Speaker after speaker Tuesday asked the Sammamish City Council to reject a suggestion that a building moratorium be imposed.
Each one had a personal financial stake of some kind, or represented someone who did, or simply philosophical opposition to the idea.
Only about three people favored the moratorium.
But only one of all those who spoke stood up and presented a fact-based argument backed by details and citing legal questions.
Jennifer Kim, founder of the group Save Sammamish, zeroed in on the state requirements for housing under the Growth Management Act. (The GMA also sets job targets, although this was not part of Kim’s presentation.)
Kim also cited the City’s Comprehensive Plan and the growth targets it contains.
Kim noted that one GMA objective is to direct growth into designated areas over a 20-year horizon. This trickles down through the counties (King in Sammamish’s case) and then to the cities. (Sammamish is inside the urban growth boundary, and thus has legal requirements for growth and job targets.)
The targets are arrived at through negotiations between the cities and the counties.
Kim noted that Sammamish’s Comp Plan 2006-2031 had a housing target of 4,180 units within the City and another 350 in its potential annexation areas (PAAs.)
Between 2006 and year-to-date in 2016, Sammamish recorded 1,893 permits for new housing. The Town Center adds 2,000 more units. When all the math is done, Kim told the City Council that there are only 287 more units to be permitted to hit the 2031 target, 11 years from now.
Updating the numbers
Since then, Sammamish updated its Comp Plan and increased the housing target to 2035 to 4,439 units. This means there are only 546 permits needed to hit the new target, 19 years in the future.
From 2011, after the Great Recession began to ease, through YTD 2016 Sammamish issued an average of 211 permits a year. Kim said this means Sammamish is only 2 ½ years away from the 2035 housing target.
She called on the Council to pause issuing permits and to come up with a means for pacing future development.
Kim’s presentation is here: Sammamish moratorium-kim 092016
No moratorium, but a topic for the retreat
Kim did not succeed in persuading the Council to adopt a moratorium, but the Council announced that her points and others raised in a recent Town Hall meeting on growth will be topics for the annual Council retreat in January. The time and location is to be announced.
On the Save Sammamish Facebook page, Mayor Don Gerend Wednesday responded to some comments at the Council meeting and on the Facebook page.
Gerend’s comments in full:
I agree that there are changes to the code that could be made. We have already talked about possibly increasing the setbacks along arterials and between new subdivisions and existing lower density neighborhoods. Reducing the percentage of lot coverage by buildings is another possible action, so that you either have to increase the size of the lot or decrease the size of the house.
Regarding the traffic concurrency rules, I believe that the entire City is part of the concurrency modeling for a new project. We have a quite sophisticated model of the City used in the model program (over 100 zones) and it is calibrated by the frequent data gathering using the counter tubes.
We also heard last night from a lot of small property owners who basically have their retirement fund in the equity of their home. I will not be party to wiping out this equity by pulling the rug out from under any chance of a reasonable sale of their property. We have already effectively downzoned much of the City since we incorporated (except the Town Center) by going from Gross Density to Net Density, dramatically increased the buffers of critical areas, strengthened the tree ordinance, and methods such as increased setbacks and impervious surface restrictions.
Vaults are a great improvement over the metal fenced ponds, at additional cost. The major developer in the Town Center (well, they haven’t developed anything yet, but they now control some 80 acres of the TC) is doing research and plans to test drill to see if they can recharge the aquifer at various sites in the TC with treated storm water, thus making the post development surface water runoff approach zero (i.e. 100% of historical forested conditions). The code now is at 60% in the TC.