City staff overruled its own engineer in favor of STCA’s engineer on Town Center traffic impact

By Miki Mullor 
Editor

Controversy erupted in August when the City of Sammamish announced that STCA’s Town Center Phase I project passed traffic concurrency. 

The City Council convened for a special meeting Aug. 20 to question how was it that this project, 419 homes and commercial space, that has failed concurrency for nine month suddenly passed it.

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Now, emails obtained by the Sammamish Comment through a public records request reveal that city staff inexplicably overruled its own engineer in favor of STCA’s engineer when forecasting the number of car trips the project would generate. 

The staff’s decision lowered the forecasted traffic impact of STCA Phase I by at least 19% in the AM and 30% in the PM peak hours. 

In order to fully understand the implications of ignoring the city traffic engineer and accepting STCA’s traffic consultant data instead, some background is necessary. 

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Former Mayor Gerend’s lawsuit postponed for 90 days

By Miki Mullor
Editor

The Growth Management Hearing Board (GMBH) has continued (postponed) Don Gerend’s lawsuit to invalidate the new concurrency rules enacted by the majority of City Council.

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How the Town Center plan happened

By Scott Hamilton

Commentary

Aug. 22, 2019: There is a lack of knowledge about how the Sammamish Town Center Plan unfolded and what it is today.

Here is how it happened.

Sammamish became a city in 1999. One of the first orders of business was to create the Comprehensive Plan. The first city council appointed 17 citizens to what was called the Planning Advisory Board (PAB) to draft a plan.

The PAB had a cross-section of Sammamish residents: environmentalists, developers, real estate agents, business people and people simply interested in serving. I was on the PAB.

The PAB worked over 18 months on all elements except one: the area that became the Town Center.

The PAB was directed by that first city council to wrap up its work just as we got to the center of town. Whereas nearly all new cities took three years to complete its first Comp Plan, that city council and the city manager at the time, Ben Yazici, wanted it done in record time.

The center of town was set aside for its own process—which took from 2001 to the end of 2009.

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STCA wanted to upzone by 42%-68% in 2017

Aug. 20, 2019: STCA, developer of much of the Sammamish Town Center, and city staff pondered dramatic upzoning in 2017.

The idea would have added 250,000 sf to the 600,000 sf of commercial already approved and 1,500 more residential units to the 2,200 approved.

The ideas never made it to the public domain for debate nor to a Docket Request stage to amend the Comprehensive Plan. The 2017 city council quietly, and out of public view, killed the idea before it reached the public or the stage of a formal request.

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Gerend wanted larger, taller Town Center

Aug. 20, 2019: Former Sammamish Mayor Don Gerend, who is trying to overturn the city’s traffic concurrency standard adopted in May, favored a much larger commercial area of the Town Center than was approved when he was a sitting council member.

Don Gerend

Throughout the debates of the Town Center plan and standards, Gerend consistently argued for 700,000 sf of commercial/office/retail space against the 500,000 sf recommended by the Planning Commission.

Gerend also made half-hearted attempts to eliminate the Commission’s recommendation of a 70 foot cap on buildings. This would have restricted buildings to five stories of residential over one story of commercial space, a concept similar to development in areas of downtown Redmond.

After Gerend retired from the council in December 2017, he proposed as a private citizen eliminating the height restriction entirely in a so-called Docket Request. This is an annual process to amend the Comprehensive Plan, of which the Town Center plan is a part.

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How the STCA 419 homes development passed concurrency – after failing it for 9 months

By Miki Mullor
Editor 

Aug. 19. 2019: Town Center developer STCA last week received two traffic concurrency certificates that clear the way for 419 new homes and 82,000 square feet of retail space on the southeast corner of SE4th and 222nd Ave. SE.

Three members of the council, staff and STCA believed its Town Center project would not pass concurrency testing as a result of the new concurrency standard adopted earlier this year by a split City Council. Indeed, unofficial test runs over nine months indicated this was the case.

Yet, last week, city staff ran an official test and STCA Phase I passed concurrency, with no improvements to the roads.

How was this possible?

This article unpacks and explains the details behind the approval and raises serious questions. It is unusually long and reads best on a desktop.

Mayor Christie Malchow and Deputy Mayor Karen Moran called a Special Council Meeting to discuss the issues with staff.

The Special Council Meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug 20, at 4pm at City Hall. 

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BREAKING NEWS: City Issues STCA Phase I a Concurrency Certificate for 419 Homes in City Center

By Miki Mullor
Editor

The City of Sammamish announced today that two STCA projects for the
Town Center development have passed their concurrency tests and that Certificates of Concurrency have been issued for 419 homes and 82,000 sq/ft of commercial space.

As we reported, until recently, STCA Phase I was deemed to fail concurrency. On May 23, Council Members Pam Stuart, Jason Ritchie and Ramiro Valderrama unsuccessfully moved to exclude the Town Center area, and with it STCA, from the concurrency failure on Sahalee way.

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