A group on Facebook that has about 1,000 followers formalized last night with its first meeting, at the Klahanie Fire Station 83 at Issaquah-Pine Lake Road and SE 32nd.
“Save Sammamish” is a group that discussed growth issues on Facebook. Created by Jennifer Kim, a two-year resident of Sammamish who moved here from California, the Facebook conversations are active if sometimes heated.
Kim distinguished herself from a large crowd in September when, during public comment at a City Council meeting discussing the prospect of a building moratorium, she came armed with facts and figures on a citywide basis instead of personal stories and emotional pleas.
About two dozen people attended the launch meeting, including Council Members Christie Malchow, Tom Hornish and Ramiro Valderrama. Council members Don Gerend, Kathy Huckabay, Bob Keller and Tom Odell did not attend.
Malchow is particularly active on the Save Sammamish Facebook group.
Kim asked Malchow to present her proposal to create buffers along city arterials that would be lined with trees, and between zoned areas such as R-1 to R-4. Malchow received unanimous support from the Council to send the proposal to the Planning Commission for vetting and recommendations.
As outlined at the Save Sammamish meeting, Malchow’s plan has several challenging components. In her example, a 1.2 acre parcel would see a strip of land parallel to an arterial reserved for buffering and trees (which have to be planted, if few exist). The illustration set aside 9,000 sf, which is larger than some high-density lots. An additional buffer between zonings in her example boosted the set-asides to 15,000 sf, which is roughly a quarter of an acre.
If the zoning is R-1, the impact to the property owner is probably minimal. However, if the zoning is R-4, the impact is significant.
That’s not all.
If the lot has sensitive areas that reduce the available building footprint, or a large stand of trees throughout the lot that are subject to the current 35% tree retention ordinance, the buffer set-asides could seriously impact the property owner’s ability to build one house or four houses on the lot.
Under state and federal Constitutions, there could also be “taking” issues.
Malchow said these are all factors the Planning Commission will have to address.
Growth, Roads and Budgets
While Malchow’s buffer plan was the headliner, the meeting soon shifted to a broader discussion of growth, roads and budgets.
Most of the residents were unfamiliar with the ins-and-outs of growth management and how the city manager-weak mayor form of government operated. History was provided by Malchow and by this writer, a former member of the Planning Commission and Planning Advisory Board.
Roads were deemed inadequate for the growth by most people at the meeting. But improving roads takes money, and Sammamish simply isn’t funding them.
The current six year Transportation Improvement Plan has $95m worth of projects identified, some which have been on the list for more than a decade. There’s only about $35m in the general fund. Council after council refused to issue debt or raise taxes for road projects. At a Town Hall meeting about growth, there appeared to be a consensus among about 200 people attending supporting taking on debt for road improvements.
The budget for the next two years, adopted last month, includes no new funding.
As a result, roads are falling behind growth. Council Member Odell at various council meetings lamented that infrastructure neglect, but he didn’t push for new revenues or debt to pay for them during the current budget debate. Odell, along with Gerend, Huckabay and Keller are up for election next November.