Plan envisions high density in single family neighborhoods.
13 growth centers outlined throughout the city.
By Miki Mullor
Should Sammamish neighborhoods be transformed into mini high density “town centers”?
Yes, if you ask the city’s Planning Commission.
In what will likely to become an election issue, a new vision for the city, centred on high density housing and retail centers, has been put forward by two Planning Commissioners and supported by the entire planning commission and two council members.
This is a departure from the current strategy of “absorbing” or “focusing” growth in the Town Center, spreading growth all over the city.
In Part 1, the background, objectives and membership of the Planning Advisory Board was described. In Part 2, the PAB gets down to work writing Sammamish’s first Comprehensive Plan. This is six pages when printed.
The 17-member Planning Advisory Board members were a cross-section of environmentalists, activists, developers, real estate agents and businessmen. The City Council did an admirable job of appointing a broad spectrum of people.
Open divisions from the start
However, from the start there was open tension among the members. Divisions from the bitter 1999 City Council election carried over to the PAB, which was appointed by this Council. Most of the members of the PAB supported the candidates who won in that bitter contest; a few supported the losing candidates, who, it will be remembered, lost by wide margins in what turned out to be a nasty race filled with anonymous fliers and a forged newsletter.
One of the developer-real estate appointees who supported the Council candidates later told one of the environmentalist-activists it was her personal mission to oppose everything he said. The two strong personalities clashed often and openly.
Two members resigned early. One Council Member later said they resigned because they thought the PAB was too heavily dominated by environmentalists. Whether this is an accurate characterization or not is beside the point. The broad spectrum of the appointees belies any charge that environmentalists ran away with the process. In the end, the Comp Plan was adopted and recommended by the PAB with just one dissenting vote and this vote had nothing to do with the environment or any other issue. The dissenter complained the PAB hadn’t finished its job. (This will be described later.)
Part 1: When Sammamish became a city in 1999, one of the tasks required by State law that had to be accomplished was the writing and adoption of a Comprehensive Plan.
This is the guiding document for cities and counties in Washington. It sets policies on everything ranging from the environment to development to transportation to parks, from utilities to zoning and job and growth targets.
Under State law, there are specific legal meanings to specific words. Three of these words were important in the creation of Sammamish’s Comp Plan: “may,” “should” and “shall.”
Simplistically, “may” means the City has the clear option of doing something, or not. “Should” means the City ought to do something unless there is a good reason not to. “Shall” leaves the City no choice (in theory): it must do something.
Greenwashing (a compound word modeled on “whitewash”), or “green sheen,” is a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization’s products, aims or policies are environmentally friendly.–Wikipedia.
Since the 2003 Sammamish City Council election, in which environmental-leaning candidates swept the election, the Council prided itself on pursuing “green” policies and ordinances.
The City Manager was far less gun-ho, often lagging his own staff, especially when it came to a concept called Low Impact Development, or LID (not to be confused with Local Improvement Districts, also LID, a special tax option–so context of “LID” is always important to understand).
The current Council is comprised of what would ordinarily considered to be environmentalists. Of the seven, only Member Don Gerend leans “development” over the environment–or so its appears. Tom Odell and Bob Keller proved to have strong environmental credentials. Ramiro Valderrama evolved into a strong backing of the environment. Deputy Mayor Kathy Huckabay and Mayor Tom Vance not only consider themselves environmentalists but have an historical track record supporting this.
Without question the leading environmentalist on the Council is three-term incumbent Nancy Whitten, who decided to retire at the end of this year. And Whitten has been increasingly critical of the collective Council’s direction on a number of environmental issues over the past four years.
While “greenwashing” isn’t the term that comes to the top of the conversation with Whitten, she didn’t disagree with its use when it comes to how Sammamish approaches the environment now. And she’s especially critical of Vance’s evolution away from his historical green leanings.
The leadership of the Sammamish City Council was criticized by one of its own July 21 over their refusal to delay approval of the Comprehensive Plan when the final, 250-page version was presented by staff the day before adoption was on the agenda.
Nancy Whitten rapped Mayor Tom Vance and Deputy Mayor Kathy Huckabay for ignoring requests from the other five Council Members to delay a vote until the large document, which is a complete rewrite of the original Comp Plan, could be reviewed.
State law requires a major updating of the Comp Plan every 10 years.