In a 4-3 vote, the Sammamish city council voted to water down the interim development regulation adopted two months ago and to exempt 65 lots that were in the pipeline
Deputy Mayor Karen Moran joined Council Members Ramiro Valderrama, Pam Stuart and Jason Ritchie to vote in favor.
City council also voted 6-1 to accept an “MOU” (Memorandum of Understanding) with STCA, the Town Center developer. The effect of accepting the MOU is that STCA can apply for permits for at least 500 units before the work on V/C concurrency is done, likely allowing development of the Town Center under the old method of concurrency.
Council Member Tom Hornish voted against the motion.
A day after staff revealed the last data on the new concurrency rules, a split Sammamish city council took action to save development of hundreds, potentially thousands, of new homes, from what looks like an inevitable shut down of growth in Sammamish due to lack of road capacity.
Recent emails discovered on Fehr & Peers servers, obtained through a public records request, reveal separate, secret meetings between Kendra Breiland from Fehr & Peers, former City Manager Lyman Howard and Town Center developer STCA.
“This is confidential correspondence from the City Manager’s office,” wrote former Deputy City Manager Jessi Bon to Breiland in an email dated July 22, 2017. “We would like to meet with you on Thursday at on off-site location. At this time it will just be myself and the City Manager. The other staff are not aware of this meeting, so again, please keep this confidential.”
Meetings between developers and government officials are common. What is uncommon–and suspicious–are meetings that are labeled confidential and specifically excluding staff under a request for confidentiality.
A contractor’s emails are subject to the State Public Records Act under certain circumstances, which applied in this case. The complete email exchange is here.
Just how cozy is Town Center developer STCA with the Sammamish city administration?
Sammamish Comment has been reporting aspects of the relationship between the developer, administration and certain members of the city council for more than a year.
Now, The Comment discovered that the city administration collaborated with STCA to promote their project using taxpayer money at the same time the new concurrency model was being developed by the city.
This casts an appearance of a conflict of interest because a realistic concurrency system may block new development under certain circumstances, including the Town Center. STCA is the largest developer of the Town Center.
The council included the Town Center in the moratorium so it will be subject to the new concurrency.
It is our view that it is improper for city staff to collaborate with STCA and at the same time develop a concurrency model that may block it.
Indeed, on February 28, Kendra Breiland, the city’s concurrency consultant, met in Bellevue with STCA for “coordination.”
City Manager Lyman Howard labeled the email Attorney Client Privilege, even though it was addressed to his assistant and only copied to the city attorney and even though it did not ask for legal advice.
Labeling the email Attorney Client Privilege had but one purpose: to keep the email from being produced in a Public Records Request.
The City Council, then in power in November 2017, was not copied on the email.
After The Comment revealed this email and drew the obvious conclusions, Valderrama, typically, tried to cover his tracks.