Creating the Town Center Plan

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. In Part 3 today, the focus shifts to the creation of the Town Center Plan, a sub-area of the Comprehensive Plan.

City_of_SammamishThe Sammamish Planning Advisory Board (PAB), tasked with writing the City’s first Comprehensive Plan, finished all elements except the complex topic of developing a commercial-office-retail element that was better than the strip malls created by King County.

These malls were formally known as Sammamish Highlands at NE 8th and 228th Ave. NE, the Pine Lake Center at 228th and Issaquah-Pine Lake Road and the 7-11 complex on East Lake Sammamish Parkway. Sammamish Highlands, not to be confused with the neighborhood of the same name at the far south end of the City on 228th, was more commonly known as the Safeway complex. This included the commercial stores across 228th (McDonald’s and other retailers) and eventually Saffron across NE 8th.

The Pine Lake Center was more commonly known as the QFC complex.

Alternatives for Commercial Development

When the first draft of the Comp Plan was completed, the PAB proposed several alternatives for commercial development. Under State Law, this was standard procedure. Usually Comp Plans had Alternatives 1, 2 and 3 and a No Action Alternative.

The No Action Alternative is self-evident: don’t do anything and proceed as before.

The alternatives contained in the Draft Comp Plan were as follows:

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So long, Sammamish—sort of

Personal message from Scott Hamilton, Editor of Sammamish Comment.

Hamilton KING5_2
Scott Hamilton

After 20 years, two months and 10 days, I have moved from Sammamish.

For my wife, Gail Twelves, it’s been one month short of 16 years.

We’ve moved to Bainbridge Island, where we will build a home. For the first time in decades, we’re renters—for the time being.

Sammamish Comment will continue through next year, at which time this community service to Sammamish will close. The Comment was formed in 2003, so at the end of next year, this will have been a 14 year run.

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Writing Sammamish’s first Comp Plan

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.

City_of_SammamishThe 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.

Sammamish MapOne 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.)

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Sammamish’s first Comprehensive Plan

City_of_SammamishPart 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.

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“Greenwashing” in Sammamish: A Special Report

  1. 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.

Image via Google Images. Click on image to enlarge.

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.

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Knocking down barricades

One of the most controversial issues that has faced the City Council since before Sammamish was incorporated is whether to remove barricades in neighborhoods throughout the City to improve traffic connections.

This was a major campaign issue in the 1999 City Council election and again in the 2009 election. More people have turned out for this than any other issue.

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