Issaquah/Sammamish City Councils meet together

Issaquah Mayor Fred Butler acknowledged that it had been a number of years since they got together, because they’ve been inwardly focused, but, he said, in reality they have a lot in common.

Issaquah Mayor Fred Butler acknowledged that it had been a number of years since they got together, because they’ve been inwardly focused, but, he said, in reality they have a lot in common.

“They” were the two city councils – Issaquah and Sammamish – meeting jointly to discuss regional issues.

“I really welcome a year of a renewed relationship,” Butler said.

Issaquah hosted the gathering, treating everyone to a buffet dinner.

The meeting focused largely on transportation, with a transportation package including I-90 corridor improvements as a top priority for Issaquah in its 2014 legislative agenda.

“The I-90 corridor is critical to Issaquah and I would assume it is to Sammamish, too,” Butler said.

Issaquah, in collaboration with WSDOT, wants an over-crossing and direct access ramp in the area of 11th/12th Avenues Northwest, and an overhaul of the Front Street interchange among other things. An interchange justification report is needed first, at a cost of $2 million. Typically WSDOT pays for the report, Butler said, but the Legislature would be the approving agency.

Sammamish Mayor Tom Vance agreed, but also is concerned about the I-90/405 interchange, which he called “slow and arduous.”

Issaquah councilmember Josh Schaer said an 11th/12th interchange would take pressure off of SR-900, but it would be significant money and work. He supported the idea of smaller, less expensive projects to alleviate pressure. Sammamish councilmember Don Gerend supports a transportation package as well, but he said he’d like to see direct funding from gas taxes.

Butler shared the news about the East Lake Sammamish Parkway project, which should be done in 2016, which will really help move traffic.

There are no easy solutions, but Vance suggested the two cities “gang up” in Olympia on road issues.

Sammamish city manager Ben Yazici asked if it was worth it to have a lobbyist. Issaquah has one, but Sammamish doesn’t. Issaquah councilmember Tola Marts said it was worth it to have him (Doug Levy) down there because they can’t be everywhere.

“There is some care and feeding with a lobbyist, that takes some attention from staff,” Butler said.

Gerend wondered if the cities could reap some of the tax revenue from medical and/or recreational marijuana, while Sammamish councilmember Ramiro Valderrama brought up restoration of liquor revenue sharing, which was undermined when liquor sales were privatized. Valderrama also suggested different fines for DUI depending on what the offender was on, for example heroin, which has become what Marts said is “the scariest thing to come along in a while.”

They all agreed there is a need to band together to fight hard drugs and impaired drivers.

The last topic was the plan for a town center for Sammamish. With the community/aquatic center underway on part of the city’s civic campus, which includes the library, City Hall, police station and skate park, the next project is a mixed-use development called Southeast Village. The 240-acre area designated for a town center is slated to have 2,000 residential units in various densities, and as much as 600,000 square-feet of commercial space. All told, Sammamish has three projects in the works.

Butler said that Sammamish’s public investment should spur private investment, as it did in Issaquah.

However, of the 240-acres, half of it is critical area, and there are 70 different property owners involved, which has made it “interesting” according to Lyman Howard, the deputy city manager for Sammamish.

Whatever happens, Schaer said he wants the two cities to be environmental leaders on the Eastside.