By Jason Ritchie
Member, Sammamish City Council
I stand by my words in the email quoted in the Sammamish Comment. I’m a strong supporter of the Town Center development plan. But that’s not the whole story. So let’s get specific.
Hold developers accountable
The Town Center plan is simply a plan. It has a lot of details that need to be negotiated. Implementing any plan is where we will determine our success. It’s up to the citizens of Sammamish, their elected City Council and city staff to hold all developers accountable. I intend to keep doing that.
Saving the environment
Here’s where I stand. Developing the Town Center will save our neighborhoods, protect sensitive forests and watersheds and keep us in compliance with state law. A hodgepodge of neighborhood development has harmed our environment and failed our city and its character. I swore an oath to abide by state and federal law, not mire us in years of litigation by willfully ignoring the law. As the plan stands now, we have a development consortium willing to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into our City. We are starting negotiations and public input is needed.
Getting the best deal
I’m a capitalist. I intend to get the best deal we can for our city by growing responsibly, preserving our neighborhoods and open spaces and growing our economy. Let’s keep the developers out of our neighborhoods. We have an opportunity to have commercial businesses, with an Ace hardware, restaurants, movies and more.
My family and I live in Sammamish. How we grow matters greatly to me. The Town Center plan gives us an opportunity for many more parks, a school, a transit center and many miles of needed roads, relieving congestion on 228th. This is a key point; I get traffic is bad, but unless the citizens of Sammamish want to dramatically raise taxes to pay for more roads, the offer by the development consortium to pay for miles of road infrastructure should be considered.
Setting aside land
I’m also an environmentalist. I care deeply what a project of this size would do to our streams, our wetlands and our lakes. We have an opportunity for miles of permeable roads, side walks and a storm water retention system that can save Lake Sammamish and restore countless salmon bearing streams. No more ugly concrete bunkers. It’s critical to note that by focusing our growth at the Town Center, large parts of undeveloped land that surround our neighborhoods can be set aside for natural habitat and avoid development.
Will more people move to Sammamish? Yes. We live within the urban growth boundary, which makes us subject to the Growth Management Act. Current projections show over a million people moving to Western Washington in the next decades. So yes, I’m very much interested in the Town Center as a way for us to absorb our GMA mandated growth in a responsible way.
Having said all that, our city has not done a good job of managing multiple developers in the neighborhood development model. For that reason, I support maintaining the moratorium on growth outside of the Town Center.
Knowing we need to do better is very much front of mind when I talk to any developer and city staff. I certainly don’t trust easily. I know that we as a city must be watching carefully and enacting ordinances that create steep fines for violations by developers. Our city staff must be more vigilant. We need much stricter codes to protect our neighborhoods.
I want Sammamish, its neighborhoods and its economy to grow responsibly and under the critical eye of a council and staff who are members of this community. We all want to do better. I’m listening, I’m trying and I will continue to speak honestly.
Jason Ritchie is a member of the Sammamish City Council. He was elected last November and took office Jan. 2. This is his first term. The quotes he refers to in the first sentence appeared in an article appearing Monday.
Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of the writer do not necessarily reflect those of Sammamish Comment. This column was edited for spelling, style and grammar content but otherwise appears as it was submitted. The content and conclusions are solely the product of the author of this column.