Sammamish Council continues to debate goals of Town Center

Halfway through its process of establishing an economic development plan for its Town Center, the Sammamish Council is not seeing eye to eye.

Halfway through its process of establishing an economic development plan for its Town Center, the Sammamish Council is not seeing eye to eye.

The council viewed a presentation July 15 from consultant Chris Mefford of Community Attributes, Inc., which raised more questions than answers.

“I’m afraid we’re starting to go down a road without that joint vision and claim success without knowing where we’re headed,” Deputy Mayor Ramiro Valderrama said.

Mefford’s presentation focused on creating a pioneer strategy that would jumpstart interest in development by providing incentives to those who choose to build first within the Town Center confines — an area bounded on the north by East Main Street, on south by SE Eighth Street, on the east by 233rd Avenue and on the west by 222nd Street.

In an effort to promote interest, Mefford suggested reducing tight restrictions in the Town Center Plan, including reducing the structured parking requirement from 80 percent to 50 percent and reducing the stormwater volume standard from 100 percent to 60 percent.

The suggestions drew ire from some on the council, including councilmember Nancy Whitten.

“It’s clear that the measures that they’re recommending are inconsistent, contradictory of the visioning we had with the Town Center,” she said. “We’re supposed to be green and environmentally sensitive.”

Councilmember Don Gerend, who has been involved with Town Center discussions since they began in 2004, noted reducing regulations wouldn’t be detrimental to the environment.

“Keep in mind that 50 percent structured parking is more environmentally friendly than any suburban town center or development that I know of,” he said.

Councilmember John Curley questioned the overall goals of the Town Center. “We’re on a very unique island here where so many people race off to go make money and comeback and enjoy a bedroom community,” he said. “Show me a pie chart the market will race in here to supply retail to a limited amount of people.”

Mefford assured the council that if they agreed to providing incentives, reducing regulations and provide affordable housing, the Town Center would thrive.

“You can leave things as they are and and wait for the market to come to you, or you can be a little more aggressive and go to the market where it is right now,” he said. “Do you see opportunity in those people that are going away? Do you see that as an opportunity or an insurmountable hurdle? I see it as opportunity.”

In an attempt to gain a clearer vision, councilmember Tom Vance, who is also the chair of the Economic Development Committee, motioned to direct staff to present to council a set of actionable steps to support development of the Town Center Plan.

The motion passed in a 5-2 vote, with Whitten and Valderrama opposing.

Vance said the motion moves the process down the road and will allow the council to gain more information on some of the clouded issues. He said they hope to conclude the process by the end of 2013.