Two Important ELST Issues

October 7, 2017

City Council Members and Mr. Howard;

This is to expand on an important issue that Reid Brockway addressed in brief in public comment to the October 3rd City Council meeting. It is one of two issues concerning the handling of public comment on the 60% design of Segment 2B of the East Lake Sammamish Trail.

To reiterate, those two issues are:

  1. The conflict between a public hearing on the SSDP scheduled to start November 3rd and King County’s published statement that its responses to citizen comments may not be available until “late fall”.
  1. The apparent absence of a venue, and possible lack of city support to its citizens, for those issues concerning the 60% design deemed out of scope for a SSDP.

It is the second of these that SHO wishes to elaborate. The first has a simple solution: do not hold the public hearing until the county has finished responding to the citizen issues.

There will likely be many legitimate and serious issues deemed out of scope of a SSDP. It should be recognized that King County, in its responses to the city’s comments, and those of other commenting entities such as the fire district, asserts that many of the issues raised are outside the scope of a SSDP. That includes, for example, most of the surface water management issues. And it is likely, given that a SSDP is primarily concerned with the shoreline environment, that the hearing examiner will agree with them in many cases. Yet there are many issues that will remain that need a fair hearing, and the county has demonstrated with the other trail segments the practice of rejecting all but the most unarguable of the citizen issues.

In addition, not all of the right-of-way is within the Shoreline Jurisdiction. That portion that is not – roughly one mile in total – is not subject to the SSDP. Consequently any issues unique to that portion will probably not be considered in the hearing.

As just one example of an issue likely not to be resolved at the hearing, there is the matter of “dispersion areas”. The 60% plan designates these bands of vegetation the county intends to create on the west side of the trail to absorb runoff from the trail. The bands will be 25 feet wide and will take up more than half of the land within the right-of-way west of the trail. Parking, gardens, and other improvements west of the current trail will have to be removed. And they extend for long distances affecting dozens of properties whose ownership remains in question. Given the county’s poor maintenance practices, these will turn into thickets of dense vegetation. One merely needs to look at the thicket surrounding Zackuse Creek, which was re-vegetated a few years ago, to see this.

This conversion of useful land into unusable thicket, and the impact that has on adjacent property owners, is unnecessary. The depression between the Parkway and the former rail bed on the east side of the trail provides a retention area for runoff from the trail. It is already performing this function. The county merely needs to grade the trail so it slopes to the east instead of the west and the cost and consequences of these dispersion areas can be avoided.

But is this an issue that the hearing examiner will decide? Likely not. The need to deal with runoff is perhaps legitimately of concern to a SSDP, but the choice between two ways of accomplishing it is probably not. (Surely the county will argue that it is not.)

There are numerous other issues like this that will likely be deemed outside the scope of a SSDP. So the question becomes will the city play a role in resolving them on behalf of its citizens? Does the city intend to be an agent in dealing with them, or are we citizens to be left on our own in fighting a county that has shown itself to be largely unresponsive to citizen concerns?

Or to put it another way, will there be another mechanism – perhaps review of the Clearing and Grading Permit – for getting these other issues addressed in a constructive manner? And will the citizens have some forum, akin to the SSDP hearing, for arguing their “cases” where the county’s responses (assuming they do eventually come) are unreasonable?

Note that the county has committed to do a 90% design, and to provide the opportunity for public review of that design, and may argue that these issues can be dealt with then. But our experience is that by that time the county is very reluctant to make any further changes, arguing cost and schedule impact, and will likely dig in its heals on any accommodation. The time to deal with these 60% design issues is before things proceed that far.

SHO strongly urges the City Council and staff to devise a plan for dealing with these “out of scope” issues once the county has responded to citizen comments.


Sammamish Homeowners (SHO)