“Against Annexation” lead holding; How Issaquah lost Klahanie

Today is Thursday, Feb. 20. A mere seven more votes were counted in the Klahanie annexation vote: two more “For Annexation” and five more “Against Annexation.” The spread is now 31, up from 28 yesterday.

I can now provide this analysis of How Issaquah lost Klahanie.

It had to come as a shock to Issaquah government officials: residents of the Klahanie Potential Annexation Area sent them packing in February 11’s annexation vote.

It wasn’t just that residents rejected the prospect of assuming a portion of Issaquah’s current debt load—that happened in 2005, despite overwhelmingly approving annexation itself. This time, the election night results presented a shocking six vote margin in favor of annexation. The results from the next day narrowed this to one vote. The next day, the vote counting swung in favor of “Against Annexation” with a 34 vote margin. And it got worse from there.

How did Issaquah lose Klahanie?

Arrogance. A sense of entitlement. A sense of what Klahanie could do for Issaquah, not what Issaquah could offer Klahanie. Past statements making it clear improved roads and parks for the area weren’t in the cards. An aggressive Sammamish offering an alternative. A history that demonstrated Issaquah had trust and integrity issues. A nasty fight with the Sammamish Water and Sewer District that revealed the worst of Issaquah government. And an effective citizens uprising in the form of Klahanie Choice.

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Why Issaquah can’t be trusted, Part 1: Mayor admits cybersquatting Water District to redirect customers to City websites

The opinions expressed here are my own.

The mayor of Issaquah, Ava Frisinger, has admitted that the City Administration directed one of its staffers to “reserve” two Internet domain names that are virtually identical to two held by the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District. These differed only in the dot extensions from the Districts home address, www.sammplat.wa.org and www.letstalkaboutourwater.org.

(The same story linked above also is in the Issaquah Press.)

Frisinger dodged admitting that more than “reserving” the virtually identical URLs, they were activated and directed people to City of Issaquah websites. People who mistyped the Water District’s domain names were sent to the City’s website.

The practice is called cybersquatting, and it is considered in Internet circles to be unethical and under certain circumstances to be illegal.

Issaquah and the Water District are engaged in a protracted dispute over water quality and the City’s plan to resume injecting stormwater into what’s known as the Lower Reid Infiltration Gallery (LRIG), which collects stormwater runoff from Issaquah Highlands. LRIG was ordered shut down by the state Department of Ecology in 2008 when fecal coliform (bird poop and other pollutants) was found to have infiltrated a nearby drinking water aquifer.

Frisinger has accused the Water District of misleading the public and that “customer confusion” exists within Issaquah over which agency, the City or the District, provides water and sewer service to the small portion of the District that lies within the City limits.

Frisinger wrote the District after the District discovered the bogus URLs and cybersquatting that the city “Administration” told an employee to obtain the bogus URLs.

This brazen, deliberate action to hijack the public who sought to go to the Water District’s web sites is astounding, and Frisinger’s response to the Water District is equally appalling.

I spent eight years in Sammamish City government on committees and commissions and 12 years working on political campaigns and I thought I had seen everything. This takes the cake. For the Issaquah city government to not only condone but to initiate this is beyond belief.

Frisinger, the Chief Executive Officer of the city, chose not to seek reelection this year. Is this the legacy of her years of public service that she wants to have? Pursuing a plan to allow inadequately treated stormwater to threaten drinking water? Pursuing a hostile takeover of a sliver of the Water District that could cost taxpayers $12 million? Keeping information from its taxpayers until “outed” by the Water District? And finally condoning and initiating cybersquatting?

Apparently the answer is Yes.

Water District vs Issaquah: video presentations tell the story

The debate is contentious. The Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District says Issaquah wants to inject contaminated water into an area where fecal coliform can infiltrate into an aquifer that provides up to 50% of the drinking water for the District, which serves 54,000 residents in Issaquah (including part of the Issaquah Highlands, all of Providence Point and Overdale), all of Klahanie and other parts of unincorporated King County and roughly three quarters of Sammamish.

Issaquah officials charge the Water District is resorting to scare tactics and its real “agenda” is “self-preservation” and to block the potential annexation by Issaquah of Klahanie. What’s noteworthy of Mayor Ava Frisinger’s approach on this is that by making allegations that the District has an “agenda” and personally attacking the president of the District, she’s avoiding the issues and the City is repeating tactics from 2008 when the Washington Department of Ecology forced (repeat, forced) Issaquah to shut down the so-called LRIG (Lower Reid Infiltration Gallery) in the first place.

Then, according to the press report at the time, Issaquah told Ecology:

They stated that the DOE relied on information supplied by the Sammamish Plateau Water & Sewer District, and said it was “riddled with factual errors,” and contains “inflammatory, incorrect and prejudicial statements masquerading as science and technical analysis.” They also call the monitoring program required by the DOE order “extensive, expensive, excessive, unreasonable and arbitrary.

Frisinger and her administration are following the same line of attack today.

Fortunately, you can see for yourself. Issaquah and the Water District each made presentations to the Sammamish City Council on the issue. Sammamish is trying to sort out facts and has heard from both sides. Issaquah heard the presentation from its own consultant, who also presented to Sammamish, but has so far not wanted to hear from the Water District. It’s clear Issaquah doesn’t give a damn about public opinion or scientific questions over the dispute and it’s equally clear it doesn’t want to hear from the Water District, which is why the District felt compelled to “go public” in the first place.

But you can watch the following videos:

Issaquah Presentation to Issaquah City Council (this was the same presentation given to the Sammamish City Council the same evening). This is 31 minutes.

Water District Presentation to Sammamish City Council on June 4. (Issaquah hasn’t invited the Water District to present to the City Council). Advance to 46:30 minutes for the hour-long presentation.

I think you will find a great deal of useful information that you can compare about who is more factual and more complete.

With respect to the allegation of “self-preservation,” Issaquah is attempting a hostile takeover of a small portion of the District that includes three wells (the ones using the aquifer at risk) in such a way that will dismember the infrastructure to the detriment of Sammamish residents, and those in unincorporated King County. 93% of the District lies outside Issaquah (using Issaquah’s own number) and Issaquah refuses to talk with the District or Sammamish in a way to resolve these issues and concerns. Instead, officials have made it clear that they are only interested in themselves, no matter the consequences to anyone else.

The threat to the water quality is why the Water District is putting up such a fight.

Issaquah plan threatens Sammamish, Klahanie water supply, lake water quality

A proposal by Issaquah to inject storm water from Issaquah Highlands into an aquifer threatens the drinking water supply for most of Sammamish residents.

This is the second assault on the aquifer, which the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District relies upon. I wrote about the first one December 18, 2012. In that case, the Issaquah City Council approved a plan called Lakeside development at the Highlands that will allow a storm water injection well right above a drinking water aquifer.

I wrote at the time something seemed pretty amiss:

The Council, which ultimately approved the agreement unanimously, said it was comfortable with the safeguards and alternatives. Several said they get their drinking water from the aquifer as well and are personally motivated to protect the aquifer. (Emphasis added.)

I’m personally uneasy. Having served on Sammamish City committees and commissions for eight years, I understand the process and thinking that went into this Agreement but I’m nonetheless concerned about the affect on the aquifer.

Now, it turns out Issaquah has applied for a permit with the State Department of Ecology to resume injection of storm water into the aquifer of substantially untreated water. The problem: untreated storm water from the Issaquah Highlands has fecal coliform (ie, bird and pet poop), heavy metal contaminants and a host of other bacteria. This threatens our drinking water. The aquifer serves most of Sammamish, in addition to parts of Issaquah and all of Klahanie. (Note to Klahanie residents: You’re in the Issaquah Potential Annexation Area. Welcome to your new landlords and stewards of your environment.)

[Read more about this issue at a new Water District website devoted strictly to this.]

More alarming: Ecology is poised to grant this permit. Ecology’s pending action is a stunning turn-about from its long history of protecting water. Furthermore, Ecology has been exerting extreme pressure on the City of Sammamish to control storm water runoff into Lake Sammamish, demanding that development runoff be controlled to pre-development conditions (ie, virgin forest). This is a nearly impossible demand in an urban area. While Low Impact Development can help dramatically, it’s impossible to feasibly return to pre-development conditions. The City of Sammamish and some citizens, many represented by the Citizens for Sammamish activist group, have been arguing with the City Council for years over the new, highly restrictive regulations demanded by Ecology. Regardless, treatment and control of polluted storm water is imperative. Why in the world would Ecology be so strict with the City of Sammamish and give Issaquah a pass?

While the permit application is pending, Issaquah is diverting untreated water into the North Fork of the Issaquah River, which flows into Lake Sammamish. This water pollution can accumulate and potential affect home values of lakefront homes (who wants to live with lakefront you can’t use?). The right thing to do would have been for Issaquah to treat the water in the first place–it’s chosen not to do so.

Now Ecology is ready to permit Issaquah to inject contaminated and polluted water into the aquifer. Also keep in mind that this very same storm water injection site was shut down by Ecology in 2008 because high levels of fecal coliform were detected in monitoring wells a short distance from the District’s drinking water wells. Issaquah has been trying to restart the injection of storm water ever since. The city is tired of the Water District’s objections to protect the water supply for 54,000 customers–most of whom reside in Sammamish–so Issaquah has decided to take over the part of the District and the three prime wells inside Issaquah’s boundaries in order to shut the District up and do what it wants with the storm water–the impact to Sammamish be damned.

The Sammamish City Council and City Manager are aware of the situation but so far have not protested either to Issaquah or to Ecology. I find this to be rather perplexing, since our City Council and our City Manager represent us residents (and voters) of Sammamish.

The Sammamish City Council meets Tuesday, May 7.

Here is the Water District’s press release:

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Civilized Nature to move to Issaquah Highlands

Civilized Nature will be moving to Issaquah Highlands around next fall.

I previously wrote how this locally-owned pet store will be the next victim of Regency’s drive to nationalize the Sammamish Highlands shopping center with the addition of Petco. I’ve learned from Nature that the local Regency rep actually went to bat with Corporate to make a move to Issaquah Highlands possible.

Petco is planned to open around June; Nature hopes it can survive the overlap until its own lease expires.

Poor economy slows Issaquah Highlands, Lincoln Square projects

The poor economy is making it difficult for Issaquah Highlands to attract retailers, and it also prompted Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman to delay expansion of Lincoln Square.

The Issaquah Press last week had this article explaining the problems the developer of the Highlands is having attracting retailers. The developer is asking the city to pony up $3m to help fund changes to the infrastructure to ease the cost of development.

The article explains:

In order to complete a long-planned business district in the Issaquah Highlands — and transform 14 acres into a cinema, shops, restaurants and more than 1,700 parking stalls — the developer behind the project said about $3 million in city funds is needed.

The developer, Florida-based Regency Centers, said the highlands project needs the dollars to complete roadwork and other infrastructure.

Regency and highlands developer Port Blakely Communities announced a deal in July to sell the land for a retail center, but before Regency completes the deal, company planners asked city leaders to commit public dollars to the project.

Regency is the prime landlord of the commercial centers in Sammamish.

Regency told the city, according to the newspaper:

Meanwhile, interest is low from prospective tenants for the proposed retail complex, as retailers remain reluctant to expand amid a difficult economy.

“We don’t have tenants for all of this space right now. We have some,” [Regency] said. “We have some demand, but it’s a challenge. It’s a very, very tough economic environment right now.”

Over in Bellevue, Freeman acquired the property immediately south of Lincoln Square that previously housed a supermarket. This was closed, with the intent to raze the buildings and expand the square. But because of the poor economy, these plans were put on hold and the supermarket was recently leased to another grocer.

These actions are significant for Sammamish. Our Town Center has been stalled since adoption of the enabling ordinances in January as the economy floundered and banks continue to withhold lending into new projects. Despite claims during the election that the Town Center plan is unworkable, the reality is other factors are driving the non-action.

Our city council’s economic develop committee is trying to figure ways to kick-start the Town Center. The council is considering setting aside $3m (which happens to be the same amount being asked of Issaquah by Regency) to apply toward infrastructure.

Considering the dwindling cash reserves of Sammamish, this proposal is going to come under scrutiny next year.