More density in Sammamish put on indefinite hold
May 23, 2014
By Ari Cetron
New: May 23, 12:03 p.m.
A study that could have led to more houses in Sammamish was placed on indefinite hold by the city council May 13.
A few months ago, the council called for a review of the way the city calculates density in areas zoned for one house per acre.
Right now, the city uses what’s called net zoning. Hypothetically, if there was a 10-acre plot of land, but three acres of it was unusable for a variety of reasons, the unusable land is removed from the equation. As a result, builders would only be allowed to construct seven houses.
The study would have looked at the possibility of a calculation, which, in the above scenario, would allow all 10 houses to be built.
A number of property owners have come to the city asking for the change, while residents in nearby developments have resisted it.
Susan Cezar, the city’s deputy director of development, came to the council May 13 looking for guidance on the scope of the study. There are a variety of different areas zoned for one house per acre – for a variety of different reasons – so making a wholesale change like this could have different implications.
After discussion, the scope was reduced to zero.
Councilwoman Kathleen Huckabay noted there are a number of potential changes coming at the city in the coming months. In particular, she noted a possible change in federal regulations regarding stormwater. The changes are widely expected to force localities to make major revisions to their own rules, possibly curtailing some development.
“It’s too open a question at this point,” Huckabay said.
Councilman Robert Keller questioned the reason behind the zoning change. The city doesn’t need the extra density in order to meet growth targets, he noted, so he wondered why it would consider something that would increase density.
Councilman Tom Odell said he was worried about the negative impacts extra development could have on quality of life for residents.
“I’m concerned about keeping Sammamish the way it’s been for people who live here, not for people who might live here,” he said.
Councilman Don Gerend rejected Odell’s logic, noting that at some point in the past, every development was the new development.
“If people thought like that in the 1970s, his house wouldn’t have been built,” Gerend said. “I’m concerned by this attitude.”
Gerend has long been supportive of the change, and he reiterated that support.
He also opposed Huckabay’s ideas about the federal regulations, noting that if development ends up being restricted, the city might need to change its calculations to be able to meet those growth targets.
Gerend, however, was the only one who supported the study. As a result, it seems unlikely that any study of changing calculations will happen soon.