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.
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 City Council Member Pam Stuart ran for office in 2017 vowing to protect the environment.
Instead, she is using a claim of environmental protection to support her vote for lifting the building moratorium on the Town Center and as a proponent for higher density.
At the Oct. 16 council meeting, Stuart argued that lifting the moratorium is environmentally friendly because concentrating growth in one area protects other areas in Sammamish from building.
This shows an appalling ignorance of Sammamish’s land use zoning, the history of the development of the Comprehensive Planning to limit growth, political realities and impacts on property owners.
Either that, or Stuart just is using “environmental protection” as a faux excuse to open the development door to STCA, the principal developer waiting to get the green light to file permit applications to build the Town Center.
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.