Planning Commission applicants say they lean eco-friendly
January 19, 2014
By Ari Cetron
New: Jan. 19, 11:37 a.m.
Six residents are vying for two seats on the Sammamish Planning Commission, and the five who spoke at the Jan. 14 city council meeting all expressed leanings toward the environment over property rights.
The Sammamish Planning Commission is a seven-member board that reviews land-use regulations before they go to the city council. The commission’s findings are considered non-binding recommendations, and, indeed, the council often goes against the commission’s advice.
Commissioners are appointed by the council, and two commissioner’s terms expire at the end of January. Commissioner Joe Lipinsky is leaving the commission, while Comissioner Manuel Soto has re-applied for his seat.
The council interviewed the applicants – except Soto, who wasn’t in attendance – as part of its meeting.
The most frequently-asked question from the council involved where each person would land in the case of a hypothetical situation where the only difference was a negative impact on the environment, or a negative impact on property rights.
Councilwoman Nancy Whitten, who asked that question most often, said she sought a balance on the commission, which in the past has skewed too far in one direction or the other.
In each case, applicants said they would choose the environment over property rights.
Thomas Mudayankavil was the first to be interviewed. He is a civil engineer with Parsons Brinkerhoff, and is currently working on Sound Transit’s East Link project to bring light rail to the Eastside. He said he is passionate about transportation and protecting shorelines.
Cynthia Krass recently started a second career by getting a degree in urban planning. She said she would seek to preserve what the city has – trees in particular – while still accomodating legally-mandated growth and housing demands. While she would favor the environment in the hypothetical case, she said she would look at each matter in its own right.
Melinda Hall Wieder grew up in Sammamish and is a Skyline High School graduate. She is now working as a lawyer, dealing primarily with insurance companies. She said she wants to get involved in city government, and that protecting nature’s presence in the city is extremely important.
Katherine Low has also switched careers, having recently earned a degree in public administration with a focus on environmental policy. In addition to protecting the environment, she said she would like to find ways to accommodate more affordable housing and public transportation.
Frank Blau works in business intelligence and data management, which he said would serve him well in finding ways to use the mounds of information presented to planning commissioners. He has served on the Beaver Lake Management District Board, which he said gave him a taste for land-use issues, and he found that he was drawn to topics studied by the planning commission.
While the interviews were held in public, the council is permitted to deliberate about the appointments in a closed session. It planned to do so Jan. 21, then make the appointments the same day.
Parks Commission spots
Three people applied for a pair of vacancies on the Sammamish Parks Commission.
Steve Wright, a current parks commissioner, is seeking re-appointment. He said he enjoys serving the city on the parks commission and hearing feedback from the public.
Wright noted that he is the only commissioner with young children – ages 11, 9 and 7 – and believes his is an important voice to have on the parks commission. He said he enjoys working on the community center proposal and would seek to find ways to bridge the “north-south divide” in Sammamish.
Ann Precup has been volunteering at parks events for years, and would like to take the next step. She was a leader in establishing the community garden. She said she’d like to see gardening programs for children, and she wants to find ways to engage older adults as Sammamish finds itself with more and more senior citizens.
Doug Eglington served for nearly 25 years on the Lake Washington School Board. As such, he noted tremendous experience in government, and a curiosity for how that translates into parks. He also noted the volunteer work he’s done at city parks, and said he wants to find ways to make parks inviting to older residents.
The city council plans to deliberate and finalize the appointments Jan. 21.
The Sammamish Arts Commission is down a few members. There are six vacant positions on the commission, and five applicants. As a result, the council did not interview the applicants.
Commissioner Barbara Jirsa is re-applying for her position on the arts commission. Other applicants are Priti Joshi, Ramu Iyer, Margaret Rosenow and Steve Wright.
There is also a vacant seat on the Beaver Lake Management District Board. There have been no applicants for the seat.