Sammamish City Council decides elements of Comprehensive Plan review

January 8, 2014

By Administrator

New: Jan. 8, 11:14 a.m.

Sammamish’s Town Center area may end up without mandated affordable housing. The City Council decided Dec. 10 to consider removing the mandate that 10 percent of housing in Town Center be considered affordable.

As part of the review of the city’s Comprehensive Plan, the council wants to take a “holistic” look at Town Center. One aspect they want studied is potentially removing the mandate that there be affordable housing in Town Center.

Instead of a mandate, the council wants to study using incentives to encourage some affordable units to be built. During the Town Center’s initial approval, the council was told repeatedly that incentives don’t work, and without a mandate, developers simply do not build affordable housing units.

Kamuron Gurol, the city’s community development director, cautioned the council. In broad terms, he warned that a review of the entire Town Center plan, while reviewing the Comprehensive Plan, was not something the city really had the capacity to accomplish.

The city is under a state mandate to update its Comprehensive Plan by 2015. The plan is the broad policy document which underlies much of the ways the city operates. It governs land use, transportation, housing, utilities, parks and more. It was last updated in 2005.

During meetings on Dec. 3 and 10, the council reviewed a laundry list of items it wanted considered as part of the review of the city’s Comprehensive Plan, due to take place over the next year and a half.

The city’s Community Development Department had already developed a list of items for planners to review. Some include changes to sections which no longer make sense for Sammamish, while others are designed to make sure the plan conforms to state law, which has changed in countless ways over the past decade.

City Council members had lists of their own. Over the past few years, there are changes they’ve wanted to make, but were often told they would be better done in the context of the Comprehensive Plan review.

As a result, the size of the Comprehensive Plan review has ballooned. During the Dec. 10 meeting, Gurol repeatedly told the council that his department does not likely have sufficient time to do everything they are asking for.

Gurol and his staff must research and study the various subjects, in conjunction with a consultant hired to help with the process. After that, plans move to the Planning Commission for review and further study before finally going to the City Council for its own review process.

The Comprehensive Plan, by itself, is a huge job. Throwing a large review of Town Center on top of that would simply not be possible in the allotted time, he said.

Councilman John James, who works in real estate, noted that such a review would also likely stop any developer from coming forward, since they would not want to proceed under such uncertainty.

Still, the council pressed on, requesting at least a cursory review of Town Center. They noted that if the city waits until after the Comprehensive Plan review, it will lose a year and a half – plus however long the Town Center review takes.

As a result, a review of Town Center, in some form, is likely to happen.

Gurol told the council that he would need to take some time to study all of the various new elements that have been added to the review. He planned to come back early in 2014 and explain the possible implications for the timeline of the Comprehensive Plan review, and whether he would need additional funding to complete what the council envisions.

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