After several public hearings, a hearing examiner denied King County’s permit application to complete the final leg of the Eastlake Sammamish Trail. However, King County is now appealing the decision to the Shoreline Hearings Board in order to finish the trail.
A permit from the city of Sammamish to begin construction of the paved trail would allow the county to continue to connect its 11-mile paved trail system that runs from Redmond and Issaquah along Lake Sammamish.
Kevin Brown, director of the Parks and Recreation Division at King County, said trail development was broken up into five segments, the fourth of which was just recently completed in January. The only remaining segment is “South Sammamish B,” a three-and-a-half mile stretch that goes from SE 33rd Street to the intersection of Parkway NE and NE Inglewood Hill Road.
The East Lake Sammamish Trail runs along a historic railroad route that is owned by the county. Brown said the county acquired the trail in the late 1990s through the “rails to trails” program and the development of a connected trail system has been in the county plans since the 1970s. The railroad corridor is about 100-feet wide along the 11-mile trail, Brown said.
The footprint for the trail, he said, was developed by relying on national standards and would be 18 feet wide, with 12 feet of paved trail and two feet on each side for soft shoulder use and a one-foot clear zone on each side.
King County submitted a permit application to the city, but was met with resistance in regards to some of the permit requirements such as overall width of the trail itself. The county appealed those decisions to a hearing examiner in November 2017.
Because this proposed development falls under the Shoreline Substantial Development Plan, it is subject to a public hearing session, said Melanie Anderson, Sammamish city clerk. A hearing examiner determined the ruling on the permit application after receiving testimony from both the county and the city, as well as citizens of Sammamish.
On Jan. 5, 2018, John E. Galt, the hearing examiner, denied the county’s permit application to develop the trail. The Examiner’s report, which took into consideration almost 8,000 pages of documents, studies, and public comments, ruled that the county’s application was incomplete due to not depicting all of the buildings and utilities in the area around the trail path.
Some of the homeowners along the trail also opposed the county’s application because, in the years before the trail, homes and other private property such as stairs, driveways, docks, boat launches, and landscaping had extended into the county’s right of way in the railroad corridor. Galt addressed this issue as many of the public comments he received were from these homeowners.
“In many cases, those improvements pre-date King County’s acquisition of the ELST right-of-way; they were apparently installed during the railroad’s control of the right-of-way, when the railroad apparently didn’t care what people did within the right-of-way so long as it didn’t adversely affect the single rail line that ran through the right-of-way,” he writes.
However, Galt said that those issues are unrelated to this matter because King County is able to demonstrate it owns the right of way and the Examiner “cannot deny or condition an otherwise compliant SSDP application to avoid impacts to things which lie within the ELST right-of-way and, thus, within the control of the applicant.”
The resolution of the property right conflicts must be resolved in another forum, he concluded.
The Examiner’s decision is subject to reconsideration and appeal through the State Shoreline Hearings Board, which Brown said the county will pursue as the next step. Brown said the information the Examiner determined was missing was in fact in the application and the county will appeal his decision.
“The timeline would probably be late spring early summer in which would get in front of the shoreline hearings board,” he said. “This is consistent with what happened with the last phase of the trail, we ended up in that Shoreline Hearing Board and were quite successful.”
Brown said the completion of the trial will be a boon to the area and will help improve access between Redmond, Sammamish and Issaquah. Promoting access between the region through biking, jogging, and walking.
“We feel it’s great amenity not just to the community but the region,” he said.