New rules could help with runoff in Sammamish
July 29, 2014
By Ari Cetron
July 29, 10:43 a.m.
A change in stormwater rules will make more new homes subject to a review process that could reduce the impact new homes have on existing neighbors.
The Sammamish City Council enacted the regulations July 15 with a unanimous vote.
The rules specifically target the Inglewood neighborhood, said Laura Philpot, the city’s public works director. That neighborhood was platted in the late 1800s and consists of small lots. Philpot said the area has seen a lot of pressure about development lately.
Citywide, there are regulations in place that mandate homes with a footprint of 2,000 square feet or more to find ways to detain stormwater that runs off of the property. A footprint is the amount of ground a house covers, so a two-story house might have a footprint equal to roughly half of the home’s total square footage.
Philpot said a recent uptick in the number additional houses, coupled with developers taking advantage of the 2,000-square-foot rule (some, she said, come in with a footprint of 1,999 square feet), has resulted in an aggregate problem.
Lots are often being submitted one at a time, meaning that while the impact of one house might not be very much, when all of them are added together, the extra water makes for a headache for their downhill neighbors.
“Up to this point, it’s been more of a nuisance, but we see the potential for it to be much more than that,” said Eric LaFrance, the city’s stormwater engineer.
The new rules mean that new construction, or replacement construction plans of 500 square feet or more, must present their plans for a review of how the property will handle the water.
Philpot specified the rules do not state development is forbidden, simply that a review is required.
The rules, in general, will not impact existing houses.
Councilman Don Gerend, however, pointed out one area where it might. He noted that if replacements are subject to a review, property owners who want to replace an existing patio, for example, might be subject to a costly review process, even though there will be no change in the amount of runoff.
“I think this is excessive,” Gerend said.
Everyone agreed the city should find a way to carve out exceptions for such instances, which it will try to do in the coming months.
Since the law is considered an “emergency,” the city can implement it now and hold a public hearing at a later date. City Attorney Mike Kenyon suggested the council could implement the rules, and then make adjustments when the rules come back for consideration at the public hearing.
Kenyon reasoned that would give city staff time to consider the implications of how to make the change without creating a loophole.
“We don’t want to legislate on the fly,” he said.
The rules went into effect July 16. The City Council has scheduled a public hearing on the measure for Sept. 2.