In 2019, former mayor and councilmember Don Gerend, who served on Sammamish City Council for 18 years (1999-2017) before retiring, filed a legal complaint against the City of Sammamish to Washington state’s Growth Management Hearing Board (GMHB). He alleged that the city broke state law when it tried to stop growth and development by tinkered with regulations for measuring traffic and road capacity, also known as concurrency.
While on city council, Gerend had been an advocate for building a mixed-use town center to serve as a central gathering place for residents of the geographically dispersed city. He also wanted senior homes in the town center to provide a housing option for senior citizens who wanted to downsize. The town center has been in the city’s Comprehensive Plan since 2008.
But as the city grew and more residents complained about overcrowded schools and heavier traffic, the city council started to change regulations with the aim to restrict growth. This included tightening how the city measured the capacity of roadways, which is a key deciding factor for green lighting any new development.
In this episode, we interview Gerend on why he filed his legal complaint against the city, his reaction to the GMHB’s recent finding that the city violated state law, and how he sees the relationship between growth and quality of life in Sammamish.
Note: We invited Sammamish city attorney Lisa Marshall, communications director Celia Wu and outside counsel Peter Eglick to sit down for interviews or provide statements for this episode. All of them declined to comment, citing pending litigation.
Timeline of the Don Gerend v. City of Sammamish case
- November 20, 2018 – Sammamish City Council adopts a new transportation concurrency standard as an interim development regulation.
- May 23, 2019 – Sammamish City Council adopts the new transportation concurrency standard as a permanent development regulation.
- July 24, 2019 – Former mayor Don Gerend files a petition to the state’s Growth Management Hearing Board (GMHB) to review the city’s transportation concurrency standard.
- April 20, 2020 – GMHB finds the City of Sammamish’s new transportation concurrency standard was an improper use of a development regulation, and violates the State Environmental Policy Act and the Growth Management Act. GMHB orders the city to take corrective action.
- July 28, 2020 – Sammamish City Council passes a six-month moratorium on issuing concurrency certificates for any new development, effectively stopping all new growth.
- December 22, 2020 – Sammamish City Council repeals the transportation concurrency standard to get back to compliance, but the moratorium is still in effect.
- January 19, 2021 – Sammamish City Council renews its moratorium on issuing concurrency certificates for another six months, through July 27, 2021.
- January 22, 2021 – GMHB finds City of Sammamish continues to be in non-compliance with the Growth Management Act, since the moratorium prevents the city’s own Comprehensive Plan from being implemented. GMHB invalidates the moratorium.
- February 8, 2021 – GMHB sends a letter to Governor Jay Inslee and Washington state’s Department of Commerce, informing them that the City of Sammamish continues to be in non-compliance with the Growth Management Act.
- February 9, 2021 – City of Sammamish files a petition for judicial review of the GMHB decision to King County Superior Court.