City Council faces a pivotal decision on Town Center; STCA proposal reveals phase II details

By Miki Mullor

UPDATE: tonight’s City Council meeting has been cancelled.

The new majority on the  Sammamish City Council will face its first major decision tonight on the Town Center – whether to revamp the Town Center plan, or focus on adjustments. This decision comes as new details on further phases of Town Center are revealed in an unsolicited proposal developer STCA made to Sound Transit to place a “transit center” on one of its properties. 

STCA’s proposal details a total of 2,000 homes (6,000 residents), 2,000 employees and 11,000 daily customers in the area west of 228th Ave, above the Met Market complex.

Tonight’s meeting is closed to  public attendance due to the coronavirus but will be broadcast live on Channel 21 and on Facebook, starting at 6:30pm:

Town Center plan revamp or adjustments? 

During its first Council retreat in January, staff interviewed the council members for their priorities: Growth, infrastructure and Town Center.  Staff proposes four options for the City Council to consider tonight, ranging from a complete rewrite of the Town Center plan to more modest adjustments focusing on ensuring future development in the Town Center matches the expectation of the community when the plan was originally conceived 15 years ago and approved 11 years ago. 

Staff estimated a complete revamp of the Town Center will take 4-5 years and will cost $500,000 to $700,000 and therefore recommends a more modest effort to focus on code updates focusing on the green spine, solar energy, stormwater and right of way design standards.  Staff estimated their proposed course of action to take up to two years and cost $300,000-$400,000. 

Growth target achieved 15 years early 

Staff also revealed growth numbers in Sammamish between 2006 and 2018, showing a total residential growth of 2,540 residential units, with more 232 units permitted in 2019, bringing it to a total of 2,872 units since 2006. This number does not include units currently in the permitting pipeline.  

The chart also shows additional 1,700 units planned in the Town Center, according to the current plan, equivalent to 60% of the total growth from the last 13 years.  It also shows that residential growth has achieved 92% of the 2035 planned growth target outside the Town Center. At this rate, the City will achieve its 2035 residential growth target this year, 15 years before the planned target year. 

(source: City Council meeting agenda, March 17) 

STCA future phase and transit center plans revealed 

In February, STCA made an unsolicited proposal to Sound Transit for siting the planned ST3 park and ride in the Town Center on one of their properties.  The Sammamish Comment obtained the proposal through a public record request to Sound Transit.  The diagram below shows where STCA plans to sit the transit center, the location marked with a star. 

The diagram depicts a total of 2,000 homes in the area west of 228th ave. SE 4th St crosses the area right about its mid-section (shown with a few roundabouts).  The Met Market complex is depicted in grey to the right of the diagram. 

STCA proposes allocating 200 stalls in a planned 500 stalls parking garage to Sound Transit, which STCA will construct on its land. In return, Sound Transit and STCA will enter a long term lease valued at $20m, ST3 Sammamish Park and Ride project’s present value.

The proposal reveals a letter from King County Metro that commits to reroute the bus routes from 228 into the proposed location of the Town Center park and ride, even though the current design doesn’t meet Metro’s criteria for rerouting.  There is no discussion in the proposal of new service.  

(source: STCA ST3 proposal) 

First big decision 

During the 2019 City Council  election, then-candidates Ken Gamblin and Kent Treen ran on their opposition to the current Town Center plan.Then-Mayor Christie Malchow, who ran for reelection this, generally echoed the sentiment that the City’s infrastructure cannot handle the planned growth in the Town Center.  

Mayor Karen Moran and Council Member Chris Ross have been generally aligned with that position, although have been inconsistent in the past on votes related to concurrency, which were perceived as impactful to the Town Center progress.  Council members Pam Stuart and Jason Ritchie have been consistently supportive of STCA and the current plan. 

Several big decisions in the last two years proved to be tricky when several members chose to vote in what they perceived as “buying time” but turned out to be not so.  Most notably is the now infamous vote on adding the $54m Sahalee way widening to the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP), which Council member Chris Ross, the swing vote, thought would be a placeholder project that will not have an impact on concurrency.  Staff then used that vote to issue a concurrency certificate to STCA’s 400 homes Town Center phase I. 

The move sparked anger with council members who were led to believe by City Attorney Mike Kenyon that the vote will not impact concurrency testing, even after staff revealed that using unfunded projects on the TIP to approve development has been a long time practice in Sammamish. 

As readers recall, the following exchange between Stuart and Acting Director Public Works, Cheryl Paston, raised eyebrows on staff’s interpretation of what the word “funded” means:

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