Sammamish City Council members quietly and out of the public view closed down efforts by developer STCA to dramatically upzone the Town Center.
The effort by STCA and the Council’s action never emerged into the public domain, it was revealed at the Save Sammamish meeting last night.
The revelation came after Sammamish Comment revealed the plans in a post Monday morning. The issue quickly became a hot topic on Facebook in various activist pages.
Council member Ramiro Valderrama, in a posting on The Comment, responded that, “I know of no current discussions for upcoming the Town Center.” But he did not reveal the Council had shut the effort down last fall, at a time when the City was preparing to accept “Docket Requests” to the Comprehensive Plan.
One Valderrama critic noted the parsing of words: there are no “current” discussions.
Out of public view
Deputy Mayor Tom Hornish revealed last night that the Council shut down the STCA plans in what are internally known as two-three meetings. These meetings involve two or three council members that are below the quorum of four, which trigger notice for public meetings—which then become open to the public.
The two-three meetings are legal and common and useful to deal with day-to-day issues arising between staff and council.
They can also be used to circumvent public meeting requirements if so desired. A series of two-three meetings can effectively canvass the council while staying out of the public domain.
It was through a series of two-three meetings that it became clear STCA’s hopes would not receive council support to be placed on the Docket for a Comp Plan change, and the efforts were dropped.
“The system worked,” Hornish told The Comment.
Public Records Request
None of the STCA plans or the council sentiment became public until now. A Public Records Request produced the plans STCA proposed to the city—but nothing about the two-three meetings. These came to light only after The Comment posted its story and Hornish revealed them last night at the Save Sammamish meeting.
Access to Public Records daylights government activity and stands in stark contrast to the action Friday by the state Legislature to exempt itself from compliance with the Public Records Act. Sammamish Comment urges readers to email Gov. Inslee to veto the legislation, even though it was passed with enough votes to override the veto. Last night, Inslee said on MSNBC he “can’t” veto it because of the super-majority, but he can.
Doing so gives the Legislature a second bite at the apple to either override the veto or reverse themselves and sustain the veto in the face of public pressure.
“They can also be used to circumvent public meeting requirements if so desired. A series of two-three meetings can effectively canvass the council while staying out of the public domain.”
That sounds like a serial meeting. If the intent is to conduct business (apparently yes), then meeting two or three at a time in a series of meetings does not get them out of Open Public Meetings Act requirements. If they are deliberately evading legally required notice and disclosure by meeting like this, they’re in a very dangerous legal place.
Last year, in advance of a neighborhood impact meeting, STCA circulated a development plan covering a few large parcels at the SE corner of SE 4th and 222nd PL SE. The plan appeared to comply with existing TC zoning in some respects (single family housing along 222nd PL SE) and not comply in others (what looked like excess density in the adjoining parcels). The meeting was ultimately canceled and not rescheduled. This seemed ominous at the time, and the revelation that STCA has been appealing for an upzone is not a surprise.
For any council member or city planner who might support such an upzone, and who happens to stumble upon this post, it would be worthwhile to review some of the citizen input, market studies, consultancy work, and exhaustive deliberations undertaken by the Planning Commission and City Council over the five-plus years of TC plan development and approval. There were reasons for everything — zoning, densities, “wedding cake” development, environmental and design standards, traffic flow, etc. I know. I went to the meetings and witnessed nearly all of it.
Plans can be improved, of course, and new data can and should be considered. But a few first principles would be of help here. More isn’t necessarily better. Save a few trees. Mind the flow of water and of traffic. And community first, developers second. Recall, also, the pains the former council and planning commission went to in creating a plan that migrated the intensity of development AWAY from the TC borders and toward the TC nexus — this, in an effort to mitigate the impact on neighboring communities and to provide a gradual transition of uses and building heights. These are still worthwhile goals.
As an end note, STCA completed the purchase of at least three of the parcels in question in the last few months and just leveled one of the houses. Still no sign of a new plan. They will likely continue to seek concessions from the city and act in their self interest. The City Council needs to act in ours.
Michael M is correct. That development at the corner of 222nd and Southeast 4th would add up to 500 more car trips per day down South East 4th. Think about that — 500 more car trips, added to the almost 1,000 car trips that the Metropolitan Market and apartment complex developments are already forcing into that Chokehold. Then imagine all of those cars trying to turn off of 222nd onto South East 4th. Then imagine a little bit of black ice or snow. Then imagine kids walking down the sidewalk. Then imagine where those kids going to go to school? Then imagine how we’re going to get more kids into an already overcrowded Library. The developers simply don’t care. They’re going to developed and developing developing take their cash and go elsewhere. Meanwhile we are left with new levies cama new taxes, Soul destroying traffic and crowding , and the much-vaunted best place to live goes down the toilet. Is that what you really want?
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