Little tangible progress appeared to be the result of a staff-to-staff meeting two weeks ago between King County Parks and Sammamish over the interminable controversy of development of the final segment of the East Lake Sammamish Trail.
But City Manager Lyman Howard is hopeful some progress can be made.
“I think so,” he said in an interview with Sammamish Comment this week. County officials said they want to work with the City and property owners—statements that have been made before, only to be met with unsatisfactory results.
Howard, ever hopeful and acknowledging past disappointments, nonetheless isn’t throwing in the towel.
Creating new trail standards
“The proof is in the pudding,” he said of County statements. “They are working on drafting county-wide standards on all trails,” an action that was disclosed at the meeting for the first time.
“We haven’t seen them,” he said. “My concern for county-wide standards is they have been created [so far] without any stakeholder input. I’ve conveyed our displeasure to [King County] Parks, the [County] Executive’s office and Kathy Lambert.”
Lambert, a King County Council Member, represents District 3 of which Sammamish is a part. Howard said he had no response at this interview from Parks or the Executive’s office. Lambert, he said, wasn’t happy to hear about the lack of stakeholder input.
Physical, topographical constraints
Asked how County trail standards (that he hasn’t seen) could work in Section 2B of ELST, where there are physical and topographical constraints, Howard didn’t know.
“I don’t know how they apply them on a case by case basis,” he said. “They said they are willing to work with property owners. But they are desirous to use special use permit process.”
Part of the Section 2B permit applications is vested. However, another element is not because the City deemed the application to be incomplete. The County sued the City in King County Superior Court and lost on jurisdictional grounds.
“The County is vested for the regulations in effect at the time of submittal of the SSDP (Substantial Shoreline Development Permit) permit,” Howard said.
“They argued in court that they should be vested at the same time to the next permit needed, the clearing and grading permit. It is our position that they can’t vest to our regulations until they have an SSDP permit which is a requirement to apply for a clear and grading permit.
“The judge ruled that she would not immediately rule on that in the County’s favor and that it is a LUPA (Land Use Permit Application) appeal and will be decided at trial.”
The City’s Hearing Examiner is also the authority on granting permits. Should any party appeal his decision, it will go to the State Shoreline Hearings Board, as happened in decisions involving Section 2A (the south end) of ELST. This section is now under construction.
Howard said the County officials agreed to a public meeting, perhaps next month.
“They told us what they would like to do, but don’t have the standards set,” Howard said. The public meeting would discuss the standards and receive public comment, including from the City.
Sammamish has more than 1,300 electronic files created from comments received about Section 2B, including hundreds from the Cascade Bicycle Club, which inundated the City Council with form letters urging development of the trail to federal trail standards.
None of those emails reviewed by The Comment recognized the physical and topographical constraints, nor the building encroachments of the railroad right of way the County itself created in approving development. These encroachments of houses, driveways and parking areas are among the most contentious issues now between the County, the homeowners and the City.
Let’s see the proposals
“We welcome looking at standards,” Howard said. “Rather than being inconsistent, it would be nice to look at how they seeing how they apply, but haven’t seen them.”
The County insists, up to now at least, that it must comply federal trail standards. (Never mind that it varied from the federal standards in certain locations in the Issaquah segments, as The Comment pointed out on a number of occasions.)
Sammamish is taking steps on this issue.
“We are in the process of hiring a trail expert to assist in review of [federal] standards the county is applying—the appropriateness, the application how to apply minimums and maximums and how these are applied in special circumstances.”
Howard said that the City has new leverage over the County, now that it is the responsible agency for issuing permits.
As a result of hundreds of complaints from property owners in the North End of the ELST, where construction is complete, and from the South end where is began in December, the City canceled an interlocal agreement which had given the County authority as the permitting agency.
With the City now responsible, the County lost important power to proceed. The City now has to approve permits.