Council takes ‘field trip’ through Town Center sites

Packed shoulder to shoulder in a 15-person van with city officials and two reporters, members of the Sammamish City Council last week toured portions of the Town Center planning area.

Packed shoulder to shoulder in a 15-person van with city officials and two reporters, members of the Sammamish City Council last week toured portions of the Town Center planning area.

The point of the “field trip” was to physically see for themselves areas that they have been studying primarily via maps, description and discussion for years.

One key policy decision the council will face is whether to restrict mixed use developments to the west side of 228th Avenue Southeast, as the Planning Commission recommended, or allow it throughout the Town Center as originally proposed. At the first stop, at the northern end of a chunk of property to the north of the Sammamish Commons, Gurol gestured north toward and across Southeast Fourth Street, where planners envision a “green spine” or walkable connection.

“This is the area really where all the action is supposed to take place. … It keys off of the Sammamish Commons,” he said, describing the potential for four- to six-story mixed-use developments that could eventually surround that spot. Buildings would hopefully be built green and have green, planted roofs as well.

Nearby he pointed out a brick house that is slated to be demolished soon. Officials have discussed using that site for the historic Freed House, which is currently sitting empty awaiting a decision.

After walking north across Southeast Fourth — which city officials say would be “vastly improved” as the Town Center moves forward — tour members walked partway up a private drive past some children jumping on a trampoline and talked a bit about the lay of the land.

“This is not Kansas, folks,” Gurol said. “It’s got a lot of topography.”

Connector roads are planned for several of the quadrants within the Town Center planning area, and steep slopes will likely cause some challenges in the northern two connector road projects, officials said.

Resident Ed Zercher, who owns five acres in the Northwest quadrant of the Town Center planning area, attended the tour, along with more than 10 other residents and interested citizens. Six of the seven council members and several city administrators also attended.

Several individuals and groups of residents have already begun planning on mixed use developments, but city officials say that in general, residential elements would likely go in first.

“There’s a phrase in development that ‘Rooftops lead to retail,’” Gurol said.

Standing among a group of large cedars and other trees, Councilmember Nancy Whitten asked whether the city’s tree retention ordinance would affect development in the area.

While it’s early in the process yet, Gurol said clearly not all of the trees will be able to be kept. “These are wonderful, and I don’t mean to dismiss them,” he added.

Another question before the council is how to treat two parcels owned by the Lake Washington School District. The Planning Commission had recommended the land be zoned public/institutional, but school officials have requested that the designation be more flexible.

School representatives have said that the district may need the property for a new school site, but also may someday want to transition it into another use such as housing or office space.

The last stop of the tour included Mary Queen of Peace Church and the south and west portions of the city land. Yazici said the city is in discussions with the church about possibly locating a parking structure along the edge of the two properties. City officials also are talking with YMCA and Boys & Girls Club officials about the potential for a shared facility on land just west of where the new Sammamish Library will sit.

Maureen and Frank Santoni, who also took the tour, have lived in a house they designed along Southeast 228th Street for 27 years, where they raised three children. Like many others who live in the Town Center planning area, the Santonis have attended numerous meetings and told the council and Planning Commission many times that they hope to be able to continue to live in their home.

Maureen, a substitute teacher for the Issaquah School District, and Frank, a test pilot for The Boeing Co., hope that the council will follow the Planning Commission’s recommendation to keep the east side of 228th residential.

“I don’t like to see pockets of mixed use,” Maureen Santoni said. “We kind of need to preserve what we have.”

The Santonis had hoped that the tour would include a stop by their property.

“I just wanted them to see … why we love it here. We’ve lived here a long time and we take really good care of it,” she said. “It’s an uncomfortable feeling when someone is trying to move you away from your home.”

The City Council will continue its study of the Town Center at a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall; further discussions are slated for May 6 and 13. A public hearing will be May 20, and deliberations and a decision on June 3 and 9. For more on the Town Center, visit