Anyone holding their breath for the City of Sammamish to lift a development moratorium better have strong lungs.
The Sammamish City Council has extended an existing moratorium on accepting applications for traffic concurrency certificates for six more months.
The July 28 decision buys the City more time to stop new development until it can comply with an April ruling by the state Growth Management Hearing Board (GMHB). Prompted by an appeal from former mayor and city council member Don Gerend, the ruling requires the City to reconcile changes to its concurrency standards with the City’s comprehensive plan and the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).
The latest moratorium comes on the heels of a previous moratorium imposed a little more than three months ago. Together, the back-to-back moratoriums mean a further pause on new permit applications for new development within Sammamish city limits.
Traffic concurrency certificates are a planning tool designed to ensure traffic generated by new development does not overwhelm the capacity of roads and intersections. If traffic from a new development is projected to push a road or intersection beyond capacity, then that means no certificate and no permit application.
In 2018, the City Council changed the concurrency standard to lower the allowable traffic capacity — thereby placing new limits on the scale of development — but the April ruling by the GMHB forced the City to take those changes back to the drawing board.
The decision to extend the moratorium came during a July 28 special council meeting that included a 50-minute executive session, followed by less than 10 minutes of public discussion by council members.
Mayor Karen Moran, Deputy Mayor Christie Malchow and council members Kent Treen, Chris Ross and Ken Gamblin voted in favor of the moratorium. Councilmembers Pam Stuart and Jason Ritchie voted no.
“The City is moving in the right direction,” Treen said. “We are moving forward on some much needed adjustments and so I’m in total support of continuing the moratorium at this time to get our work done.”
Stuart said she is concerned about the length of time it is taking to reconcile the concurrency revisions with the comprehensive plan — and time is money. She also said the process lacks transparency.
“We are continually being told not to discuss issues on the dais and tonight it was more from other council members rather than from our legal counsel,” Stuart said, referring to the lengthy closed-door executive session versus a very short public meeting. She called for discussing issues on the dais “whenever possible because that’s what open and transparent government is about.”
Former council member Ramiro Valderrama-Aramayo, who called in to the remote meeting, urged the Council to “stop using concurrency to mask the true aims of the majority to significantly reduce currently adopted residential land uses.”