Position 7 Questionnaire: Pam Stuart

Pam Stuart

Questionnaire

Name:  Pam Stuart

Position:  7

General

Why are you running for Sammamish City Council?

I’m running for Sammamish City Council because I believe that Sammamish is a special place; however, the growth and development in our region have many worried that what we love most about Sammamish – our great schools, incredible green spaces, and unique Northwest charm – may be at risk.  I’m running to protect our environment, manage growth in a sustainable way, reduce traffic through and from town, manage our finances efficiently and invest in the areas that really matter to us. I want to make sure that Sammamish continues to be a city that our kids can be proud to call home.

What do you hope to achieve?

A sustainable growth management plan where the city builds out the infrastructure needed to sustain our community and quality of life as well as protect the environment. Improved connectivity and safety for pedestrians and bikers by ensuring we have sidewalks and trails or bike lanes to connect our parks, neighborhoods, and shopping areas.

What are the Top Three issues you see as priorities?

  • Sustainable growth – planning and building out our infrastructure while managing the pace of development to protect our quality of life and our environment.
  • Traffic—Increasing road capacities and transportation options.
  • Finances—Practically planning and budgeting for the long term.

What data did you rely on to help you arrive at these priorities?

I used survey data, information collected on social media, council meetings and data provided, and talking to residents via canvassing as well as reviewing the city’s budget and financial data.

How would you solve these issues?

Using the information that staff is collecting now, we can create a growth management plan that accounts for sustained growth for the foreseeable future, plotting out the needed infrastructure for the next 10 to 20 years, determining immediate needs, necessary resources (space, planned funding, staff needed, etc.), and short to long-term needs. We should then pace growth based on what our infrastructure can accommodate.

Increase transportation options through increased road capacity, adding intra-city public transit – relieving congestion and improving access to local businesses, and pushing King County for additional public transportation services to support the growth they mandate.

Finances

Please state your view of the current state of city finances? (IE, are they solid, precarious, neutral.) Please state why you reach your conclusion.

I believe our current financial state is solid at this point in time. We essentially have no debt (one bond almost paid off with 0.5% interest) and our revenues are strong. However, if you agree that our we have large infrastructure projects that need to be invested in sooner rather than later, we are neutral to slightly negative in the next 5-10 years. We need to understand the list of needed infrastructure items, obtain estimates, and prioritize with the community. Then we can determine the state of our finances over that period.

Do you feel a tax hike or imposition of a new tax is needed? If not, why not? If yes, why?

As per the above, we need to understand the whole picture. Gathering the list of needed items, understanding the costs and priorities as well as grant funding from the county and state will inform us of any gaps. We are limited to how many infrastructure projects we can complete in any given year so there will be a natural spreading of costs. It is likely we will have a gap. I would prefer investigating potential debt over a new tax as interest rates are still historically low which provides an opportunity to lock into a low rate, if needed.

If a new tax is needed, what tax would you favor?

Before committing to any new taxes, again, I believe we need more information about what the gaps are/will be over the next decade.  When we have that information we can assess our options but without it, I would prefer not to speculate over new taxes – something our residents undoubtedly take very seriously and would like to see a thorough and thoughtful process around.

What are some ways our city can increase revenue without raising taxes?

Increasing the businesses in the city to increase our sales tax revenue and exploring franchise fees (like companies providing fiber optics, etc.) for companies providing certain services and utilizing our rights of way.

We can also look at other services that the city could benefit from like installing commercial level 3 charging stations

Parks and Recreation

Are more parks with ball fields needed? If yes, how would you achieve these?

According the survey, this is not a top priority for residents and our job is to represent the residents of Sammamish. I do think that more fields may be needed now that the Issaquah School District fields will be in use later by the schools and therefore less available to the community. We need the city staff to complete the proposed PRO plan as they are working through these issues and options and we should evaluate those once the proposed plan is complete.

East Lake Sammamish Trail: Only the Middle section, Section 2B, from the 7-11 north to Inglewood Hill Road, remains under permitting review and appeals by King County. This is the most difficult section to develop given the tight proximity of homes permitted by the County before Sammamish became a city. Please state the issues as you understand them and what your position is to resolve them.

First, I would like to say that it is disappointing when two government entities take to lawsuits to resolve disputes as the real losers in these suits are the taxpayers who are paying for the incurred costs, diverting funds from the actual solutions or helping people.

King County is responsible for completing the trail and there is a debate over who should have to stop at trail-road intersections. This has created a disagreement over right-of-way permitting. The bottom line is that we need to complete this trail as we need the connectivity and for the safety reasons, the stop signs should go to roads.

Developing the YMCA land adjacent Pine Lake Middle School is a contractual obligation to Sammamish in exchange for the YMCA’s financial contribution, program development and management of the Community Center. The City’s obligation is to develop an active use for the property, which is currently thick woods and encompassing sensitive areas. Some neighbors prefer a passive use, such as trails, to protect wildlife and the wetlands. Please state your understanding of the issues and the outcome you support.

I think we should hold on any action on this property at this point in time. We should allow the PRO Plan to be completed and determine what is in the best interest of the community at that time.

Roads and Transportation

Council Member Tom Odell has stated Sammamish neglected road improvements for 10 years. The City today is about to receive a draft Transportation Management Plan (on July 11, after this questionnaire is due back to us). This will perhaps make recommendations for priorities in road improvements. Until then, the only “plan” is the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP).

The TIP is available on the City’s website. Please state your opinion of the TIP projects and the cost of the projects listed in the TIP.

I think that the TIP needs to be a list of the immediate needs only while the Transportation Master Plan is being developed. At this point, we need to ensure we are focused on adding sidewalks, shoulders, and trails for connectivity and safety and necessary repairs on roads not targeted for additional capacity. I say that as I don’t believe the projects to add capacity go far enough. We need more capacity and adding a center turn lane provides more flow but does not increase capacity. The Transportation Master Plan should address the additional capacity needs.

Do you believe the City can pay for these projects under its current financial condition? If not, how would you suggest paying for them?

Again, we need to see the list of needed projects from the Transportation Master Plan and their corresponding costs.  However, it is likely that the costs for the needed infrastructure will exceed current revenue projections. I believe that now is a good time to consider a bond as interest rates are still historically low. This would enable us to do the projects now, when the cost will be lower and pay over a longer period of time with very low interest payments. This also allows us time to develop our businesses and continue to look for additional revenue streams to make future payments.

Issaquah-Fall City Road improvements were promised to the Klahanie area residents if they voted to annex to Sammamish. At the time, in 2014, City officials estimated the cost of this project would be about $23 million. The latest estimate is $32 million and this may rise. Do you support the current proposed design of the project, and how do you believe the City should pay for it?

I support most of the current design. I am not convinced that a roundabout is needed at the church/242nd Ave when we could have a light that is only needed on Sundays and for special events. Also, we should ensure that the plantings are low maintenance and do not grow too high. Otherwise, given our traffic situation, we must invest in capacity increases in these corridors for our quality of life and to reduce environmental impacts. The council should ensure that King County contributes to the funding in addition to the $5M grant. We should also pursue additional grants.

Sahalee Way became a highly controversial project, both in design and in cost. Initially it was promised that it would relieve congestion. However, the City’s contract traffic engineer stated it will not because Sahalee Way empties onto SR202. As a result, any improvements will be principally for safety, such as stop lights, turning lanes, bike lanes and a sidewalk on one side of the street. The project is estimated to cost $15 million-$16 million. Do you believe there is sufficient return on investment to support this cost, or do you believe the design should be modified to reduce the cost?

I believe that we must increase the capacity of our roads. While there is congestion on 202 currently, we must make good long-term decisions for our spending and traffic planning. Any plans that cost millions that do not increase the capacity for our few routes in and out of Sammamish are not good long-term plans. Therefore, I do not believe there is sufficient return on investment with the 3-lane proposal and would only support a plan that add lanes of capacity (two in each direction) plus the needed safety improvements.

What is your understanding of Concurrency and Level of Service?

Concurrency, simply put, means that public facilities and services necessary to support development are available at the time the development is available for use or within six years without dropping the levels of service below the minimum standard.

Level of Service is defined as the minimum capacity or threshold for public facilities or services that must be met or maintained for that facility or service.

These terms are specifically significant to the growth management act as the city is required to maintain the levels of service concurrently with new development.

What data are you using to inform your positions on traffic management?

Traffic studies and recommendations for transportation projects, the MRSC, the growth management act and other state RCWs, talking to residents through canvassing and events, surveys and public comments, observation and personal experience.

Utilities

Certain members of the current City Council occasionally suggest assuming the two water and sewer districts into the City, so that the City government has control over all operations of the districts; all assets; all revenue (and liabilities); and the ability to set rates.

Do you support or oppose assuming control of the Northeast Sammamish Water and Sewer District? Please state your reasons for your position.

I oppose this proposal based on:

  1. I have not seen a detailed business case for this proposal. The benefits and risks of taking over a critical piece of infrastructure must be well understood to make an informed decision
  2. Current volume of work for the city staff
  3. Running a water district is not a core competency of the city and would require significant ramp-up
  4. A majority of the city council will be new in 2018 creating a less than optimum time to take on new oversite responsibilities for critical infrastructure

Do you support or oppose assuming control of the Sammamish Plateau Water and sewer district? Please state your reasons for your position.

I oppose this as well for the same reasons as stated above.

Storm water management is a City function. For the past 12 years, the Tamarack subdivision has had increasing storm water runoff issues from uphill development approved by the City. Residents have persistently appeared before the City Council asking for a City-funded solution. The current Council is split on (1) how to proceed), (2) whether more study is needed and (3) who should pay for resolution of these problems.

Please state your understanding of the Tamarack storm water management issues.

Tamarack was recorded as a plat in 1964. There are 210 lots and building has been occurring piece-meal over the years. There was never a comprehensive drainage plan implemented given the lack of developer, the decades over which development has occurred, and the lack of regulation for many of those decades. Tamarack is also built on a steep slope and partially within a landslide area. Today, there are many issues with storm water runoff including erosion, roadway flooding, and sediment flow into Zackuse Creek and Lake Sammamish. These issues are compounded by uphill clearing and additional installation of impervious surfaces.

Please state how you would resolve the issues and who should pay for them.

Finalize a design and implement the changes necessary to properly manage the storm water runoff in this area. While these are private roads for which the city is not typically responsible, and concerns over setting a precedent for funding projects that are not the responsibility of the city exist, this situation is unique. Given the many years, jurisdictions, and ordinances over which this community has been constructed and the potential dangers to the residents of Tamarack, city streets, and natural resources, the city of Sammamish should create a CIP and complete the necessary work.

What other storm water management/runoff issues are you aware of?

Inglewood Hill, Inglewood Basin, Klahanie Park, Zackuse Basin, Thompson Hill Basin, just to name a few. We have many throughout the city.

Environment

Please state your positions on environmental issues:

  1. Protecting Lake Sammamish, Laughing Jacobs Lake, Pine Lake and Beaver Lake.

While we should be prudent on spending public funds, we must take a long-term and holistic view on our lakes. These resources are a key part of what makes our area desirable and valuable. Ensuring these resources are healthy and sustained should be a top priority for our community. Therefore, all activities that adversely impact these lakes should be curtailed and the necessary restorative and preservation steps should be taken. Our lakes and the plants and animals that live within them are an integral and valuable part of our community and should be preserved for our children and grandchildren.

  1. Protecting wetlands and streams.

Wetlands and streams feed into our lakes and rivers, the Sound, and eventually our oceans. They also have direct impact on the ground water. These resources have a direct impact on our drinking water and can impact the costs of water treatment. So being good stewards of our wetlands and streams is critical to the character of our community as well our health. Taking the necessary steps to protect wetlands and streams can reduce the costs of drinking water and prevent the need for clean-up efforts and costs downstream.

  1. Preserving trees.

We can further improve our tree retention policies for developers to ensure we save more mature growth trees and clusters of trees that beautify our neighborhoods and community. We should balance that with how we regulate homeowners that need to protect their homes, driveways, and other property when trees pose a danger. We also need to ensure that the developers are planting appropriate trees in developments to avoid the need for removal 10-15 years later. Finally, we can require replacement trees in development common areas that are more mature and appropriate to the area.

Is the City doing enough, too much or not enough?

I believe strongly in protecting and restoring our environment. Our citizens state that our trees and other natural resources are at the heart of the character of our community.

There is no argument that can be made for allowing pollution in any form to continue if it can be prevented. There has never been a study that shows pollution is good for our health or has a long-term positive impact on our well-being or economy.

Therefore, we need to address the outstanding storm water runoff issues, reduce idling traffic, and strive to make Sammamish an environmental leader.

Any Other Issues You Wish To Address

Please briefly identify any other issues that you wish to address.

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3 Responses to Position 7 Questionnaire: Pam Stuart

  1. Pingback: Position 7: Pam Stuart Questionnaire | Sammamish Comment

  2. Pingback: Recapping City Council candidate information for Nov. 7 election | Sammamish Comment

  3. Pingback: Final weekend before Nov. 7 City Council election | Sammamish Comment

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