Sammamish Council Member Pam Stuart told the Master Builders Assn. before the 2017 city council election that she supported upzoning for higher density.
In a questionnaire the MBA sent to candidates throughout the region, Stuart—who was making her first run for political office—said she would not “advocate” for upzoning, however.
The retrospective is relevant today because Stuart last week claimed high density development is environmentally friendly. Her position fails to take into account the realities of land use zoning, downzoning, “takings” and political opposition.
The MBA ultimately supported Stuart in her election. This support became a point of contention with Stuart’s opponent, John Robinson, in the council race last year.
Builders spent $7,800 supporting Stuart
The Master Builders Assn. made an independent expenditure of $7,800 to Stuart’s campaign via a mailer.
The same mailer also benefited Karen Moran and Rituja Indapure for the same amounts. Indapure lost and Moran until recently has been flip-flopping on building moratorium and traffic concurrency votes. Moran now has taken a hard line on adopting a traffic concurrency model that more accurately reflects realities of Sammamish traffic.
Stuart’s opponent refused MBA support
Stuart’s opponent refused support from the MBA, citing it as a conflict of interest.
“If you’re going to sit on a non-partisan, non-political city council position, you can’t have those conflicts,” said Robinson in The Comment’s endorsement interview in October 2017. “You have chosen to have support from the Master Builders. The real problem is when you have a hard decision on city council, they’re not supporting you just because they like you. They’re looking for something that would benefit them in the long run.”
Robinson said for-profit entity endorsements come with ulterior agenda.
“They want to see people on city councils who would see their way of doing things,” he said.
Stuart responded by asking, “Don’t you think they endorsed me because you refused it? Don’t you think that’s why they picked me?”
Stuart’s responses to the MBA candidate questionnaire may have had something to do with it.
The MBA asked if candidates would support upzoning neighborhoods. Stuart replied, “Yes.” She added that upzoning would be conditional on periodic review of the land use zoning, “on a case-by-case basis, ensuring we make these decisions we account for the environmental, infrastructure and impacts to current residents.”
But in the same questionnaire, she said she would not “advocate” for upzoning.
“I say no as I don’t know that I would advocate for it,” she wrote. “This would have to be considered on a case-by-case basis.”
In the candidates’ forum in September 2017, Stuart stated, “Smart growth to me is one thing: we pace our growth with our infrastructure can handle.”
This is what traffic concurrency is all about: being sure the transportation infrastructure can handle growth.
But Stuart’s votes on the council often sided with developer opposition to stricter concurrency modeling. She last week and this week opposed including a measure called volume/capacity (traffic volume to road capacity).
Yet in the candidates’ forum, Stuart called for data as a philosophy.
“We need to be data-driven,” she said. “It’s great we get feedback from the citizens, it’s great to say what we like and don’t like, but we need to be smart that we make sure that we’re collecting data on what’s needed and parsing out what’s needed vs what’s wanted. Being data drive is going to be more critical, especially as we start looking toward more technologically savvy solutions. It really is all about our data.”
Traffic concurrency modeling is a data-based process.
“People are concerned about rampant growth,” Stuart said at one point in the forum. “We need to comply with the Growth Management Act, but we can do it in a more sustainable and in a more planful way,” she said at another point.
Stuart’s conservative position
In her endorsement interview, Stuart’s position toward land use planning was much more conservative than her position has been in her first 10 months in office.
Pointing to overcrowding of Sammamish schools in the Lake Washington School District (in which she lives and in which most of the Town Center is located), Stuart said sustainable growth management planning is working with the school districts. Lake Washington was (in October 2017) building three new schools, none of which would serve Sammamish.
Stuart also pointed to development along 244th Ave. NE., where new school children will be living—and no new Sammamish schools will be built to accommodate them.
“It is somewhat irresponsible for a city to allow that kind of growth when there is no plan,” she told The Comment in the recorded endorsement interview.
“We’re looking at traffic and how to protect our environment,” she said. “People are moving here because we have good schools. I can tell you, teachers who have to be in those portable [classrooms] have additional challenges.”
The linkage between new schools is and is not directly comparable with the Town Center development.
The Town Center was approved by the city on the basis on the then-current capacities of the Lake Washington and Issaquah school districts.
Stuart’s pre-election position on concurrency
When the city council adopted an emergency building moratorium in October 2017, Stuart told The Comment, “We need to ensure our traffic model uses correct assumptions, and we should have common sense concurrency calculations-we need to know, regardless of the Growth Management Act or King County growth targets, how much growth Sammamish can withstand while sustaining our quality of life and our environment. (Emphasis added.)
“If we determine that we cannot hit the growth targets provided by King County, for whatever reason, we must stand up and push back on the county and state. Our children are in schools that are massively overcrowded, in portables all day with no plumbing. It is irresponsible that we continue to build family homes that feed into those schools.”