By Miki Mullor
Sammamish city staff, in a move reminiscent of the Variances-R-Us approach to development in 2015, ignored city code in approving a critical step of development between September 2019 and January 2020.
City staff issued 11 traffic concurrency certificates for various development projects, even though Sahalee Way is failing concurrency. Staff decided to interpret the code to allow more development to continue, even if those developments caused more cars to use the failing Sahalee Way.
When doing so, staff ignored other portions of the code. Staff also did not ask the Sammamish City Council to clarify the code.
Concurrency certificates issuance continues
In August 2019, during a summer special meeting, City Council ordered staff to stop using an unfunded improvement project on Sahalee Way as a reason to approve development that impacts this main arterial.
The Sammamish Comment obtained 11 concurrency certificates that were issued between then and January 2020 for development of 38 new homes in these approximate locations in Sammamish:
In an email statement to The Comment, Acting Public Works Director Cheryl Paston explained that after the Council directed staff to remove the Sahalee project from the traffic model in August, staff held internal discussions to figure out what the implications were for concurrency testing. It was determined that as long as a concurrency application did not make Sahalee worse, i.e., it would not be allowed to send a single additional PM peak afternoon hour trip down Sahalee by the pipeline year of 2025, the Concurrency Certificate could be approved.
But then came the next development project which was forecast to send cars to Sahalee Way.
Staff interpretation circumvents Sahalee Way failure
Paston explained that that development project did result in sending car trips down Sahalee in the PM peak hour. But after additional internal staff discussions, staff realized they had “mistakenly” used the single trip criteria and instead should have used a criteria of whether the V/C ratio is increased.
Concurrency Test #15 passed concurrency, as the V/C ratio for the Sahalee Way – 228th Avenue North Corridor did not increase.
The City did not provide a documented rationale for staff interpretation of the code, normally published as a “Director Interpretation.”
City code ignored
The Sammamish Municipal Code includes two sections that govern concurrency tests.
One of these sections, SMC 14A.010.050 (3), prohibits the issuance of a concurrency certificate if “any” road is failing a concurrency standard.
“(3) In conducting the concurrency test in accord with this chapter, the City shall apply the level of service standards… for the concurrency corridors and segments in subsection (2) of this section… If any concurrency intersection, corridor or segment [road] operates worse than the level of service standards, the concurrency certificate will be denied…” (Unrelated language omitted.)
Indeed, subsection (2) of the code shows Sahalee Way is operating worse that the Level of Service Standard:
The Concurrency Tests staff issued acknowledge this very same code section. Below is a snapshot from Concurrency Test #15 highlighting that no roadway may exceed the V/C standard, but excused the passing test by the fact that “there are no new or worsen failures:”
The City did not respond to a follow up question on how the above code was considered when staff interpret the code to issue more concurrency certificates.
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