By Miki Mullor
Tomorrow, Friday, March 6, at 9am in Sammamish Council Chambers, the Growth Management Hearing Board of Central Puget Sound will hold a hearing on the merits in the Don Gerend v. City of Sammamish case over the city’s new concurrency rules.
The board granted the Sammamish Comment’s request to record and broadcast the hearing to the public. The City of Sammamish agreed to broadcast it live on Channel 21 starting at 9am. A recording of it will be available on the City’s YouTube Channel.
UPDATE: due to public health restrictions, the hearing is closed to the public.
Attempt to overturn council policy
Gerend’s lawsuit was filed in July 2019 with the Growth Management Hearing Board. Gerend is seeking to invalidate portion of the new concurrency rules City Council enacted in 2019. Gerend’s attorney calls the rules a “de facto moratorium” on the Town Center.
The new rules recognize that Sahalee Way is not adequate to serve development already built in the city, let alone potential future developments for the Town Center and other areas.
Gerend denied any financial support to his lawsuit from STCA (the Town Center developer headed by Matt Samwick). He also denied having financial interest within the Town Center itself.
Recent public disclosure shows a $116,000 contribution from STCA and Merrill Co to Gerend’s Livable Sammamish PAC that supported the election of pro-Town Center candidates Karen McKnight, Rituja Indapure and Karen Howe.
In August, Gerend asked the board for a 90 day continuance (delay) of his case to after the election, to seek a “settlement.” The City did not object and the board granted the request. No settlement was reached, as the hearing is proceeding.
What is the Growth Management Hearing Board?
The Growth Management Act (GMA), enacted in the 1990, is a legal framework for Washington state, counties and cities on how to manage issues related to growth within their jurisdiction.
The GMA also created a quasi-judicial body, the Growth Management Hearing Board, as an optional first step to adjudicate disputes related to issues under the GMA. Unlike a court, the board consists of a panel of three individuals appointed by the governor, who are not judges.
Decisions by the board are enforceable on cities but are also appealable to the County’s Superior Court. Unlike a court proceeding, the only evidence allowed in front of the board is the public record the City has. No witnesses are allowed. The City submits a record of the public proceedings and the board hears arguments from attorneys of both parties. A decision will be given within 60 days after the hearing on the merits.
The legal argument
Gerend’s main argument is that the City Council is trying to use concurrency to stop development.
Briefs from the two parties detailing legal arguments:
Should Gerend win the hearing, the Board can invalidate the Volume over Capacity portion of the new concurrency rules, development in the Town Center and elsewhere will continue with no additional improvement to infrastructure required.
Ironically, the hearing in the Gerend case, a legal attempt to overturn a policy decision by a duly elected City Council, will be held at the same room where that decision was made.