By Miki Mullor
- Ritchie calls council members who oppose the Town Center racists, classists, white privilege.
- Charges manipulation of the City’s Comprehensive Plan.
- Casts some opponents to Town Center as standing with Trump against fairness and equity.
- Unrelated, King County initiates an inquiry into Ritchie’s residence status over his voter’s eligibility and whether he vacated office.
The controversy over the Town Center development project took a new turn with Council Member Jason Ritchie invoking racism and white privilege language against some City Council majority members. He did not name names.
Ritchie posted his message on his campaign Facebook page, which Council Member Pam Stuart supported by giving it a “like.”
The post featured an incendiary tweet from President Trump taking aim at low income housing projects in suburbs.
In a post on his Facebook election page, Ritchie accused some of his fellow council members, whom he did not identify, of racism, classism and white privilege over opposition to the Town Center project.
“We either stand for fairness and equity of opportunity or we stand with Trump. Where do you stand?” asks Ritchie on his post.
(source: Ritchie for Sammamish Facebook page)
The Town Center development is owned by STCA LLC, headed by Oregon-based developer Matt Samwick. Ritchie and Stuart have been vocal supporters of STCA and the Town Center development. During the 2019 city council election, STCA LLC and its development partner, Merrill Co., poured $116,000 through former Mayor Don Gerend’s PAC to support candidates favored by Ritchie and Stuart. All three candidates were defeated by a landslide.
Gerend has also filed a lawsuit with the Growth Management Hearing Board (GMHB) to overturn City Council’s concurrency policy that he viewed as restricting development illegally. As we reported, the GMHB refused to deem the policy illegal but did order the City to conduct an environmental review according to the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) and include the concurrency policy in the City’s Comprehensive Plan, by late October this year.
Town Center phase 1 hardly a low income project
STCA’s permit application for its Phase 1 development of the 2,000 homes project includes 90 Studio apartments, 120 one bedroom apartments, 90 two bedroom apartments, 82 Townhomes (four stories high, 3,000 sq/ft) and 10 single family homes. There is no senior housing designated in this phase.
Of the total 392 homes, 76 units will be designated affordable housing at the 80% of Median Income level. According to the Rent Guideline by ARCH, the affordable housing agency (the city is a member of ARCH), the maximum rent for units at 80% of median income level ranges from $1,545 (Studio) to $ 1,986 (a two bedroom apartment) per month.
Current market rates at Sky Apartments, another Town Center development adjacent to STCA’s project, range between $1,895 (studio apartment) to $3,095 (two bedroom apartment).
Ritchie’s Sammamish residence challenged
In a matter unrelated to his Facebook post, King County Election staff has initiated an inquiry into Ritchie’s voter eligibility status based on change of residency.
This started after a challenge to Ritchie’s status was filed with the county after the Ritchies sold their house in Klahanie in May and did not update their voter registration address. The County will conduct a public administrative hearing in the near future to determine whether Ritchie still legally resides in the City.
The challenge includes evidence that Ritchie was in San Diego in May when he sold his house in Klahanie. No new address in Sammamish could be located.
Ritchie told The Sammamish Comment by email that he leased a residence in Klahanie since June but has been traveling back and forth for work while taking care of his mother, who lives in San Diego, while she recovers from illness.
“If a challenge has been filed regarding my residency, I’ve not been contacted. If/when that occurs, I’ll produce the leases and associated utility bills to the applicable body,” said Ritchie.
Ritchie’s residence has significance to his eligibility to hold his Council Member office.
According to the law, RCW 42.12.010, an elective office becomes vacant upon the elected official ceasing to be a legally registered voter of the city from which he or she shall have been elected.
RCW 29A.04.151 says that “Residence” for the purpose of registering and voting means a person’s permanent address where he or she physically resides and maintains his or her abode. The law also states that “Absence from the state on business shall not affect the question of residence of any person.”
The question of physical presence in Sammamish, or in case of no presence, whether that absence is legally excused, will need to be determined by King County on a future date.
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