Housing in the Commons? Not a good idea

The City Council on March 2 discussed a Planning Commission recommendation to change the 2008 adopted Town Center Plan to exclude 240 housing units from the “D” zone (which is the Sammamish Commons civic center and park) and instead disperse these among the A, B and C zones in the rest of the Town Center.

Some Council members want to retain the original Council decision of 2008 to allocate these 240 units on the Kellman property. This is the old mansion immediately west of the new Library. The Kellman mansion has been vacant since the City bought it, and it’s becoming rundown and is uninhabitable without major work.

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Growth for Sammamish (Part 2)

With the annexation by Sammamish of the Aldarra and Montaine neighborhoods, more than 300 homes join the city in the far northeast corner on Duthie Hill Road south of SR 202. These neighborhoods are next to Trossachs.

Aldarra is on the west side of Duthie Hill Road north of Trossachs; Montaine is on the south side of Duthie Hill at the Trossachs intersection on the right side of the photo. You may use the arrows and + and – icons to enlarge and move the map.

Combined, Trossachs, Aldarra and Montaine had slight more residences than the 2,000 proposed for the Town Center. With the nearby High Country, which are high-end homes on acreage, there are roughly 2,500 homes in this area of Sammamish. There is a rural area between Trossachs and High Country that is outside the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) line called “The Notch.” We have referred to this before. With these annexations, it’s time to discuss The Notch in detail and how it might fit in with future growth plans in Sammamish.

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Park-n-Ride for the Town Center

As the City Council begins review tonight (March 15) of the Town Center regulations, eventually one element recommended by the Planning Commission is providing for a transit-oriented development (TOD). This has become more controversial than it should, and for reasons that continue to escape me.

The City wants to put 2,000 residences that would house perhaps 3,500 people and 600,000 sf of commercial on about 100 buildable acres. This is on both sides of 228th Ave., the busiest road in the City–and the City Council in 2008 did not accept a recommendation from the 2007 Planning Commission that TOD be a part of the plan, although some highly generic language was included in the Town Center Plan.

As a Commissioner, I last year cited the absence of a solid TOD as a “major flaw” in the Town Center plan.

The 2009 Commission included specific language in the recommended regulations for a TOD.

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Missed opportunities to control cell towers

The March 12 issue of The Sammamish Reporter has a long article about cell towers called Selling our Skyline. While the headline is hyperbole–Sammamish is hardly “selling the skyline–” the article does a good job of explaining the issues.

Unfortunately, Sammamish previously had opportunities to deal more effectively with this issue and frankly, the City blew it.

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Here’s how city can finance kick-start to Town Center

The City of Sammamish has the ability to provide financial support to developers to kick-start the Town Center (see following post). And there is a way to do so in a partnership, not an up-front gamble in today’s dicey marketplace.

The City’s current newsletter discusses the conservative approach taken by the City which avoided fronting infrastructure costs or land purchases for developers that would have stuck taxpayers with the burden following the September 2008 financial market meltdown and resulting global recession.

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City should help finance, kick-start Town Center

One of the issues facing the City Council as it begins its review of the regulations for the Town Center is whether to help finance elements of it to kick-start development.

This issue is not part of the Planning Commission’s regulations recommendations that will be under review beginning March 15 (see following post); this issue was deemed by the Commission to be beyond its scope of work.

As a former member of the Commission, and a long-time activist regarding land use and traffic issues, I was of the opinion going into the Town Center regulations process in early 2008 that the City should not contribute to financing TC stuff–this should fall to the responsibility of the developers under the “growth pays its own way” theory.

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Council begins Town Center regulations review

The City Council will begin reviewing the regulations recommended by the Planning Commission for the Town Center at its meeting Monday, March 15. This is a study session, so it will not be televised or recorded for subsequent posting on the City’s website. (The policy of not televising study sessions is a poor one, but this might be a topic for another time.)

The regulations include design guidelines, storm water control, setbacks, sign codes, building heights, parking requirements, permitted uses, buffer requirements, affordable housing and more. The Staff proposes an ambitious schedule to complete Council review by the end of June, after which applications can be accepted to begin development.

The regulations are fairly prescriptive and very detailed and some of them will generate controversy, such as the requirements for parking structures and affordable housing.

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