On Tuesday night, the Sammamish City Council drew a line in the sand on over-development, forcing a potential pause on development until a much needed public infrastructure is built.
A split council voted on an esoteric traffic engineering parameter that decides what is the accepted level of traffic congestion the city is willing to tolerate.
In doing so, the council have possibly made Sammamish the first jurisdiction in the Puget Sound to be implementing the Growth Management Act (GMA) the way it was originally intended to – to protect the citizens’ quality of life.
The Sammamish Community Center, a $33m facility funded with $28m of Sammamish taxpayers’ money and operated exclusively by the Y, generated at least $1.4m in surplus that is being sent to Seattle Y, raising questions regarding accounting methods.
The Community Center exceeded all expectations set forth in the city’s original plan. The city thought the Community Center will attract 1,750 members, with a monthly membership rates for a family at $68. In reality, more than 5,700 memberships were sold, with monthly membership rates for a family at $138.
The difference is sent to Seattle, although it supposed to stay in Sammamish.
Editor’s Note: This column was drafted the week before last. The plan was to publish once the final traffic concurrency and building moratorium votes were taken, anticipated in November. But this weekend, Council Member Pam Stuart launched a highly personal, accusatory attack on Mayor Christie Malchow on Facebook. Stuart brought into the attack indirect reference to Malchow’s children, a political verboten that goes to the presidency of the United states. Thus, I made the decision to publish this column today.
The Sammamish city council badly needs an intervention. Residents have serious cause for concern with the dysfunctional, bitterly split ruling body.
The divisions and in-fighting are the worst seen since before incorporation.
Initially, the council split into two factions: The “new V-3” (Ramiro Valderrama, Jason Ritchie and Pam Stuart, odd bedfellows if there ever were any) and the “M-4” (Christie Malchow, Tom Hornish, Chris Ross and Karen Moran).
Ritchie coined the terms. (The old V-3 were Valderrama, Malchow and Hornish. The latter two split with Valderrama over his 180 degree flip-flops on environmental and development issues and his persistent distortion of facts and outright falsehoods he makes to advance his positions.)
For a while, even this split broke down. It became 2-2-3. Malchow and Hornish remained staunch allies. Moran and Ross became unpredictable votes, flip-flopping on the same issue between the M-2 and the V-3. The V-3 by-and-large remain a solid voting bloc.
Sammamish residents took to email, social media and showed up in person at the Oct. 16 council meeting to tell council to keep the moratorium on the Town Center and not to exempt anyone from the new development regulations.
On a split 4/3 vote, the council voted to keep the moratorium. The vote on the development regulations has been postponed.
The building moratorium in Sammamish won’t be lifted next week.
In a sometimes-heated meeting, the city council on a 4-3 vote adopted an amendment offered by Deputy Mayor Karen Moran to add some capacity-based measurements to the Level of Service concurrency model previously approved.
The absence of road capacity measurements means some key road segments without stop signs or stop lights aren’t measured.
These include East Lake Sammamish Parkway north of Inglewood Hill Road to the Redmond city limits; 244th north of NE 8th to the city limits; and long stretches of Sahalee Way.
All are heavily congested during rush hour and would likely fail concurrency tests.
Just how cozy is Town Center developer STCA with the Sammamish city administration?
Sammamish Comment has been reporting aspects of the relationship between the developer, administration and certain members of the city council for more than a year.
Now, The Comment discovered that the city administration collaborated with STCA to promote their project using taxpayer money at the same time the new concurrency model was being developed by the city.
This casts an appearance of a conflict of interest because a realistic concurrency system may block new development under certain circumstances, including the Town Center. STCA is the largest developer of the Town Center.
The council included the Town Center in the moratorium so it will be subject to the new concurrency.
It is our view that it is improper for city staff to collaborate with STCA and at the same time develop a concurrency model that may block it.
Indeed, on February 28, Kendra Breiland, the city’s concurrency consultant, met in Bellevue with STCA for “coordination.”