Whitten answers issues questionnaire

General Information

Name: Nancy Whitten

1. City Council Position Sought:        Position 2

2. Neighborhood you live in: Pine Lake

3. General area you live in: (e.g., SE 20th St. and 212th Ave. SE.)  By Pine Lake Park

4. Current or Previous positions in city government (and dates).   Sammamish City Council 2004-current; Suburban Cities alternate to the King County Growth Management PC, 2004-05; Suburban Cities alternate to the Puget Sound Regional Council Growth Management PB, 2006-10; City of Sammamish representative to Suburban City Assn., 2005-10.

5. Current or Previous positions in community organizations (and dates): City representative to Issaquah School Bond Committee about 2006; Officer of Pine Lake Community Club Board in the 80’s and part of 90’s; Community activist 1985- 1996 participating as a volunteer in neighborhood appeals seeking mitigations of development for impacts to water quality, traffic and safety of children walking to school.

Your Campaign

6. Why are you running for election (or re-election)?  A – I’m running because of my concern that as we continue to accommodate growth required by state mandate, we continue to preserve our environment and the natural beauty of our city, while respecting rights of property owners,.

7. Please name succinctly three or four priorities of your campaign.         A – Priority (i): Protecting the environment while respecting property rights; Priority (ii): Putting an affordable community / aquatic center plan to a public vote; Priority (iii): Jump-starting/developing the Town Center; Priority (iv): Being fiscally conservative while accomplishing community needs and desires

8. Please outline in 100 words or less how you intend to pursue and accomplish each of your priorities.

Priority (i): Adopt Low Impact Development code. Making equitable fixes, continue our environmental codes assuring our city’s natural beauty and the quality of life in Sammamish.

Priority (ii): Define for vote an affordable Community Center. Look at partnering; eliminate high cost features (e.g. competitive lap pool); solicit public input on sites.

Priority (iii): Consider Local Improvement District for financing infrastructure.  Phase-in structured parking. Keep mandate for 10% affordable housing, shifting density bonuses to incentize other infrastructure improvements.

Priority (iv): Scrutinize expenditures, asking: Can we reduce costs while achieving our goals? Explore revenue sources, like user fees, local improvement district financing.

9. What community groups, key citizens or business interests support or have endorsed your campaign? (Include newspaper endorsements, if any at this time, and other endorsements.) A – Cascade Bicycle Club.  With this exception I have not asked for authorization to use names for endorsements.  Contributors to my campaign fund are disclosed in reports filed with the Public Disclosure Commission.

10. How has the Municipal League rated your candidacy? A – I am informed the ML is not rating Sammamish candidates this time.

11. At this juncture, how much money have your raised? A – About $1,300.

Issues: keep your answers to 100 words or less.

12. What do you consider to be the major issues facing Sammamish during 2012-2014? And from 2015-2016? A – Please see my response to Question 7.

13. What are your solutions, at this stage, for these issues?  A – Please see my response to Question 8.

Town Center

14. The City developed a Town Center plan that at this point has not proceeded to development. Why do you think this is?  A – TC has not proceeded to development because of recession, lack of commercial financing, general stoppage of new construction, and closed businesses every where.  There’s a recent problem in getting traditional federally backed financing for buyers of residential condo units in mixed-use developments with over 20% commercial.

Even assuming good economic conditions, speculatively some projects might have been built, but others would probably not have been built for a variety of reasons, including the possibility of unrealistic expectations of some landowners as to land prices and the perceived cost of the totality of requirements and conditions a developer must meet.

15. How would you revise (if you would) or “kick-start” the Town Center to proceed with development? A-   See answers to 16, 17, 18 below.

16. What are your major concerns about the Town Center? (e.g., feasible or not feasible plan; infrastructure requirements; affordable housing requirements/options; environmental requirements; etc.)  A –Developers need to be assured of a sufficient “bottom line” profit to make it worthwhile to proceed.  While increasing density could help the developers’ bottom line, overall density is capped by limitations of our infrastructure (e.g. road capacity) and legal concurrency rules.  While necessary or desirable to achieve our vision for the Town Center, development conditions and regulations, such as 20% affordable housing provisions, and 80% structured parking, increase costs and negatively impair the developers’ bottom line.

17. How would you “fix” those issues addressed in #16? A –

(i) Consider density fix by:

(a)     Minimizing traffic from TC and need for increased road capacity (authorizing more density under legal concurrency standards) via concept of intra-city public transit, in partnership with schools, Issaquah, Redmond, or Microsoft;

(b)     Making yet unidentified infrastructure improvements; e.g., roundabouts on 228th;

(c)     Possible density shifting to dense mixed use areas in center if fringe area owners prefer exclusion and lines could be intelligently redrawn.

(ii) Revisit development requirements and consider:

(a)     Local Improvement District infrastructure financing;

(b)     Phasing structured parking;

(c)     Keeping 10% affordable housing mandate;

(d)     Shifting density bonuses to incentize other infrastructure improvements.

 

18. Is the size of the Town Center (600,000sf of commercial/retail and 2,000-2,500 residential units) about right, too small or too large? If too small or too large, what size do you believe is correct?  A – We’re probably just about at or slightly over the maximum size,  compelled by a limited ability to make improvements to increase road capacity to meet legal concurrency requirements and by other infrastructure limitations.  Additional density might be accommodated if as yet unidentified infrastructure improvements were made increasing road capacity, or traffic from TC is minimized.  Density allocations could be shifted if some owners want exclusion from the TC and the TC boundaries could be intelligently redrawn.

Community Center

The 2012 City Council will have to decide whether to send the current concept to the voters for a $64 million bond issue.  A – This assumes that the Council will put a $64 million dollar project to the voters, and I do not believe this will happen.

19. Do you favor the current concept? Explain why or why not.  A – Although as a plan unrelated to cost, the current concept embodies the hopes and dreams of our citizens and has been beautifully drawn up, it does not work for our community because of excessive operating and capital costs.  Citizens need to vote to approve or disapprove a plan which is affordable to our community in terms of both capital and operating costs.  The task of the council with public input BEFORE A VOTE will be to whittle down the proposed project to be put before the voters to something that is affordable.

20. Is the proposed location in the Sammamish Commons the best location? If not, where do you think it should be and why? A – The best location independent of infrastructure costs is probably by the library or somewhere in the TC.  There would be a synergy created by having the library, community center and our Commons park in one place surrounded by retail and restaurants.  However, the $16-21 million cost for structured parking and road improvements for the TC location suggests we should be open to looking at other sites without such high infrastructure costs, such as the YMCA site by the QFC.  We should seek public input about such sites, before finalizing a plan to be submitted for voter decision.

21. Is the City’s current approach to have this be entirely a city-owned facility the best approach or should a public-private partnership be pursued (e.g., with the YMCA)? Explain your position.  A – I believe in partnerships.  They have worked well for our community to date (ball fields at school sites, new teen center at the old library).  I support reviewing a partnership, particularly with the YMCA, which has the expertise to assure capital and operating cost controls and the experience to assure effective management for our community.  It is possible that the city parks department might operate, or find another partner to operate, some of the potential areas of a facility not found in the typical Y, for example, meeting rooms, and community kitchen and banquet facilities.

Parks

22. The Parks Commission and City Staff propose development of the Lake Sammamish property owned by the City into a park (it is “raw land” now). Do you favor this plan? Please explain your position.  A – I favor those parts of the waterfront park (called the Sammamish Landings) plan, which provide for the minimum improvements necessary to get the park open to the public with access to the water.  I perceive the comprehensive master plan for the waterfront park as being too much:  too much developed beach, too much pavement, too much parking, too much cost.

23. If you do not favor the current lakefront plan, what do you propose instead?  A – See 22 above.  We should review the master plan for the waterfront park in context of the goals of the new PRO PARKS Plan underway, and a comprehensive review of all our parks projects and the costs for them and their affordability in view of our approaching cross-over point.

24. Are there adequate sports fields now or under development or does the City need more? If more are needed, how would you fund this need?  A – With the new sports field at ELHS, we’re close.  We have regional leagues.  We need an assessment on what would be an equitable proportion of ball-fields Sammamish should provide, given the number of players Sammamish has in each league v. players from outside Sammamish and the number of fields they should provide v. what we should provide.  We should also be asking whether some of those additional fields should be the far less costly, natural turf, unlighted fields usable by younger teams who have less impact on the fields and don’t need artificial turf.

Roads, Sidewalks/paths and Connectivity

25. Sammamish has deferred for many years further revisions to East Lake Sammamish Parkway. Is this a correct or incorrect decision in your view? Explain your position.  A – I believe further revisions to the ELSP parkway should be removed from the City’s transportation improvement plans, but before taking such action we need to address level of service issues under our concurrency requirements to avoid a potential shut down of development.

26. In your view, what are the priority road improvements for the City? (Name the roads and what you believe is required for them.)  A – We need to improve: Iss. Pine Lake road to accommodate pathways, bike lanes and turn lanes at key places, like the Montessori school near 32nd;  a pathway, bike lanes, turn lanes and some intersection improvements (e.g., traffic signals) on Sahalee and north 228th Ave. from NE 25th northward; missing links for a pathway, bike lanes and possible turn lanes on 212 and on 244th between SE 24th and SE 32nd/Iss. Beaver Lake Road.

26. Sammamish continues to have a lack of sidewalks and/or walking paths, a left-over from unincorporated King County. Where do you see the greatest need for sidewalks or walking paths?  A – Please see answer to immediately preceding question.

27. What do you believe is the balance between the requirements for sidewalks or walking paths and road improvements? A –  I favor our present program, focused on providing walking paths and road improvements on main connector streets.  I believe we could get more bang for our buck if we created a program which would permit neighborhoods who wish for improvements on neighborhood streets to form local improvement districts to fund them.  Perhaps there could be some matching city funds to provide an incentive for the neighborhoods to proceed.

28. There are road barricades throughout the City that inhibit connectivity, forcing traffic to a few through-roads. On the other hand, these barricades have historical precedence dating to unincorporated times and provide for neighborhoods protected from through traffic. Please explain your philosophy of this controversial issue. A-  Some barricades have historical significance, while others are a result of recent development coming along at different times.  While I support the concept of connectivity, connectivity is trumped in my book by safety considerations.  Examples:  There was a barricade at SE 32nd west of 228th.  As development continued to occur, a through street was paved with an east and west portion divided by a barricade.  As more development occurred, sidewalks and other improvements were made along portions of it, reducing the improvements that were necessary to make the road safe.

29. What neighborhood barricades are, in your view, the ones that should not be removed? A- I’d need additional input from residents, staff and information from safety experts and about costs of recommended improvements to take a final position.  Based on information I have to date, I have serious doubts that the north end road barricades could be removed and the road made safe within reasonable financial constraints (steep grades, sharp turns, reversed banking, line of sight issues). Similarly, it appears the costs to make necessary improvements before the barricades between Trossachs and Beaver Lake Drive could be safely removed are prohibitive —in multimillions, and it might be decades, if at all, before necessary safety improvements occur.

30. What neighborhood barricades are, in your view, the ones that might be at the top of the list for removal?   A – SE 32nd.

31. How would you balance the desires for connectivity against the neighborhood safety concerns?  A –  See above.  Safety trumps connectivity.

Environment

Sammamish has some of the most environmentally sensitive areas in King County. These areas include Lake Sammamish, Beaver Lake, Pine Lake, Laughing Jacobs Lake and all their respective creeks and tributaries; steep slopes; erosion hazard areas; and wetlands.

To protect these environment concerns, the City has adopted a Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO), updated the Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) and adopted a voluntary Low Impact Development (LID) ordinance. Many of the regulations and standards to be met are required by State Law. The CAO and SMP are particularly restrictive and subject to State oversight.

32. Do you believe the CAO is an appropriate balance of State requirements and property rights? Explain your position. A – When I review our environmental codes, I consider the benefits to be achieved for the environment v. the burden to the property owners and then try to balance.  This means considering factors, like other less onerous, alternatives, the scientific bases for the proposed provisions, community desires and ultimately, whether the benefit expected is great enough to justify the extent of the burden on the property owner. With some possible fixes for fairness, the CAO, adopted after extensive public input from all sides and careful consideration of available science, reflects a good balance between environmental protection and property rights.

33. Do you feel the SMP is an appropriate balance of State requirements and property rights? Explain your position.  A – Some things I liked (e.g., 80% tree retention on Pine and Beaver Lakes; also decision in favor of existing homeowners who couldn’t meet proposed code revisions not to make their properties non-conforming), some I didn’t (e.g., State Ecology’s requested unreasonable changes for same dock standards for Pine and Beaver Lakes as Lake Samm).  I looked for balance: Whether the expected benefits for the environment justified the burdens to the homeowners, and in this case, did we do enough?  If on balance, all things were equal, I favored the environment.  Overall, SMP could have been better balanced. Ecology limited some choices.

34. The State eventually will require Sammamish to adopt mandatory LID regulations. The City already adopted mandatory LID for the Town Center. Do you believe these are appropriate or another example of over-regulation? What, if any, changes might you support?  A – In this question “LID” means Low Impact Development.  I support a mandatory Low Impact Development program where it is suitable (including consideration of cost).  I think we should start the process of considering how to accomplish a Low Impact Development program as soon as possible so we have time to get all of our residents informed and involved and to shape a program that is “right” for our community and our property owners before we have to meet a state time deadline on LID.  This is an area where one size does NOT fit all.

Fiscal Concerns

Sammamish has nearly total reliance on property taxes and building permit fees to support its operations. There is a general consensus that this reliance must be diversified.

Because of the recession that began in late 2008, Sammamish has undertaken cost-cutting, restrained spending, deferred some road capital projects yet it is considering a $64 million community center and whether to financially contribute to “kick-start” the Town Center. Sammamish will also have to contribute its fair share to roadway improvements for the Town Center once development begins, but this will only be a portion of the funding required (with developers required to pick up their fair share).

To so-called “cross-over” point where expenses exceed revenues has moved “to the right” but based on current conditions will be reached within the four year term of those elected in November.

35. What are your views of intelligent diversification of revenue to reduce reliance on property taxes and building permits? A – During this economic downturn, cities like Kirkland, Issaquah and Redmond with lots of commercial development and well diversified revenue streams, have been in far worse shape than Sammamish, undermining the argument Sammamish needs diversification of revenue streams.  We could look at incorporating Local Improvement District financing for some infrastructure improvements, and shifting to or increasing user fees.

36. How do you balance the need for fiscal conservatism with the goals of funding a Town Center, a Community Center, roads/sidewalks/walking paths and parks? A – We incorporated for quality of life reasons, to control our destiny and spend our tax dollars locally on making those changes that make a difference.    For TC, see answers to Questions 16-18. For community center,  see answers to 19-21.  Roads, see answers to 25-27. Sidewalks and walking paths should remain a priority.  For parks, shrink or defer parks capital plans on expensive projects, like phase 2 of the water front park plan, phase 2 of Beaver Lake Park Plan, phase 2 of Evans Creek Preserve plan, defer development of the 29 acre Soaring Eagle Park parcel.

37. Do you believe implementation of a utility tax will be required in the next four years either because of the cross-over point or to fund those goals outlined in #36?  A – No, not required but a possible option to consider placing before voters for their decision to accomplish things like paying for an affordable community-aquatic center.

38. Do you believe bond issues will be required to fund those goals in #36? A – No, not required but a possible option to consider placing before voters for their decision to accomplish things like paying for an affordable community-aquatic center.

39. Do you believe that special, taxing Local Improvement Districts will be necessary to fund the goals outlined in #36?   A – Probably, Local Improvement Districts might be necessary to fund some of the town center infrastructure, including some of the associated road, stormwater, parking and other infrastructure projects. Local Improvement District financing could be used outside the TC for infrastructure improvements in areas where that portion of community to be assessed by the LID would be particularly benefited rather than community as a whole.   (Ex., specific neighborhood sidewalk or repaving projects.)

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