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An Ace in the hole | Community rallies around Sammamish hardware store
With the final clock winding down, Sammamish community members showed up in full force at Tuesday’s City Council meeting to support a business on the verge of extinction.
An estimated 90-100 citizens packed the meeting room at City Hall on Dec. 4 to support Ace Hardware, whose lease in the Sammamish Highlands Shopping Center expires August 2013.
Forty-six community members spoke for more than two hours, trying to sway the council into considering expediting a revision of its Comprehensive Plan and approve a parcel of land located on the other side of the stream from the Washington Federal building, between Northeast Second and Northeast Fourth streets.
“This property is uniquely situated to solve this problem,” said developer Elliott Severson, whose land is currently only zoned by the city for limited office retail.
The developer and his attorney, Charlie Klinge, spoke of how the city could legally enter a development agreement, similar to what other cities like Issaquah and Duvall have done. By doing this, they could swap adjacent property south of their land owned by Sammamish and go forward with the construction of a new hardware store.
“The cost and design will be taken care of by the developer,” Klinge said. “There won’t be any out-of-pocket cost from the city, we just need to get to get the approval on the development agreement.”
Director of Community Development Kamuron Gurol said the city initially looked at Severson’s property in November of 2011, but decided to pursue other options because of zoning and environmental concerns. With the new proposal, the city is considering the property again — but with a tight deadline.
“If we’re not building by February or early March at the latest, it’s a no-go,” Klinge said.
The council agreed Tuesday to take a more in-depth look at the Comprehensive Plan during its Dec. 11 meeting.
“I’d rather try than let this thing die,” Deputy Mayor John James said.
Ace Hardware owner Tim Koch said he would have to close his business if they can’t find a new spot to build because of the high rent required by the landowner, Florida-based Regency Centers.
As displayed Tuesday, the loss of the hardware store be difficult for a lot of citizens to swallow.
“If we lose Ace Hardware store we’re going to have increased miles of driving to Issaquah and Redmond,” Robert Gordhamer said. “We’re going to lose sales tax dollars. We’re going to cause people to shop for other items off of the Plateau.”
Susan Byron fought back tears speaking on behalf of the hardware store.
“My son, Charlie, keeps a special box in his room where he keeps nickels to help save Ace Hardware,” she said. “It’s not just a business, these people are our neighbors, they are our friends.”
Koch thanked everyone for their support, noting he was most concerned about his employees.
“I really feel for the 25 employees I have,” he said, noting 150,000 people come through his store annually. “Their jobs are at stake and it’s so important for this community not to lose those jobs.”
Koch also made one final plea to the council.
“I wish I had some other options but I don’t, I wish there was more commercial ground for sale on the Plateau but there’s not,” he said. “I’m just asking you go to forward with a proposal for the Development Agreement and the property exchange agreement.”