King County Parks has analyzed all the reported conflicts in East Lake Sammamish Trail (ELST) Section 2B and is working on solutions, King County Council Member Kathy Lambert tells Sammamish Comment.
In an interview March 16, Lambert said the County Parks department created a large book
with the details of the conflicts presented by property owners along 2B, the final section of ELST to be developed into a paved walking/jogging/bike trail.
Section 2B runs north from the 7-11 on East Lake Sammamish Parkway in Sammamish to Inglewood Hill Road. Construction on Section 2A, south of the 7-11 to the Issaquah city limits, is now underway. Section 1, north from Inglewood Hill to the Redmond city limits, is done.
Section 2B has unique conflicts from home development dating to King County’s rule before Sammamish was incorporated and before the County acquired the right-of-way from Burlington Northern Rail Road, which discontinued using it.
There are also some challenging topographical and environmental issues.
Lambert is hopeful
Lambert, who represents the County Council District that included Sammamish, has been working to resolve long-standing disputes between the property owners and the County, as has been the Sammamish City Council and Administration ever since The Comment published an expose in January 2014 of how the City neglected the issues.
There remains a perception the County Parks Department remains inflexible in solving problems.
“I certainly hope not,” Lambert told The Comment. “They have looked through each of the properties that have some issues. They made some proposals to solve those issues.
“Every family they’ve had a specific complaint with, they wrote up specific proposals and presented it to the city,” she said.
Lambert said it’s possible not every property owner emerged with an issue to be addressed; one family only recently had done so. This is now in the pipeline with Parks, she said.
“The City has looked through these and are working together on how to make things work,” Lambert said.
Encroachments and the law
Lambert acknowledged that some of the problems of encroachments by property owners are minor while others are more vexing.
Examples of minor ones are gates and small landscaping, among others. Larger issues involve residents using large swaths of the rights-of-way for parking.
Instances where driveway and garage accessibility are particularly challenging.
“The issues at the base of this are that some properties are encroaching on public land,” she said. “The law says you can’t have use by individual f doesn’t benefit everybody.”
Beautification encroachments are potentially the easiest to resolve. The property owners and the County agree the beautification has a public benefit.
Nominal charges might be assessed for other minor encroachments, she said.
Zero lot lines, changing law
Conflicts in which some homes are right up to the trail are rooted in history.
“In those days, there was a zero lot line allowed, but it’s not allowed now,” she said. “In a couple of places where trail comes really close to the house, [Parks] made some adjustments on it.”
Parks put an employee in the Sammamish City Hall every week for a couple of hours to meet with people, Lambert said. The result is a thick book detailing the issues and proposing solutions, she said.
“As long as everybody is working together, I think we should get there. Will everybody be happy? No. But I hope huge majority will be.
“The County has been really trying. I’m not saying Parks always makes me happy, because it doesn’t,” she said.
Lambert’s view is more upbeat than that The Comment receives from Sammamish officials. Asked about this, Lambert said she’s not sure all Sammamish Council Members are familiar with the thick analysis book and proposals. She said the County’s directors have been working with the City’s directors.
Regardless, the County sued Sammamish several times over permitting issues. It’s clear a serious distrust continues on both sides.
While I understand Lambert’s position, I think she may have missed an important point. Lambert doesn’t mention one of the most “vexing” issues: KC claiming to own half of people’s houses and the property underneath while charging property owners taxes on the the same property. She mentions that back in history there was a zero lot line allowance that is no longer allowed. This suggests that an encroaching structure may be too close to the trail. This is not the case. I am talking about KC claiming to own sections of property that have permitted houses built on them, many which have been there since the 1930s, that are not close to the trail at all. There is plenty of room for the 20-30 foot trail to be developed without KC claiming a 100 foot ROW that is totally unnecessary, except to grab land and houses that never belonged to the County. If the County would negotiate with the property owners on these property rights issues, I think the property owners and the County could reach agreement quite easily.
@Anette, I suggest you email Lambert with your observations.
“The issues at the base of this are that some properties are encroaching on public land”
I’m guessing Ms. Lambert’s involvement is helpful, but on this point she’s towing the county line, instead of demonstrating a deeper understanding of the issue. Namely, whether or not the land in question (in some cases where owners park cars) actually belongs to the public.
The belief that the public owns the land is based on the following actions: The County took the land via an adverse possession claim. Adverse possession is “taking land” by claiming ownership of it. The area claimed by the county has been an “easement” since the beginning of the RR in early party of the 20th century. An easement is a shared right to use property by two or more parties, hence the reason these property owners had a legal right to use that property for parking, landscaping, etc.
That said, it’s encouraging to see active involvement by the City and Ms. Lambert. At the risk of sounding naive, a bit of cautious optimism isn’t a bad thing.
Scorecard to date:
County (so far) wins by virtue of its positioning and resources to fight
City loses (because the County’s inflexibility combined with the City’s duty to represent it’s citizens has forced it into a resource intensive struggle)
Trail users lose (because of time delays)
Some property owners lose (significant legal costs, stress, and lots of time spent trying to understand the County’s intention related to their property, and likely loss of property use)