Editor’s note: There has been a spirited discussion on Facebook under Save Sammamish (a closed group) about the current level of development and the topic of a building moratorium. Here is what I posted this morning.
When the Comp Plan was written in 2001-2003 (of which I was a part), we did everything possible to meet the minimum requirements of the Growth Management Act (GMA) in order to have the minimum growth for our city. However, development of the Town Center was set aside from this process for a separate process.
Except for some very selected areas for GMA compliance purposes, no up-zoning was approved by the City Council.
As has been discussed, growth and job targets are set in negotiation with the county and other cities. Sammamish considers itself an island, so we always argued for minimum growth targets.
Then we did the Town Center plan. There were proposals for up to 1.7 million SF of commercial/retail/office (larger than Redmond Town Center) and (if I recall correctly) at least 3,500 residential units.
These were non-starter proposals. The committees and Planning Commission (of which I was also a part) settled on recommending to Council 500,000 sf of commercial and 2,000 units. The Council upped this to 600,000 and 2,500. The Environmental Impact Statement studied up to 700,000 sf and 3,000 units before another EIS would be required with dramatically higher road improvements also required.
As the TC Plan was finishing up, and before it was handed over to the Council, the Great Recession happened. This dried up capital and halted any development for years. Essentially there was a market-induced building moratorium.
What is happening now is the explosion of pent-up development.
I went off the Planning Commission 12/31/2009 but I’m don’t believe there was any up-zoning subsequently, but I can’t swear to this.
There was a real lack of foresight in having an effective tree retention ordinance, and the fines were so small as to be the mere cost of doing business for the developers. The new tree ordinance comes too late to do any good.
There were also a number of other missed opportunities to better protect the environment because the former city manager had a “Not Invented Here” mentality and the City Councils (plural) wouldn’t stand up and overrule him.
That said, I do object to the broad characterizations that the council members are all in this for themselves or for the developers. I have disagreements with the direction some pursue and some really, really major disagreements with one council member in particular. I have disagreements with those I support, as the entire conversation about Ramiro Valderrama and his proposal for a moratorium demonstrates. But these are ALL good people who are trying to do what they think is best for the city. Disagree if you want (I do) and work to elect new people next year. Four seats are up. There’s a lot of opportunity around the corner.
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