Fact and myth, truth and spin about the Town Center Plan

By Scott Hamilton

Guest Contributor

There is a continuing effort to claim the Town Center will divert growth from the rest of Sammamish. This is a falsehood based on the current set of facts on the ground (so-to-speak).

Credit: Patrick Husting. Satirical rendering of the Town Center.

Here are the facts:

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Sammamish Chamber VP calls for denser development, taller buildings

By Miki Mullor
Editor

A Sammamish Chamber of Commerce vice president this week called for denser development and taller buildings in a piece containing scathing criticism of the city council published on the chamber’s website.

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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. 

Alternative ways to watch:

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