Little progress between City, County over ELST, but hope continues

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.

Public meeting

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.”

New leverage

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.

19 thoughts on “Little progress between City, County over ELST, but hope continues

  1. Thank you. I’m a big supporter of the trail; however at my location (929 ELS Shore Lane SE – Segment B) the County is going to meander the trail westward off the current trail bed and destroy 10 trees and decades-old landscaping costing thousands of dollars. I’m asking the County keep the trail at its current location to avoid the destruction and cost. They claim they have to move it because of the wetlands that are on the east side of the current rail bed. Funny, for decades that wetland has survived just fine. Need help from the City to mitigate County’s concern about wetland. Come visit me. Please call ahead at 206.484.4845. Peggy Reddy, 20 years a good trail neighbor!

  2. Why would home owners build permanent structures on public property? Their own lawyer tried to say you can not build a permanent trail as the train could come back. Why are you made that you can not have our public lands for your private rstate

  3. And why is the City spending taxpayer time and money on what is, essentially, a private property dispute between the property owners and the County. Let the courts decide and let’s move on. The delays in construction have cost us millions.

  4. Peggy… which drawings are you using in reference to your first comment? Please confirm the issue date on the drawing.

  5. Greetings Pete: The drawing is on the current King County website for Segment B (September 2016). This is called the 60% plan drawing. To find please go to the King County link for Sammamish Trail Segment B and Landscape Plan LA12 Sheet No. 124 of 135 at “wetland” 23C . It’s at this point that the County wants to move the current trail bed west several feet up to an additonal 15 feet west. This is not just widening the trail but actually move it off the current trail bed. For fun I looked up how to calculate the age of a tree. (It depends on the species). Under the proposed plan the County would remove three Aspens and seven Fir trees, ranging between 45 years to 100 years old. I’m also guessing that in the same area the mature rhodies are 35+ years old. I’ve lived here 20 years. The “clearing and grubbing” (CG) line on the Landscape plan moves the CG line west 15 feet instead of keeping to the current location. You can come down here and see where they’ve moved the centerline stakes flush to the current split-rail fence exactly at this location only. The CG line is what is the concern. It’s a sad proposal to destroy decades of beatification because there is a “wetland” on the east side of the trail. I hope the County can mitigate the concern about the wetland and weigh the benefit of keeping trees and mature landscaping – it certainly would cost the taxpayers a lot less to do so. Contrary to prior comments, there is no dispute with me. I’m a huge trail supporter. I’d just like to see our government in action making logical and cost-effective decisions that will continue to allow walkers and cyclists to enjoy the beautification that already exists rather than starting from ground zero. Thanks for your input and support. Peggy

  6. So there is the problem. Go to page 20 of the same drawing set and see that the trail runs straight, just as you like it. Now the CG line is not shown but they show the “high visibility” fence and it runs on top of the edge of gravel. I think that fence is the CG line. But I’m not sure. I sent a not to KC. At the very least, the trail alignment is not consistent between these two drawings. The July 2016 version of the Tree plan shows the trees removed and the trail going west.
    Well, I’m not an expert on these drawings so I could be reading these all wrong, which is another reason why I asked KC for clarification. Having trees so close to the trail will have the roots eventually damage the trail, but that might be a compromise worth taking.
    Anyway, have a look at page 20 and let me know if you read it the way I do… the trail is straight and the trees stay.

    • @Doug, I don’t see any post submittal from you that might have been captured by Spam or in Pending. I didn’t Trash any. Please resubmit.

  7. Hi Pete! The county staffer (Kelly) and the surveyors met with me at the trail and ROW location because we were going over property lines. They told me and provided drawings marking where the clearing would take place west of the current split rail fence. They made it very clear they intend to cut down ten trees and raze everything else to the ground. For 20 years I’ve lived here with the 100 foot trees along the fence and not one root has ever surfaced on the trail bed. The county is not disturbing the largest trees which is awesome. Roots are a non-issue as to why the courty’s plan is to move the trail westward off of the current to trail bed. They claim the east side “wetlands” is the issue! It’s a ditch! Cheers!

    • I’m not confirming that they are not taking down the trees. Just that there seems to be conflicting information in the drawing. I have asked Kelly for clarification. If you get to them before me, bring this up with them as well.

      • Thanks Pete! I’ve been corresponding regularly with Kelly from King County since 11/16/16 and talked to her the last time on 3/6/17 to discuss and get information on the whole construction plan and to confirm the County’s plan. I also met personally with Kelly both at the City during the County’s appointment comment period as well as at the location on the trail where it will be moved significantly westward from the current rail bed. The message is the same. Trees and landscaping will be razed to the ground on the west side of the current split-rail fence opposite from the wetland location (which is east side of the trail) because the County moved the center line of the current trail bed westward from its current location. I am still hopeful they will save the beautification and the decades old trees for all to enjoy. I reached our to Kelly’s boss (Frank Overton 206.477.3552 to ask for help to mitigate the wetland issue and save the trees etc. and have not heard from him. Kelly was clear to me. Everything will be razed. I’ll keep you posted if I hear more or hear from Mr. Overton. Thanks for keeping the dialogue going. Best regards, Peggy

      • ok, problem solved… my bad… I was looking at the EX drawings (see the lower right hand legend). EX = existing. AL20 with AL = Alignment, shows the proposed. So yes, it shows the trees getting lost. We have an unfortunate trade off here. The wetlands are under federal regulations and cause the trail to move west and that causes the trees to be removed. Even if the trail did not move, the construction CG lines would still need to affect the trees and they are at the gravel edge. We can all argue that the wetland regs are over reaching, and can be compromised. What is one less swamp anyway if we can keep the trees? I understand the process is that all comments (including this one) will all be reviewed by KC. Let’s pick this thread up again after they come back with their comments.

  8. Hi all
    If you take the word *trail* out of the mix you will see this is an illegal land grab. Of course we didn’t build on a public right of way, my house has been in the same spot since the 1930 s. The county is making things up with no proof to say it’s theirs. What is making it so expensive and time consuming is the county won’t talk to the owners just the city. If they would have kept the same path as the rails, we would have been done 12 years ago

  9. Hi Doug! Have you ever thought of winning the lottery? Well I have and that’s what, in my opinion, happened to King County, only they paid for the ROW. It was a huge windfall for them and for the public. They have however spent more money than needed and continue to do so in their resistance to be flexible. The County bought the ROW from the Land Conservancy (who acquired it from Burlington Northern) and it was all “legal” as I understand based on the federal rails-to-trails statues. Many homeowners tried to use the concept of “adverse possession” to retain their decades occupancy (going back to the 1930s) of the ROW, among other attempts, to claim the County had “no rights”. So many adjacent homeownres have maintained and cared for the ROW for decades. So many have moved away. I think we need to give up the hope that the County has “land grabbed”. It’s wishful thinking. They won the lottery! Almost 20 years ago I was on the Community Advisory Board to King County for trail construction when public comments were requested. I was and continue to be a trail supporter, within “reason”. At that time the hornets nest was knocked over with litigation begun galore. Many had issues that permits were allowed for construction in the ROW for decades. There is a lot of misinformation but we won’t win the argument of land grab by the County. It’s been vetted by the 100s or $1,000s by homeowners for 20 years. I was fortunate to buy the ROW directly from the Land Conservancy before its sale of the ROW to the County so the ROW width was reduced by 25 feet along the 300 feet parallel to my property. It’s still painful to see the unmitigated destruction when compromise would be easy, less costly, and the beautification (westward at Wetland 23C) continued to be enjoyed for all trail users. I’m still hoping I can get someone at the County to be reasonable and not take down 10 trees up to 100 years old and old mature landscaping that was planted long before I purchased in August, 1997. Anyway, thanks for reading my feedback and please hang in there! We can always hope for consideration and reasonableness by the County. But land grab, nope. Keep up the dialogue. I really appreciate your comments! Regards, Peggy

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