Sammamish Vision and Planning Have Included Town Center for Well Over a Decade

The great news that the Sammamish Town Center passed the City’s ultra-stringent concurrency test is tempered just a little by the realization that there remains a No Growth mentality in some quarters of our city that could undercut the future of our community.

The Sammamish process has been thorough and very public throughout. It is useful to look at the history of how long and how thoroughly the concept of creating a central community focal point has been part of the city’s vision and planning.

When voters approved incorporation 63.2 to 36.8 percent in 1998, Sammamish was a loosely connected collection of low-density neighborhoods. Issaquah and Redmond had sought to each swallow up half of the area.

Supporters of incorporation wanted to create a new community with its own identity and be able to keep local property taxes for local use. Many recognized that Sammamish needed a retail center to bring in additional revenue for infrastructure and other city needs.

As time went on community leaders recognized the need for expanded choices the people of Sammamish did not have: in housing, for services, for shopping opportunities and for a community gathering place. There was also the issue of how to accommodate the growth targeted for Sammamish without up-zoning the rest of the City and negatively impacting the characteristics of existing neighborhoods. 

The Sammamish Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2003 contains numerous mentions of the Town Center, with specific references in Land Use, Housing, Housing Affordability and Transportation sections.

One of the early actions of the Interim City Council after incorporation was to acquire 10 acres of land, where City Hall was built in 2006, the same year the Council adopted the Town Center Vision Statement.

The community-wide process that led to the City Council adopting the Town Center Plan in 2008 included more than 30 public meetings and numerous other opportunities for public input. The more than 100-page Plan is “the result of the planning process called for in the city’s Comprehensive Plan to create a new ‘heart of the city’… urban growth anticipated in Sammamish will occur in a way that contributes to the natural character and quality of life in Sammamish.” (P.1)

The City also developed the Town Center Infrastructure Plan (2009), the Town Center Zoning Map, Transportation Strategy and Open Space Strategy (2010-11), Development Regulations, Interim Street Standards, Transfer of Development Rights Amendments, Town Center Regulations Guidance, and more than a dozen Town Center-specific documents under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).

The Town Center is also specifically referenced and incorporated into a number of other adopted City plans and strategies including the Economic Development Strategy (2017) and the updated Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan (2018 PRO Plan). For example, the 2018 PRO Plan states:

“Sidewalk and recreational connectivity was one of the core aspects of the Town Center Plan, and trail improvements and the relationships to complete streets, sidewalks and bike lanes have been cited in other Sammamish plans… The pending development of the Town Center will create a focal point in the community and bring additional amenities to the park system.” (P.3-4)

The City also has continued to acquire adjacent and nearby properties for additional features that will support and enhance Town Center, including 20 acres for the Lower Commons and nine acres where the YMCA (initially called the Community/Aquatic Center) now stands. Mary Pigott donated the land of Big Rock Park, and the City more recently acquired nine acres across the street from Big Rock Park, bringing the total to about 80 acres of public land in or adjacent to the area zoned as the Town Center.

Projects have been approved to support the Town Center Plan, most notably the large infrastructure improvements of SE 4th Street. Other projects include Sky Sammamish multifamily housing, The Village at Town Center with Metropolitan Market, SAMM Apartments, and Sammamish Town Homes.

In 2018 the City Council approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with STCA LLC, the largest landowner and principal developer of the Sammamish Town Center project, under which the parties will work together to pursue additional desirable features for the Town Center. These include a park-and-ride/transit center within the Town Center, a regional stormwater facility, and the use of renewable/alternative energy including solar power in the Town Center.

The MOU also includes an effort to reach agreement on the percentage of tree canopy coverage that will be provided through retained and replanted trees, and the Green Spine, a public open space system to connect the Commons with the Core Mixed Use (CMU) area. The Plan says the CMU is “an urban, pedestrian oriented, family-friendly, civic center encompassing a full mix of land uses, which are connected by a network of public open spaces and pathways.” (P.3)

Today the City’s web site notes:

Town Center is continuing to evolve into a vibrant, urban, family-friendly gathering place surrounded by the natural and unique beauty of Sammamish where our residents will be able to live, work, learn, create and play. Blending residential and commercial buildings, a comprehensive network of street and pedestrian connections, a central green space and a variety of civic and public spaces, the Sammamish Town Center will provide our community with a diversity of much needed services and activities!

Town Center will feature...

• A public gathering space to serve as Sammamish’s “living room” that will host public art, concerts, and the farmers market

• A variety of new retail opportunities that will reduce the need to travel off the plateau to access services

• Safe and attractive pedestrian and bicycle opportunities, including access to regional trails

• A diversity of housing types for Sammamish residents

• Thoughtful integration with surrounding neighborhoods

It’s a compelling history and a great vision and plan. The drive by some to undermine more than 10 years of public process, development of detailed and integrated plans and regulations, and implementation of this widely shared community vision, is contrary to the long-term health, livability and viability of the community.

Meeting the City’s concurrency standards, which are the strictest in the state, is significant progress.  People who care about this community should support continuing this progress at every opportunity, including before the City Council and as the City considers the Sammamish Town Center Land Use application.