Name: Melanie Curtright
Why are you running for Sammamish City Council?
I’m running to ensure that Sammamish families of all kinds have a strong voice in our local government and feel safe and valued. Our community is becoming more diverse every day and I believe we have a responsibility to ensure that our city council reflects that diversity. As a single mom working full time, I know how hard it is to make ends meet and care for a family. I bring needed perspective and life experience to the council.
What do you hope to achieve?
With 4 new people on the council, we have an opportunity to take the city in a new direction, and I would like to be a part of that transformation.
What are the Top Three issues you see as priorities?
The top three issues in the city today are:
- Traffic Congestion
- Over Development/Land Use/Zoning
What data did you rely on to help you arrive at these priorities?
Quantitative: The city survey done in April of this year, studies done by the city and presented at council and committee meetings
Qualitative: Direct feedback/input from the citizens I speak to at events and while canvassing
How would you solve these issues?
I believe that the most important thing to do is decide what we want our city to look like. In my experience working with clients across many countries and cultures, the only way to achieve success is to have common, agreed-upon goals. The people of Sammamish need to come to agreement on what the city will become, then put plans (financial and otherwise) in place to reach those goals.
What I hope we can achieve are:
- Implementing various transportation alternatives
- Making more balanced development decisions
- Firmly committing to preserve the environment
Please state your view of the current state of city finances? (IE, are they solid, precarious, neutral.) Please state why you reach your conclusion.
Based on my review of the “2017-2018 Budget in Brief” documentation and discussions with Sammamish city staff, current and former council members, and the council finance retreat, I would say that our current financial state is solid. The city finance team has been very conservative in the past and both capital and operating budgets will be well funded going forward.
Do you feel a tax hike or imposition of a new tax is needed? If not, why not? If yes, why?
Not at this time. I believe that we should increase taxes only when we need to and for specific reasons.
If a new tax is needed, what tax would you favor?
There are several types of taxes that could be considered, including utility and property, however, before any of these were imposed, they would all need to be carefully vetted to determine the impacts and potential benefits.
What are some ways our city can increase revenue without raising taxes?
We can sell some of the property holdings that we currently have, increase park or field fees, impact fees for transportation, or look to cut costs where appropriate (although, from my observations, the city runs pretty lean now, so staff reductions should not be considered).
Parks and Recreation
Are more parks with ball fields needed? If yes, how would you achieve these?
I believe that we do, as there are multiple groups across the plateau competing for field time. In addition, many of the fields don’t have lights, limiting use during the fall and winter (or playing soccer when you can’t see the ball!) I would like to see a centralized location with multi-use fields, with lights, bleachers, restrooms, etc. that could be used by groups across the plateau.
East Lake Sammamish Trail: Only the Middle section, Section 2B, from the 7-11 north to Inglewood Hill Road, remains under permitting review and appeals by King County. This is the most difficult section to develop given the tight proximity of homes permitted by the County before Sammamish became a city. Please state the issues as you understand them and what your position is to resolve them.
I have read through the public comments and KC proposals on this last section of the trail. Many residents are not opposed to the trail, but want reasonable adjustments to the 60% plan to ensure that they have full and safe access to their properties. KC wants to preserve wildlife habitats if possible and make the trail accessible to people from across the region.
As I was reading, two things came to mind:
- We need to find alternative ways to resolve the open issues. I would like to bring in a neutral 3rd party to help the groups reach consensus.
- We need to move quickly to resolve this. The wheels of government move slowly, but the impact of this ongoing uncertainty has taken a toll on everyone involved. I recommend that we find a way to finalize these plans and move forward as expeditiously as possible.
Developing the YMCA land adjacent Pine Lake Middle School is a contractual obligation to Sammamish in exchange for the YMCA’s financial contribution, program development and management of the Community Center. The City’s obligation is to develop an active use for the property, which is currently thick woods and encompassing sensitive areas. Some neighbors prefer a passive use, such as trails, to protect wildlife and the wetlands. Please state your understanding of the issues and the outcome you support.
Based on the assessments done by the city, this space appears to be suitable for multi-use: some protected wetlands and possible play fields. There is a proposal for an indoor soccer facility on the table that could be considered as well. After reviewing the material to date, I would be inclined to suggest a mixed use, with nature trails and rest areas near the wetlands and in the area closer to the adjacent neighborhoods and outdoor sports fields/parking lot closer to the bus barn and Pine Lake Middle School.
Roads and Transportation
Council Member Tom Odell has stated Sammamish neglected road improvements for 10 years. The City today is about to receive a draft Transportation Management Plan (on July 11, after this questionnaire is due back to us). This will perhaps make recommendations for priorities in road improvements. Until then, the only “plan” is the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP).
The TIP is available on the City’s website. Please state your opinion of the TIP projects and the cost of the projects listed in the TIP.
I have reviewed the TIP and the projects appear to be valid. The major issues we have with traffic relate to building homes first and roads second. I know that the developers can build the roads at a lower cost than the city, however, the residents are negatively impacted when road building lags behind. If elected, I will commit to learning more about how and when our roads are built, improved and paid for. The decisions I support and make will be based on: what is best for the majority of our residents; and ensuring that we are taking aggressive action to resolve the traffic problems we have today.
Do you believe the City can pay for these projects under its current financial condition? If not, how would you suggest paying for them?
It appears that we can pay for roads with a combination of impact fees and existing revenue. As in the past, we can take out shorter term loans to pay for infrastructure as well.
Issaquah-Fall City Road improvements were promised to the Klahanie area residents if they voted to annex to Sammamish. At the time, in 2014, City officials estimated the cost of this project would be about $23 million. The latest estimate is $32 million and this may rise. Do you support the current proposed design of the project, and how do you believe the City should pay for it?
I support the current design as I understand it, however, I do not have enough information and background to make a definitive statement about how this project should be completed and funded. If elected, I will commit to fully understanding the nuances of this effort – along with engaging community members – before voting one way or another about it.
Sahalee Way became a highly controversial project, both in design and in cost. Initially it was promised that it would relieve congestion. However, the City’s contract traffic engineer stated it will not because Sahalee Way empties onto SR202. As a result, any improvements will be principally for safety, such as stop lights, turning lanes, bike lanes and a sidewalk on one side of the street. The project is estimated to cost $15 million-$16 million. Do you believe there is sufficient return on investment to support this cost, or do you believe the design should be modified to reduce the cost?
I would like to better understand why widening Sahalee Way wouldn’t improve traffic at peak times during the day. Because I sit in it every day, I’m inclined to believe that we need 2 lanes on each side and I’m not sure that spending 15 to 16M on a sidewalk and more stoplights will solve this particular issue. However, this is one of the many transportation issues that we face and I look forward to working with other council members, commissions, and city staff to resolve them.
What is your understanding of Concurrency and Level of Service?
Traffic concurrency is the measurement of road capacity and planned growth. My understanding from recent articles, discussions with city staff and current council members is that the numbers used to determine capacity are updated on a rolling basis as new numbers are made available.
What data are you using to inform your positions on traffic management?
Data readily available from the city.
Certain members of the current City Council occasionally suggest assuming the two water and sewer districts into the City, so that the City government has control over all operations of the districts; all assets; all revenue (and liabilities); and the ability to set rates.
Do you support or oppose assuming control of the Northeast Sammamish Water and Sewer District? Please state your reasons for your position.
At this time, I cannot support or oppose this, as I do not have enough information or background to do so. However, two areas that I would explore are:
- Does the city have the infrastructure and budget to support taking this on?
- What are the benefits to residents of assuming control?
Do you support or oppose assuming control of the Sammamish Plateau Water and sewer district? Please state your reasons for your position.
Storm water management is a City function. For the past 12 years, the Tamarack subdivision has had increasing storm water runoff issues from uphill development approved by the City. Residents have persistently appeared before the City Council asking for a City-funded solution. The current Council is split on (1) how to proceed), (2) whether more study is needed and (3) who should pay for resolution of these problems.
Please state your understanding of the Tamarack storm water management issues.
At a high level, my understanding is that this is an issue of draining into a community and onto a private road, caused by city-approved development completed several years ago. At this point, I would look for ways to pay for the road fixes without impacting the city budget.
Please state how you would resolve the issues and who should pay for them.
What other storm water management/runoff issues are you aware of?
Clean water is essential to our community and as part of a watershed, our policies not only impact our community but those around us. If elected, I would work with local stakeholders and experts to ensure any current/new policy protects our water.
Please state your positions on environmental issues:
- I am a strong environmentalist, with an avid interest and firm commitment to doing everything that I can to protect our natural environment.
- I believe that developing a sustainable, clean environment is essential to a sustainable local economy. We are often given a false choice between protecting the environment and creating jobs/strengthening our economy. I don’t buy into this idea and believe we must do both to ensure a healthy, thriving community.
- The environment and the impact of development on our forests and wetlands is a key issue for all of us. As a member of the city council, I will always come down on the side of protecting our open spaces and preserving the shorelines of our lakes.
- Protecting Lake Sammamish, Laughing Jacobs Lake, Pine Lake and Beaver Lake.
- Protecting wetlands and streams.
- Preserving trees.
Is the City doing enough, too much or not enough?
From an environmental perspective, I know that there are several studies, projects and initiatives currently going on across the city. I would like to see us implement a sustainability program or group, similar to what is done in Issaquah.
Any Other Issues You Wish To Address
Please briefly identify any other issues that you wish to address.