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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“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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Sammamish council goes on August recess; here’s what’s waiting when it’s back

The Sammamish City Council has gone on its August recess. Here are some of the things waiting for their action when they come back–and some additional information as well.

On the waiting list:

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Sammamish needs to act now for more commercial zoning–not wait to 2015–due to ‘economic emergency’

There were three “Docket Requests” submitted to the City from citizens seeking amendments to the Comprehensive Plan. One was from Ace Hardware, which as I’ve reported in a previous post was a placeholder and which is superseded by the preferred Development Agreement proposal. Another was from the landowners in the Town Center’s Southeast Quadrant. And the third had to do with how density is treated.

Staff urged the Council to reject all three requests, saying the Ace was too difficult to achieve given wetland issues and timing and that the other two should wait until the 2015 Comp Plan rewrite.

The recommendation to put off Comp Plan changes of consequence to 2015 may have some merit under ordinary circumstances. But we have what I call an “economic emergency” right now.

Regency owns almost all the commercial space in the heart of Sammamish (only the Saffron complex is owned by someone else) and it’s now clear Regency doesn’t give a hoot about local businesses. Ace Hardware, the Sushi restaurant and Rancho Grande are being pushed out in favor of national retailers. Several other local businesses are gone. Civilized Nature is going.

The lack of alternative commercially zoned space is killing opportunities for our local business.

And, unfathomably, the City Administration has not on its own initiative proposed identifying properties in the city outside the Town Center that could be rezoned commercial and which do not have the regulations associated with the Town Center that, as we now know, make it virtually impossible for small businesses to locate there.

Recognizing this, last January I submitted a long list of ideas to the City Council to redress some of these issues. The proposal was put on the shelf.

With the time for Comp Plan amendments now upon us, the City Administration did not come forth with a single idea to redress this, but instead says wait until 2015.

This is ridiculous. Even more so, it seems that nobody on the City Council suggested changes, either. Where is our leadership? Where is the vision?

At the December 4 City Council meeting, I provided public comment resubmitting my January list of suggestions and urged the Council to direct staff to include rezonings on the current Docket Request. This submittal is below the jump. the January memo is here.

The City Council is to make decisions regarding Ace Hardware, the Docket Request from the Southeast Quadrant, the other Docket Request and, I hope, my December 4 suggestion all at the December 11 meeting. I urge citizens to appear again to support affirmative action on these. It seems the City needs the proverbial 2×4 upside the head to get the message. It’s astounding that we have this economic emergency that is devastating locally owned businesses and neither the City Administration or the Council has taken any action to meet this emergency.

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Details of the Ace Development Plan and the initial Staff Response rejecting the plan

Here are the details of the proposal by Ace and a land-owner to develop property immediately south of the Starbucks at NE 4th St. The plan involves a land-swap between the City and the property owner.

The key issue is that both parcels are highly constrained by wetlands, George Davis Creek, and buffers. The property owned by the developer is considered unbuildable due to wetlands. The City property has some buildable land but officials consider it too small for the Ace project. It’s also currently used for two storm water retention ponds.

The Ace proposal calls for swapping the ownership, with Ace rebuilding the ponds on the swapped property. The full, five page proposal is here: AcePlan120412.

Continue reading “Details of the Ace Development Plan and the initial Staff Response rejecting the plan”

Citizens for Sammamish push Initiative Vote Right Dec. 4; also Comp Plan changes on the agenda

Citizens for Sammamish plan to push Tuesday for the Initiative at the City Council meeting. Harry Shedd, head of C4S, sent this email to the Council last week:

Next Tuesday’s meeting will offer you one more chance to certify the “Initiative Process” for Sammamish citizens. It is a simple offering and you have discussed it in the past. Personal freedoms should trump any reasonable alternatives. Please don’t kick this matter down the road…vote YES to allow this right to the citizenry and end your year on a high note.

As I’ve written previously, I’m conflicted about the Initiative process.

Also on the agenda Tuesday is an item starting the process for changes to the Comprehensive Plan, including the Town Center. Citizens and land owners may suggest changes in zoning, policies and permitted uses.