use public pressure on him and City Council to try to rein in this unwarrented favor granted to developers over the residents of this city. It’s our home. We need to use our voices to protect it.
This is why my suggestion for the Urban Forestry Management Plan “vision statement” should read:
SAVE SOME DAMN TREES!
Every elected council member should be asked what their proven commitment to ENVIRONMENTAL causes is. Not what ONE property (of their own) have they saved… where have they worked on protecting the environment OFF of their private property? Where have they demonstrated that they understand and support the work being done by other environmental groups? Where does their political capital get spent at a State and National level to support environmental causes? How do we as voting citizens know what your environmental conscience is?
And lastly, the only REAL tool we have left to save trees is the acquisition of forested land for preservation. Does your councilperson support allocating revenue for acquisition? Will they support raising taxes to fund it if they don’t have the money? This is where the “fiscally conservative” mindset of your council will show their commitment (or lack thereof) to protecting trees and open space. You can’t decry development without providing a mechanism for protection. And that costs money. Are they willing to take stand against anti-tax constituents to pay for it? I’m willing to bet not.
The only option I see is to greatly expand the road right-of-ways to cover vegitation within say 20ft of the road. This is the only way citizens don’t have to see the carnage. This power is fully within the city rights and can be adopted very quickly.
I understand Conner-Jarvis had already cut down the trees and they got the permit before the new current tree retention ordinance was in effect, but I refuse to think that there’s nothing we can do.
I suppose they will still need permits for other things so maybe there, the city can force them to replant some of the trees they cut down!
If they are going to sell their houses is because they are also “offering” the schools, parks and roads of the city. Services that we, Sammamish citizens, already pay for so if we, the citizens oppose this new neighbor (the developer), they have to do something to be in our graces no?