‘Toughest tree ordinance in the state’ is too little, too late

Gerend 2

Sammamish Mayor Don Gerend.


Sammamish Mayor Don Gerend told citizens Tuesday night that Sammamish now has the toughest tree ordinance in the State.

This may well be true. But it’s too little, too late.

The ordinance requires developers–and individuals–who are building to retain 35% of the trees on site, up from 25%. It also requires reforestation, though this could be elsewhere in the City, not on site.

Kamp Property

Mass tree removal of the Kamp Property at 228th Ave. SE and SE 20th spurred adoption of a tough tree retention ordinance. The ordinance came too late to have any real impact.

Large fines are now included for violations.

This is better than the previous ordinance, which aside from the lower retention number had toothless fines.

But by the time the ordinance was adopted last year, 97.5% of the land in Sammamish was already built out or vested to the old standard. Only 2.5% of the land for new projects is affected by the new ordinance.

The new ordinance could have had even tougher penalties. This writer suggested to the Council in 2014 that a new ordinance include the penalty of a six month stop work order on developers who egregiously violated tree removal restrictions. This would have to be defined for proportionality, of course. But the Council didn’t even discuss the idea.

There was a vast lack of vision going back years. Former Mayor Tom Vance, who was defeated last November for reelection, tried to make the new tree ordinance one of the center pieces of his campaign. But he was also chairman of the Planning Commission in 2009-10. No tree ordinance was proposed then.

Gerend and Kathy Huckabay were original members of the City Council, dating to 1999. Gerend has served continuously since. Huckabay took a four year hiatus from 2010-2014, and rejoined the Council in 2014. Member Tom Odell has been on the Council since 2010. Ramiro Valderrama joined in 2012. The other current Council Members were elected later: Bob Keller in 2013 (taking his seat in January 2014); Christie Malchow and Tom Hornish were seated just this last January.

Gerend and Huckabay had ample time to come up with a tough tree ordinance since the inception of the City. Odell was on the Council for five years before acting. Valderrama had three years to act. Although at any of these points in time, the majority of the City was already built out or vested to previous standards, adopting a tough tree ordinance long before last year would have had some impact. Today, the impact in going to be minimal.

Toughest tree ordinance in the state? Maybe. But it’s too late for Sammamish. It’s just a political talking point.




8 thoughts on “‘Toughest tree ordinance in the state’ is too little, too late

  1. … not to mention that Don’s wife, Susan, is a Windermere real estate agent. It would seem that they would benefit monetarily from new developments. Conflict of interest, anyone?

      • I would think that any additional inventory in this particular housing market would increase the number of transactions, both resale and new construction, and thus increase profit for anyone in the real estate game. I also think it is no secret that real estate agents and developers often fall on the same sides of issues related to growth… they stand to mutually gain from new development.

        I’m just saying that Don has long told folks in the city, in the newsletters and elsewhere, that “times change” and this is just the city evolving. That we should be welcoming these kinds of changes rather than fearing them. I personally think that it would be naive to believe that the Gerend family dealings in real estate haven’t colored his perspectives on this at least a little bit.

        And to be fair, he makes his real estate connections very clear – his profile page on the city’s website has this front and center. If the electorate didn’t like this, they wouldn’t continually vote him in.

        Don is a good guy; I like him, but on this particular issue, I think he is wrong.

      • Don is or has been a commercial real estate owner/developer (Tri-Cities, Lacey but not here), so his perspective includes this background. Don’s service to this city since 1999 is and has been tremendous. He’s served with honor and integrity. As with anyone, I don’t 100% agree with him on the issues and have gone toe-to-toe with him many times. His current service as mayor has been healing from the bitter 2015 election and he’s brought a new approach to citizen involvement and respect that was missing under the 2014-2015 leadership. It will be interesting to see if he seeks another term next year, when he is up for election. He will be 75 then.

  2. I would be great to know what the source of the 2.5% is. Is it land that has not previously been subdivided?

    Although there is not much land in Sammamish that has never been subdivided (perhaps the source of the 2.5% figure?), many of the plats being applied for are conglomerating a handful of lots ranging from one to five acres. Many of these lots are tree covered, most have modest medium income housing on them. Both are being removed in order to increase density (density of largely high income housing).

    There may actually be more land that the ordinance will apply to that what is commonly believed.

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