June 5, 2016: Development of the East Lake Sammamish Trail has been an overhang of Sammamish politics for 20 years.
It was a dominate factor in the first City Council race 1999 and surfaced again in 2001. It became a key issue in the 2003 election, with a flood of “outside” money flowing to candidates favoring the Trail.
The issue surfaced periodically in subsequent elections. It wasn’t until 2015 that once more it became a key election issue, as Trail residents rallied behind three candidates to win bitterly contested races. For the first time, they helped elect a resident who lives along the Trail.
And the issue hasn’t subsided, either.
In April, three Council Members voted to undercut the City’s own Hearing Examiner and side with King County, developer of the Trail, on a jurisdictional issue in an appeal before the State Shoreline Hearings Board.
This is the story behind the 20-year battle of the ELST.
Sammamish issued this statement at 5pm Friday, after Sammamish Comment reported on Thursday three appeals had been filed against its permit issued to King County for development of the East Lake Sammamish Trail.
City Manager Ben Yacizi didn’t mention two appeals by others, a resident along the trail, and one by Sammamish Home Owners and two residents.
Sammamish officials spent all year saying “we need King County” as a reason to not take a harder line over fixing development issues of the Northern end of the East Lake Sammamish Trail and design plans for the far South end.
And although officials were optimistic a negotiated design for the South end was achievable, King County officials clearly concluded otherwise.
The County filed an appeal July 28 of the City’s permit for the South end, Section 2A, of ELST because of several conditions the City imposed a conditions to the development permit.
Section 2A is the portion of the interim trail from 33rd (the 7-11) to the Issaquah City Limits.
The Sammamish Home Owners (SHO) and two property owners also filed an appeal. So did a limited liability company called Lake Sammamish 4257 LLC, which consists of one property.
SHO’s appeal is here. APPEAL-SHO It contains as an attachment the City’s permit with Findings of Fact and Conditions, which are referenced in the County’s appeal. The reader may cross-reference the County’s citations with the City permit in the SHO appeal.
Sammamish City Council members have declined to reaffirm statements at January retreat they made indicating they would honor citizen vote in the Advisory Ballot April 28 on whether to grant voters here the right to Initiative and Referendum.
By a 5-2 majority, members of the Sammamish City Council currently oppose giving the right of Initiative and Referendum to the voters of our City. It was a split vote to even put the issue to an Advisory vote on the April 28 ballot. Council Member Tom Odell voted against putting the issue to the voters.
With only Members Nancy Whitten and Ramiro Valderrama on record in favor of granting the right, other Members informally said at the City’s January retreat they would honor the citizen outcome on the Advisory ballot. But last week, only Whitten and Valderrama responded in the affirmative to an email inquiry I sent to each council member asking whether they will honor an approval vote from citizens. Odell and Don Gerend declined to state their position “for the record” in advance of the vote. Bob Keller said he is reserving his decision until the result. Mayor Tom Vance and Deputy Mayor Kathy Huckabay did not respond to the inquiry.
See my post from the January retreat. At this retreat, Council members told me that if voters for Yes for the initiative, the council will adopt the ordinance. If they vote No, they won’t
See a Sammamish Review article on the topic. The paper reported, “While the April vote will be a nonbinding advisory vote and Mayor Tom Vance made no promises, he did say he believes the council will go along with whatever voters decide. He added he just couldn’t see any member of the council going against voter wishes.”
This ambiguity now raises the obvious question of whether a majority of the Council will endorse an affirmative vote of citizens, even if the outcome is a narrow 50% plus one or an overwhelming majority.
Fundamentally, the issue comes down to trust. Opposing Council Members have been clear they don’t trust the initiative process or our citizens to handle this right, which is provided under the 1912 State Constitution.
The Sammamish City Council chamber overflowed into the waiting room and it was standing room only as scores of people got up to testify about King County’s development of the East Lake Sammamish Trail.
It’s clear from the comments that there is a misunderstanding on the part of some over the underlying issues.
Just as the chamber was packed with property owners and members of the Sammamish Home Owners, the place was clearly packed with bicyclists, including the Cascade Bicycle Club. The property owners are largely concerned with legalities, encroachments and heavy-handed tactics of King County. The bicyclists and some walkers, including former Sammamish City Council member Mark Cross, are concerned with having the 18 ft wide design for safety reasons.
Many took issue with suggestions to narrow the trail in some locations and for various reasons. What comes across clearly, for anyone willing to watch nearly two hours of comments on the City’s webcast of the Council meeting, is that those advocating the 18 ft wide design, don’t understand the unique issues involving ELST.