Anyone hoping to proceed with a development project in the next six months might be a little disappointed.
In a 5-2 vote, Sammamish City Council decided to extend the six-month moratorium during a virtual meeting on Jan. 19. This measure further pauses any major construction and development activity in Sammamish until city staff and consultants address procedural errors as required by the state’s Growth Management Hearing Board last April.
This back-to-back moratorium, which was initially intended to expire on Jan. 28, now pushes the end date to July 27, 2021. The previous six-month measure was approved in July of last year.
A majority of the council argued that various roadways in Sammamish require an updated way to measure traffic, a requirement for the state’s Growth Management Act (GMA). Contrastively, some residents claim that blocking large-scale development projects is a violation of the GMA.
“Your efforts to totally stop any and all growth in Sammamish is not only in violation of the GMA, it is against the best interests of our citizens,” former Mayor Tom Vance said in a public comment.
Long-time Sammamish resident Karen Howe said the proposed moratorium is a “disingenuous means to mask anti-growth attitudes despite the clear and obvious reality of an urbanized region,” referring to Sammamish as being part of King County’s Urban Growth Area, which is designated for growth and development.
According to the agenda bill, “certain city council members” requested three additional exceptions be introduced to an alternative draft ordinance ahead of the Jan. 19 meeting. As a result, staff presented the council with two six-month options: continue the moratorium like before or do so and exclude public agencies, single-family residences, and accessory dwelling units from the measure.
Mayor Karen Moran spoke in favor of the second option to continue the moratorium with additional exceptions, which was ultimately passed. She argued that an unresolved traffic model, paired with any large development projects, could drastically alter the landscape and housing makeup of the city.
“We do not have a functioning traffic [model],” Moran said. “We do not have a way to measure two of our roads at the north end.”
This measure suspends any applications for development, building, land use, or construction that do not already have proper traffic concurrency certificates (TCR), according to the agenda bill. These certificates serve as a planning tool to ensure traffic generated by new development does not overwhelm the capacity of current roads and intersections.
Councilmembers Jason Ritchie and Pam Stuart both expressed opposition to the moratorium’s extension, casting the two no votes. Ritchie, who later resigned from city council during the meeting, said there is “no emergency in place” to support the moratorium, ultimately putting the city at “litigation risk.”
“I fear for our city as we continue to move forward with moratorium after moratorium for three years without good cause when we have a functioning traffic model in place,” Ritchie said during the meeting. “We do face significant legal damages if we’re wrong.”
According to Ritchie, continuing the moratorium is an improper development regulation that hinders the growth and management of the city. He believes the measure unfairly prioritizes certain developments, specifically single-family homes, over others.
He said the single-family exemption will exacerbate an imbalance that already exists in Sammamish. There is a housing shortage across the region, he added, and the moratorium “doesn’t help to minimize or solve” that issue.
“It creates winners and losers,” Richie said. “It’s not the job of the local government to create that winners-and-losers scenario.”