Why I don’t support the Town Center exemption from moratorium

Debbie Treen

By Debbie Treen

Guest Contributor

I want to offer a counterpoint to Jason Ritchie’s reasons for exempting the Town Center from the current development moratorium. His reasons for lifting the moratorium are that the City will hold the developers accountable, the Town Center saves the environment, residents are getting the best deal, the Town Center accommodates growth, and that he will work to be sure growth is responsible.

Accommodating growth

I am a strong supporter of the Growth Management Act, which was adopted by the Legislature in 1990. As co-chair of the initiative that wrote the GMA with the president of the local chapter of the Sierra Club,  it makes me angry to hear people refer to GMA as “forcing growth” into Sammamish, because that was not the intent when we wrote the GMA. The growth in Sammamish comes from being a wonderful community within a reasonable commute to Bellevue and Seattle. People would be coming here regardless of the GMA.

The purpose of the GMA is to require local governments to plan for growth. It was adopted after the real estate boom in the 1980s when thousands of acres of wetlands, farmland and forest were bulldozed and filled with concrete and buildings. This fate awaited Snoqualmie, Woodinville,  and Snohomish along with the hillsides of the Issaquah Alps and Snoqualmie Ridge. The cost of providing infrastructure spread out all over the region with no coordinated plan was unimaginable.

There are a lot of conflicting goals in the GMA. These elements are conflicting just as the impact of growth causes both positive and negative impacts, ranging from loss of wildlife habitat, traffic congestion and polluted runoff, to economic growth and prosperity and increased jobs, housing and shopping availability. The GMA recognizes that each community is unique, and ALL those elements must be addressed to provide a vision for how a community will grow.

Sammamish residents have been misled to believe that our local elected officials have no control over growth, rather than electing people who understand the tools they have available for managing negative impacts and adopting a vision for the community. Between the prior councils, city manager and staff, both the development regulations and the interpretation of those regulations have brought the community to where it stands today. I am fed up with the lack of respect for the environment, lack of transportation infrastructure and loss of community character. All of these are now, were in the past, and will be in the future, the responsibility of the City. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! As a member of the Bothell City Council for 6 years and Mayor for 2, I have a good idea of the scope of responsibility for our City Council and staff.

Holding developers accountable

Drive around this community and tell me if you see examples of developers being held accountable. Valuable habitat including wetlands, streams and forests are being bulldozed away to build housing one could find in any other suburban city. Imagine what those neighborhoods would look like if they were designed in a manner that maintained forested buffers and healthy streams and wetlands, if they retained some unique “Sammamish feel”. It breaks my heart to see developments that look the same as Texas and California, with nothing to create a special Northwest style.

Meanwhile, roads are stretched to the maximum, downstream properties are receiving more runoff due to lack of drainage facilities, and our once bountiful wildlife is disappearing.

If Jason believes in holding developers accountable, start with holding the Town Center developers accountable for their traffic impacts using REAL numbers, not calculations massaged to permit approval. Keep the moratorium in place until the new standards are adopted, and then move forward with the Town Center.

Saving the environment

There is nothing in the Town Center development that will stop the continued destruction of Sammamish’s natural environment. The Town Center developers will be required to mitigate their own negative impacts. It remains to be seen whether that mitigation is adequate to offset the impact of 240 acres of high density development in the middle of the Plateau.

Getting the best deal

No one would be happier than my husband to see an Ace Hardware in town. That doesn’t mean that we should ignore known deficiencies in the current code that result in inadequate traffic mitigation. And what is the message to all the other development that will be held to the new concurrency standards, while the one proposal with the largest impact is exempted? The best deal would be to adopt new standards that realistically address the actual traffic impacts and apply them to ALL development. The work being done on transportation during the moratorium will be the basis for addressing the traffic impact in the future. Don’t give up on the opportunity to correct a known deficiency.

Growing responsibly

I believe that Jason Ritchie does want to grow responsibly.

Growing responsibly mean addressing the transportation issues before the Town Center proceeds. Without taking care of the complex traffic issues that are impacted by the Town Center, we are not growing responsibly.

Growing responsibly means requiring state of the art best practice when dealing with drainage and runoff. Growing responsibly means protecting the water quality and erosion impacts from acres of concrete development concentrated in one area.

Growing responsibly means preserving existing trees and native vegetation, enhancing wildlife corridors, taking advantage of existing topography and hydrology instead of clearing everything and building concrete vaults and huge retaining walls.

Growing responsibly means using design criteria, aesthetics and architecture to create and enhance the vision of the community.

Lifting the moratorium and allowing the Town Center to proceed knowing there are still weaknesses in the transportation mitigation requirements will simply continue the legacy of poor planning and violates the intent of the Growth Management Act.

Enough is enough!

Debbie Treen and her husband Kent moved to Sammamish in 2010. Formerly a Snohomish County resident in Bothell who served on numerous citizen committees related to land use, transportation and the environment, Debbie was elected twice to the Bothell City Council and served as Mayor for two years. She and Dave Bricklin co-chaired Initiative 547, a growth management citizens’ initiative which spurred the 1990 Growth Management Act.

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.

3 thoughts on “Why I don’t support the Town Center exemption from moratorium

  1. As just one example of how the city staff is in a conflict of interest, favoring development over citizens, just take a look at the 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?

    • Why do you think city staff has a conflict of interest? That implies that staff somehow benefits from development, and I doubt that’s the case. Wouldn’t concentrating development near city hall make traffic worse for them? Judging by the cars going in and out of the employee parking garage I doubt many of them are on the take, either.

      I think it’s indecision that’s the problem. Council kicks the hard policy decisions down the road out of fear of voter revolt and staff is afraid to make any decisions because Ben fired anyone who disagreed with him. It doesn’t help that staff in key areas like planning and public works have seen significant amounts of turnover.

      So the current situation in Sammamish consists of a council who’s afraid, a number-cruncing finance guy without passion or vision as city manager, fairly new staff in leadership positions in community development and public works, and citizens who are pissed off. The city is sorely lacking in both coherent policy from council and experienced leaders who can make tough decisions in accordance with the wishes and intent of the council.

  2. Debbie, thank you so much for this article and your wisdom! Perhaps you could have a training meeting with the City Council. I think they are new and possilbe don’t understand how they can make changes for our city. I would love to meet you! Again, thank you for your time in writing this articulate article.
    Layna Crofts

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