The Sammamish City Council, in a surprise move, unanimously adopted a building moratorium for six months to make time to sort out the traffic concurrency problems that emerged in June.
The item was not on the agenda. Deputy Mayor Christie Malchow introduced the ordinance declaring an emergency to adopt the moratorium. Member Tom Odell seconded.
She said it became clear in a study session Monday night and in previous meetings that staff process was “trumping” policy.
Underlying assumptions in Table T-8 in the Comprehensive Plan can’t be addressed until the next update in a year. T-8 details traffic counts and other data.
Council member comments
Odell said that the City needed to take a pause.
“We need to take a thorough vetting of how we count traffic. The assumptions we are using in the model are perhaps questionable and flawed,” Odell said. “Until we get our arms around this thing and understand how this works, we need to take a time out.”
Member Don Gerend, who is largely seen as the leading property rights advocate on the Council, supported the moratorium.
“Generally, I’m opposed to emergency ordinances because of money spent and then have the rug pulled out from under them. It’s important to note that any applications submitted, even if incomplete, will be processed.”
“I am supporting this reluctantly,” said Member Tom Hornish. “I take it seriously that we have to balance growth…but there are so many moving pieces we and the staff have to get our arms around. We can change the moratorium, modify it within six months and we can even repeal it within six months.
“This gives us a laser focus of what we need to do in this city for concurrency,” Hornish said.
“The council does not take this lightly,” Malchow said. “This pause is much needed.”
“I support this motion, but more than reluctantly,” said Mayor Bob Keller. “I’ve been through a moratorium in the past. What started as a six-month moratorium wound up extending for years. When the moratorium was lifted, the economy went south and people who waited couldn’t sell their land. We have an obligation to act quickly. Maybe it’s something that we have to pass on to the new council to get done quickly.”
Don’t expect visible changes soon
Lyman Howard, the city manager, said there is already a two-year pipeline that is full. There will be a lag before the effect of the moratorium effect can be seen.
There are several exemptions to the moratorium in addition to the projects that are vested (those for which applications have been filed). Any structure damaged by fire or natural disaster is exempt. School and other public projects, affordable housing and transit projects (such as a park and ride) are exempt.