The Sammamish Town Center plan was about seven years in the making, controversial throughout. Then development was held up by the 2008 Great Recession. Ground was finally broken in 2015. The first store, Metropolitan Market, opened this year. And now the Town Center is again at the center of controversy over the building moratorium.
There has even been a call to revisit the plan.
Here’s why doing so is not a good idea and why the Town Center is needed.
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.
Improvements to the recently-opened Sammamish Landing park on the lake at the far north end of the city have a price tag of almost $2 million, according to this article in The Sammamish Review.
This is an eyebrow raising figure.
The two docks there cost more than $500,000. The park is a nice little addition to the adjacent trail, and after it officially opened, I routinely observed a lot of cars along the Parkway for patrons.
But another $2 million? This is a lot of money.
A parking lot is absolutely needed. Port-a-potties can suffice, reducing the cost by a half-million. This leaves the cost of the improvements at $1.5m, still an eye-popping number. A good portion of this is federally-required ADA access. I can’t help but wonder if some volunteer work can’t be applied here, as it was for Evans Creek Park. Just a thought.
But the suggestion by some on the City Council that Redmond or King County should kick in money because their residents use the park is a bit cheeky. As City Manager Ben Yacizi points out, our residents use parks in Redmond and King County and don’t pay to do so (other than general taxes to King County and a parking fee of $1 for Marymoor Park).
Sammamish Landing originally was owned by Redmond, as land-banking for the eventual day when Redmond annexed the north end of the Plateau. After we incorporated, Redmond signed over the land to Sammamish. I don’t recall if it was a free transfer or if Sammamish bought the land, but I seem to remember it was free or a nominal payment (this may be incorrect).
I think it would be chutzpah for Sammamish to ask Redmond to kick in money, especially if my memory is correct. A stronger argument might be made to approach King County, since this amenity enhances the trail, which is owned by the County. Maybe improvements to the Landing can be a part of the paving of the trail that is commence next year, with the county kicking in a contribution of some level. But don’t ask Redmond. I think it has already been more than generous.