Moratorium effectively lifted; late night emergency dimension regulations adopted

The Sammamish City Council last night effectively lifted the year-long building moratorium, with some conditions for the Town Center.

In a surprise action, city council also adopted an emergency development regulations that will impact the neighborhood character of new development, adding restrictions to projects that aren’t already vested.

New (?) Concurrency adopted

Last October, the city council enacted an emergency moratorium on development to rework the city’s concurrency system (concurrency is a legal requirement to prohibit over development).  We reported extensively about the tension between staff and council over the process, including the separation of former city manager, Lyman Howard.

Last night, the city council voted to adopt the proposed concurrency system staff advocated but also decided to add additional checks on traffic volumes, details to be decided in the next few weeks.

At this point, the new system looks much like the old one, minus a controversial method that credited car capacity to roads for features like bike lanes, sidewalks and medians.

Moratorium partially lifted

In front of a crowd of developers and Town Center property owners, the council also


Ramiro Valderrama

voted to effectively lift the moratorium on new development, bowing to pressure from developers, property owners and a few of its own members, Ramiro Valderrama, Jason Ritchie and Pam Stuart, who were strongly advocating for the Town Center.

At the end, the council extended the moratorium on the Town Center pending an approval of an unspecified “MOU”.  MOU stands for Memorandum of Understanding and is usually a quick agreement to reach a detailed agreement at later date. MOUs are usually not legally binding and carry significant risk because lack of details.

Council members did not elaborate on what that agreement with Town Center developer STCA may look like, but it was clear some discussions have been going on behind the scenes.

All other development has been released from the moratorium.  The council’s intent is to finish the concurrency work so all new development will be subject to it.

Emergency development regulations


Mayor Malchow

Late into the night, Mayor Christie Malchow introduced a new matter that was not on the agenda – emergency interim development regulations to address the growing concerns about the characters of new development.

City staff prepared a set of adjustments to the development code to make new development look more like the older neighborhoods.  Staff presented a set of proposed changes, that were adopted unanimously by the council, in front of an empty city hall (the developers crowd left after  lifting moratorium).

The  changes include:

  • Increasing setbacks  by almost 100% (a setback is the distance between a home and the lot line) to create more spaces between homes;
  • Changes in mass grading of land (it’s not clear how, specifically); and
  • Adding revised building height regulations to address towering of new homes over streets and existing homes.

The complete list of changes can be found here: Interim Development Regulations Presentation 09-18-2018.

When reached for comment, Mayor Christie Malchow said:

“I’m really pleased with the code changes we passed on Tuesday evening relative to development.  The new code will alter the way new development looks by way of grading changes, height changes, increased setbacks, minimum lot size increases and no more rounding up for density.  These changes are a huge credit to staff, specifically David Pyle, our Deputy Community Development Director and Jeff Thomas our Community Development Director.  These changes to our code are things I’ve heard from the community & frankly I attempted some of these changes in concert with former Councilmember Tom Odell last year.  The proposal didn’t successfully pass Council, but I think David understood intent & he certainly understood residents’ concerns.  The comments our residents have made regarding development applications haven’t gone unheard.  David was compiling them all and then categorized them to come up with these proposed changes for Council.  This is a big win for our residents that have complained about the way housing looks in contrast to the existing housing.

It will take time to see these changes, but all the vested applications won’t conform to these new regulations, but it does go into immediate effect.  A public hearing on the changes is due on November 6, 2018 where anyone can give feedback to Council on the adopted emergency ordinance.”

The actual ordinance has not been published yet.  



6 thoughts on “Moratorium effectively lifted; late night emergency dimension regulations adopted

  1. Doesn’t the state of Washington require that the public be “noticed” by posting any items on the agenda a certain number of days prior to a meeting in order to take action on that item. We dont have all the facts for a conclusion that Sammamish violated transparency and noticing requirements of the State, but this should be further investigated.

    • If an ordinance is declared to be an “emergency,” it may be adopted without notice, but a public hearing then must be held within 6 months.

      • the requirement is that the ordinance is adopted with at least 5 votes and a public hearing is held within 60 days.

  2. I’m trying to figure this out; the ordinance is now posted:
    According to the new rules, the side yard and rear yard setbacks for an R-4 lot used to be 5 feet; now they are 25 feet! Am I interpreting this correctly? A perfectly rectangular 0.25-acre lot would be 104.35’ per side. If we take this rectangular lot example further, the buildable area used to be 94’ x 89’ (.19 acres). With these new setbacks, the buildable area of this rectangular 0.25-acre lot is now 54’ x 59’ (.07 acres) – a 62% reduction of the buildable area. Furthermore, there are many lots that are not perfectly rectangular. Skinnier lots could be left with practically no buildable area at all! Is this just a way to enforce a moratorium without declaring a moratorium? I’m all for updating our codes in order to preserve more of what makes this area great; however, this seems draconian.
    It’s also possible that I am misunderstanding this change. If so, someone please disabuse me of my stupidity!

    • i think you missed that the side yard setbacks are 25 feet in aggregate (meaning total both sides). in the deck that was shared with the public it’s increased from 5, 10 fee to 10,15 feet but the way it’s written there is flexibility how to distribute the setback.

  3. This is going to be exceptionally impactful on Lakefront properties. 25 feet in combined setback, up from the current net 10 or 14 is really going to hurt the 50′ and 60′ parcels. Considering it’s taxed at $18,000 a linear foot that’s $450,000 of width you need to maintain (and pay taxes on) to build a house….

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