The surprise move Tuesday by the Sammamish City Council to adopt an emergency building moratorium was about more than creating a pause to understand how traffic concurrency became an enabler of development rather than a control mechanism.
It was a rebuke to a staff and consultants that, years in the making, had ignored Council policy and the City’s own codes and Comprehensive Plan.
The City of Sammamish has gone to court 28 times in the last 10 years on matters other than routine operational reasons. Half were for Land Use Petition (development) (LUP) appeals from Hearing Examiner decisions, a review of court records reveals.
In addition, the City wound up in Court over development of the East Lake Sammamish Trail for what’s called an Administrative Law Review, three times over Public Records and twice by parties seeking injunctions against the City.
The City also is a defendant in a damages lawsuit by developer William Buchan, which is also the plaintiff in one of the LUPs. Both are for the proposed development of Chestnut Estates West, west of 212th Ave. SE and SE 8th St.
The review of records in King County Superior Court this week revealed numerous other court actions relating to City requests to condemn land (usually for road rights of way) and Quit Claim deeds. These are routine cases related to the normal operation of the City.
The court cases do not include recent actions before the state Shorelines Hearing Board on appeals by King County and the Sammamish Homeowners group over a Hearing Examiner’s decision regarding development of the East Lake Sammamish Trail.
The 2003 Sammamish election presented an opportunity to shift the balance of power from a Republican-conservative leaning City Council to a Democratic-left-of-center membership.
As the election season approached, the Council was generally, though not reliably, split 4-3. Ken Kilroy, Ron Haworth, Troy Romero and Jack Barry were reliably a voting bloc. The minority three were Michele Petitti, Kathy Huckabay and often, but not always, Don Gerend.
Petitti won her seat in 2001. The others were all original council members from 1999.
After the first City Council election for the new Sammamish, the task of creating a new city was enormous.
The City Council had to select its leadership and committees for key “needs,” such as transportation. Ordinances had to be created. Contracts for essential services had to be negotiated. An interim City Manager and staff had to be hired. Eventually a Comprehensive Plan would have to be written. A temporary City Hall had to be located, no small task in a community with no business complexes. A place to hold City Council meetings had to be identified.
And these are just some of the priority issues.
One of the top issues, the reason for incorporating in the first place, was to put a halt to the runaway development.
Greenwashing (a compound word modeled on “whitewash”), or “green sheen,” is a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization’s products, aims or policies are environmentally friendly.–Wikipedia.
Since the 2003 Sammamish City Council election, in which environmental-leaning candidates swept the election, the Council prided itself on pursuing “green” policies and ordinances.
The City Manager was far less gun-ho, often lagging his own staff, especially when it came to a concept called Low Impact Development, or LID (not to be confused with Local Improvement Districts, also LID, a special tax option–so context of “LID” is always important to understand).
The current Council is comprised of what would ordinarily considered to be environmentalists. Of the seven, only Member Don Gerend leans “development” over the environment–or so its appears. Tom Odell and Bob Keller proved to have strong environmental credentials. Ramiro Valderrama evolved into a strong backing of the environment. Deputy Mayor Kathy Huckabay and Mayor Tom Vance not only consider themselves environmentalists but have an historical track record supporting this.
Without question the leading environmentalist on the Council is three-term incumbent Nancy Whitten, who decided to retire at the end of this year. And Whitten has been increasingly critical of the collective Council’s direction on a number of environmental issues over the past four years.
While “greenwashing” isn’t the term that comes to the top of the conversation with Whitten, she didn’t disagree with its use when it comes to how Sammamish approaches the environment now. And she’s especially critical of Vance’s evolution away from his historical green leanings.
The leadership of the Sammamish City Council was criticized by one of its own July 21 over their refusal to delay approval of the Comprehensive Plan when the final, 250-page version was presented by staff the day before adoption was on the agenda.
Nancy Whitten rapped Mayor Tom Vance and Deputy Mayor Kathy Huckabay for ignoring requests from the other five Council Members to delay a vote until the large document, which is a complete rewrite of the original Comp Plan, could be reviewed.
State law requires a major updating of the Comp Plan every 10 years.
Sammamish City Council members were adamant they wanted to “go slow and do it right” on the annexation of the Klahanie area, but Mayor Tom Vance and a majority of the Council have been pushing to adopt a complete revision to the Comprehensive Plan before the August recess.
Council Member Nancy Whitten believes flaws remain in the new Comp Plan, which has been a virtual complete rewrite of the detailed plan adopted in 2001 after 18 months of work by the Planning Advisory Board. The new Comp Plan is far more general, she says, reducing environmental protections, particularly potentially for Pine Lake. Pine Lake is one of six “303(d)” lakes in King County. Beaver Lake and Laughing Jacobs Lake or Lake Sammamish (I forget which), also in Sammamish, are two others.