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.
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.
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.
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.
July 30, 2019: Former Mayor Don Gerend has remained silent over his ownership or vested interest in property since filing a petition last week seeking to overturn Sammamish’s revise traffic concurrency ordinance, adopted two months ago.
Gerend, who served with distinction on the city council for 19 years, spoke as a citizen opposing the new concurrency standard as too restrictive. The petition was filed with the Growth Management Hearings Board.
The language in the petition outlining his Standing to file it raised pointed questions in social media and in reader comments in Sammamish Comment about whether he has a financial interest in the Sammamish Town Center, development of which currently is the only project unable to meet concurrency on Sahalee Way. Sahalee Way is the road for which a “volume-to-capacity” ratio of 1.1 was adopted.
July 25, 2019: Former Mayor Don Gerend’s lawyer in his challenge of Sammamish’s
recently adopted concurrency ordinance is a partner in Johns Monroe Mitsunaga Koloušková PLLC of Bellevue, a firm that often represents the Master Builders Association and developers in land use appeals.
Duana Koloušková, the attorney of record in Gerend’s petition to the Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB), has represented developers that build in Sammamish. This includes Murray Franklyn, Polygon Northwest and Connor Homes. She is also on the board of the Master Builders Assn.
She has represented petitioners in appeals to the GMHB.
Sammamish City Council Member Ramiro Valderrama and City Manager Lyman Howard last year wanted to negotiate a Developer Agreement with Town Center developer STCA, without the required council approval, Sammamish Comment learned.
The revelation is in an email (click to read it) dated Nov. 21, 2017, that the city manager designated “attorney client privileged.” The email was recently determined to be not privileged and released in a public records request.
The email was addressed to another city employee and cc’d to the city attorney and a second city employee. Howard’s labeling the email attorney-client privilege is intended to bar the email from public disclosure.
Sammamish City Council member Ramiro Valderrama displayed hypocrisy last Tuesday in his aggressive attempt to force fellow member Tom Hornish to remain on committees following acceptance of a new job in the private sector.
Two years ago, Valderrama sought a new job in the public sector that would have had direct conflict of interest with his city council position. It would have meant choosing between his new job and the council when it came to attending meetings and committee meetings. It likely meant Valderrama would have missed the council’s annual retreat at which goals and committee assignments are made for the coming year.
Yet Valderrama vowed to retain his council position if he got the new job and brushed aside all objections from his constituents.
When Hornish stepped up and recognized time constraints were coming, resigned his position as deputy mayor and stepped off all but one committee, Valderrama—oblivious o his own actions two years earlier—objected and engaged in a transparent attempt to set Hornish up to fail and ultimately force him off the council.