Time has come to form own fire department

The front page story in the Sammamish Report January 28 that the Eastside Fire & Rescue is prepared to create a new taxing authority to expand EF&R is the final straw in long-running disagreements between Sammamish and EF&R over the direction and fiscal responsibilities of the district.

The disagreements have been well covered by the Sammamish Reporter, the Sammamish Review and the City’s own newsletter and won’t be recounted here. Suffice it to say that Sammamish believes EF&R hasn’t been as cost-conscious as it should be, particularly during the recent national economic crisis, and that ambitions to annex other fire districts (notably the area at Snoqualmie Pass) means more cost to Sammamish taxpayers with no additional benefit.

The City’s own studies about costs have been previously disputed by members of the EF&R board, who at one point labeled the Sammamish City Council a bunch of “rascals.” This characterization may or may not be true, but certainly not in this case. Our “rascals” are spot-on.

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TDR decision the right one

The decision by the Sammamish City Council to approve an agreement with King County for transfer of development rights (TDR) from two small areas adjacent the city to the Town Center is a correct one.

An article reporting the agreement, with a map, may be found here.

The vote was 6-1 with Nancy Whitten against. Whitten has been fighting any additional residential units to the Town Center because of traffic implications. While Whitten properly raises questions, she unfortunately has diminished her credibility because virtually every objection revolves around her inability to exit her driveway on 229th Ave. across from Discovery School during rush hour.

Whitten asserts that there is no plan to mitigate traffic, and in this she is correct–but this is only part of the story. Here’s why:

  1. The Town Center Environmental Impact Statement assumed traffic generation up to 3,000 residential units and up to 675,000 sf of commercial space. Up to this point, traffic impacts are already accounted for.
  2. Any development applications have to undergo traffic analysis and traffic concurrency testing. If the development doesn’t meet these tests, it cannot go forward.

Thus, these are the two safeguards. These assume, of course, that the City periodically does new traffic counts to have the latest data available for the analysis and testing; that recognized and scientifically valid methods are used; and that the traffic analysis modeling is reasonably accurate.

These are all important elements to accurate traffic testing and analysis.

Whitten is right to be concerned about trip generation from the Town Center but rather than picking on TDRs that already fall within the EIS analysis, she should be more concerned about the effort last year by Mayor Don Gerend to do away with the nationally-accepted Trip Generation Manual used by cities and counties and states nationwide.

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A hard, but correct decision

City Manager Ben Yacizi made a hard, but correct decision when he halted the City’s recent review of the shoreline ordinary high water mark regulations.

An outgrowth of the flawed Shoreline Master Plan update, this separate city-citizen review came to a halt when it was revealed by a Lake Sammamish homeowner not involved in the process that the lead city employee, Eric La France, was friends with a key official of the City’s outside consultant, and had socialized with him shortly before the contract was award.

The Sammamish Review has this story and the Sammamish Reporter has this one, both detailing that the appearance of fairness demanded that the current effort be ended and restarted.

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Traffic be damned: Mayor Gerend–but fears transit loss yet opposed transit policy

Two recent events make it clear that Mayor Don Gerend continues his quest to cram too much development into the Town Center, despite recommendations from five commissions and committees with some 70 citizens that adverse traffic impacts that would result.
At the same time, Gerend is bemoaning the very real possibility that cash-strapped Metro might cut bus service to Sammamish. Yet Gerend also opposed transit policies for the Town Center that would have sent a very real signal to Metro and Sound Transit that Sammamish is serious about attracting more transit service.
The most recent event concerns Transfer of Development Rights. The Sammamish Review reported Nov. 17, “…Gerend said he supported the program, saying it shifted potential traffic problems instead of adding to them.
“You remove potential traffic that would be going onto (state Route 202) into Redmond, which is one of the choke points in our morning commute,” Gerend said. “We’re reducing traffic in the north end, not just adding traffic to Town Center.”

Bad decision for Town Center

In a budget-cutting move, Sammamish City Manager Ben Yacizi eliminated the job of Michael Mathias, who had headed the Town Center development plan for the past several years.

Mathias, hired as an expert with experience in developing Town Centers, worked with the Planning Commission and then the City Council to develop the Town Center Plan and its regulations.

Unlike the others on the Community Development staff, or anywhere else in City administration or City Council, Mathias has key knowledge for public-private partnerships, finding creative financing and grants and understanding some key, intricate details of financial and developmental concerns of developers that will–or shall we say, “would”–be crucial to proceeding with the development of the Town Center.

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Galvin lobbies on Town Center after public hearing closed

John Galvin, one of the landowners in the SE Quadrant, continued to lobby city council members on the Town Center after the public hearings closed September 7, in violation of the rules.

Written submissions closed at 5pm on Sept. 7; additional oral testimony was allowed that evening, but closed when deliberations by the council began. The second email below arrived after deliberations began.

Below are his emails.

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‘Cell out’ is more like “Drop the Ball”

‘Cell out’ is more like “Drop the Ball”

A letter in the Sammamish Reporter, “Cell Out” (Aug. 19) is in the ball park but misses the mark in its criticism of the Sammamish City Council for screwing up the cell tower issues.

One of the first ordinances the first City Council (1999-2001) took up was cell towers. The inherited King County ordinance was deficient. I arranged to bring in a cell tower permitting expert who told the Council about co-location, camouflage, height issues and all the ABCs of how to construct an ordinance that would have prevented the problems that emerged in 2008-2009 in Trossachs and Tibbett’s Station.

Take a read of this previous post, which goes into more detail, including pictures.

Imagine my surprise when in 2009, as a member of the Planning Commission, the Trossachs issue compelled the City Council to send the ordinance to the Commission for re-work and I learned that the permitting expert’s recommendations to the 1999-2001 Council were largely absent. The Commission asked the staff for a number of things to fix the ordinance, but the staff couldn’t find the time to comply with the requests due to workload and a lack of resources (yet another example of how Council policies from 1999 through 2009 sacrificed staff-and-quality for public relations employee-head count-to-population comparisons, but this is another subject). The Commission was put in the position of making cosmetic changes that fell short of its objectives to send revisions to the 2009 Council.

Now, in 2010, the Commission and hard-pressed staff had to revisit and rework the ordinance yet again. And what does the Council do? Schedule a tour to listen to how loud is 45db (the sound of cell tower equipment at ground level). What a colossal waste of time, for the staff and Commission, and for the Council which has better things to do. All because the 1999-2001 City Council didn’t listen and get it right. (And Don Gerend was on the first Council.)

By the way, normal conversation is 50db.