Sammamish Incorporates

Sammamish Map

The boundaries for the proposed City of Sammamish were drawn to reflect the County’s Urban Growth Boundary on the East, to avoid costly repairs to Sahalee Way to the North (there had been a slide a few years before) and Providence Point, a 55+ year old residential community that was viewed to be anti-incoporation. Klahanie was excluded because of the view the area favored annexation to Issaquah.

The decision on the Greens appeals was issued in favor of the appellant in October 1998. A vote on whether to incorporate the City of Sammamish was scheduled just a few weeks later, on Election Day in November 1998.

The big driver toward incorporation was the unbridled growth King County had been approving for years on what was then known as the Issaquah and Redmond plateaus.

The area was in potential annexation areas (PAA) for Redmond, north of SE 8th St., and Issaquah, South of SE 8th. The options open to residents at the time were to incorporate, stay unincorporated, or hopes for annexation on the North to Redmond and on the South t Issaquah. Neither city was prepared at that time to annex, nor was there any indication from them when annexation might be considered. So the only true options were incorporate or remain with King County.

Momentum to incorporate

There was great momentum for incorporation. Residents were tired, and alarmed, at all the white billboards going up all over the Plateau announcing development applications. (King County used white signs for this purpose; later, Sammamish would use blue signs.)

Despite all the growth, the County wasn’t investing in roads or parks to accommodate the growth. The rural, two-lane roads were becoming overwhelmed. The Plateau was split among two County Council Districts. One seat, to the North of NE 8th/Inglewood Hill Road, was held by Louise Miller. Her District went to Woodinville and the North end of the Plateau held few votes and was largely ignored by Miller, who was viewed as pro-development.

To the South of Inglewood, the District seat was held by Brian Derdowski, an environmentalist, who was anti-growth. Derdowski held the belief that if roads weren’t improved, it would stop development (the concurrency theory outlined previously), so he actively fought any money allocation for the Plateau for road improvements. This was fine with County officials, who were pressed for money anyway, and were more than happy to allocate money elsewhere.

The problem with Derdowski’s theory was that development came here anyway.

With offensive growth, County policies that crammed growth into the Plateau, no infrastructure to support the growth and deaf ears of County government and our local representatives, the momentum to incorporate picked up steam.

The Greens decision, stopping development of the two projects over traffic issues, added to this momentum.

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Grounds for appeals of developments

  • A previous column described some of the changes in Sammamish over the 20 years I’ve lived here, ending with appeals I filed over some development along SE 8th Today’s post takes up where that left off.

When I filed appeals of the Greens of Beaver Crest and a companion development, I knew little of what I was doing. I only knew I wanted some traffic calming on SE 8th, where I lived at the time, and King County said no. (This was before Sammamish incorporated.)

Tom Harmon, a citizen activist and a member of SHOUT, a citizens group, dropped off a manual of sorts about how to pursue appeals. I also began attending the public hearings of another appeal of a development along SE 228th by a resident, James Jordan, to learn about the process and evidentiary rules and requirements.

Still another appeal, over traffic issues that were at the heart of my appeal, had been filed a resident, Craig Dickison, and adjudicated by the King County Hearing Examiner.

The appeals were all denied, although the decision on Dickison’s appeal had been a close call. This decision became the one to follow for the Greens.

Citizens lose

One of the early takeaways from these appeals above was that citizens lose appeals. It was very, very rare that they win.

Under the law, Examiners give great weight or deference to the presumed expertise of those government employees making the decisions to grant approval of developments. Appellants have the burden of proof to demonstrate the decisions were in error.

When I talk about appellants as citizens, I should note that developers have the right to appeal as well. They sometimes do, objecting to conditions imposed by the government’s staff. We’ve seen this most recently in King County’s appeal of Sammamish staff conditions for development of the south leg of the East Lake Sammamish Trail. The County largely prevailed, while a homeowner’s group, SHO, did not in its appeal of the same ELST permit.

We also saw the developer appeal the Chestnut West development permit. Citizens won their appeals; the developer lost.

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20 years in Sammamish

I was cleaning out some old photos the other day and came across one that is perhaps as representative as any of how Sammamish changed in the last 20 years.

SE8th Sammamish 19960002

SE 8th St. east of Skyline High School at the bottom of the hill, left, in 1996. Compare SE 8th to today. Right, that winter in a rare, heavy snow.

I moved here in May 1996, from Dallas. I had come home for lunch one day and found a huge, open field behind my house marked by surveyors. I decided then and there to move away from what looked like planned development. Having been to the Seattle area and the San Juan Islands a short time before, I decided to move here for a lifestyle change.

I chose what was then unincorporated King County because it was near mountains and water, and in the winter, snow (at least then, this was true). I chose SE 8th St. because it was a small country road with few houses.

Little did I know.

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Here’s how city can finance kick-start to Town Center

The City of Sammamish has the ability to provide financial support to developers to kick-start the Town Center (see following post). And there is a way to do so in a partnership, not an up-front gamble in today’s dicey marketplace.

The City’s current newsletter discusses the conservative approach taken by the City which avoided fronting infrastructure costs or land purchases for developers that would have stuck taxpayers with the burden following the September 2008 financial market meltdown and resulting global recession.

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