Urgent December Update

You have probably read King County Park’s announcement that the South Sammamish Segment A of the East Lake Sammamish Trail (ELST) will be closed in mid-December to allow for construction to begin. Those of you who have been following SHO’s appeal of the Shoreline Substantial Development Permit (SSDP) for this segment are probably wondering how construction can begin with the SSDP still under appeal. Did SHO drop its appeal?

SHO has not dropped its appeal. SHO has appealed the decision by the Shoreline Hearing Board (SHB) to King County Superior Court. A judge has been assigned to the case with a court date in May. In late October, King County applied for a Clearing and Grading Permit (C&GP) from the City to begin construction. The permit was granted because there is nothing in the City’s regulations that restricts the issuance of a C&GP for a project with a SSDP under appeal.

At this time, there are limited options available with regard to Segment A. The SHO Board considered and rejected requesting a stay that would have blocked construction because a very expensive bond would be required with the money lost if the appeal were lost. In fact, with construction starting, SHO needs to decide what would be gained by continuing the appeal process. Unfortunately, SHO must spend its very limited funds in a manner that provides the best possible return on investment.

SHO believes that the only practical solution is public comment before the Sammamish City Council (CC) that allowing construction while a permit is being appealed does not make sense. SHO further believes that this message needs to be made by the residents of Segment A; i.e., people who are directly affected. SHO Board members will make comment, but that alone will be insufficient.

The issues under appeal and the consequences are:

  1. City environmental regulations are being broken within critical areas and their buffers

  1. The current interim trail is an existing crossing of the wetland buffers. 21A.50.300(8) and 21A50.300(10) preclude a new crossing. The only option available for an improved trail is to use the existing crossing.

  2. According to Washington State law (WAC 197-11-768) and SMC 25.06.020(1), mitigation sequencing must be followed to determine if widening of the trail is justified. Mitigation is the third step in the sequence. The first step is to avoid the impact and the second step is to minimize the impact.

  3. The AASHTO minimum trail width is 14 feet, not the 18 feet claimed by King County.

  4. The County assumed that the crossing of the wetland buffers could be expanded to the 18 feet that it desired and relocated toward the lake by mitigating; i.e., creating wetlands elsewhere. However, mitigation sequencing prevents that. The trail needs to be aligned on the interim trail and it cannot be expanded in width more than the minimum of 14 feet. A harder stance by SHO would have been NO expansion in width, but we considered that unreasonable.

  5. Finally, 21A.50.300(10)(e) All crossings are constructed during summer low water periods. Construction within wetland buffers cannot start until after March 31.

  1. From the Sammamish/Issaquah city limits to 206th Ave SE, hundreds of trees will be removed and the environment will be severely damaged. This includes a number of significant trees that cannot be replaced once the appeal is won. The damage will not happen if the regulations listed above are followed.

  2. Finally, the ownership of the right of way (ROW) for 39 parcels in this segment is being contested before the 9th Circuit Court. The railroad never bothered to obtain easements to cross these parcels; it just laid tracks. Until the ownership issue is decided, the County should be prohibited from modifying or destroying property it does not own.

What can you do?

  1. Appear in person to make public comment to the CC. Next meeting is December 6.

  2. If you have not recently contributed to the cause, please consider making a donation to SHO so that we can continue our advocacy for trail side residents.

  3. Volunteer to help SHO spread the message and collect funds from your neighbors.

SHO Board