Since incorporating six years ago, Sammamish has gained a reputation in its short life as a prime spot to live in King County. It also has put...

Since incorporating six years ago, Sammamish has gained a reputation in its short life as a prime spot to live in King County.

It also has put limits on the number of residents through a building moratorium, which has kept large-scale development at bay and allowed the city to concentrate on bringing services such as roads and parks up to speed.

But change is afoot as the City Council this month weighs an ordinance that would lift the ban it enacted in 1999.

“There’s a lot of market pressure that exists for development on the [Sammamish] Plateau,” said Kamuron Gurol, the city’s community-development director. “That potentially presents some challenges for [the city's] infrastructure. It’s kind of like an ostrich egg going through a snake … it could be hard to swallow.”

The likelihood of not extending the moratorium, which expires Aug. 14, has left city officials grappling with how to control the rate of growth that will follow.

“Should we open the doors wide open or have a nozzle there? It could fall in anywhere between,” said Sammamish Mayor Don Gerend.

Under the city’s 20-year comprehensive plan, a blueprint for future growth, planners in 2002 projected that Sammamish could add 3,842 housing units by 2022.

It’s already closing in on that number.

The city has issued about 2,500 housing permits for projects that were in the pipeline before Sammamish incorporated, Gurol said. That leaves about 1,300 units remaining before the city hits its housing target.

But the comprehensive plan is fluid and will be updated in 2012, meaning the city could increase the growth targets depending on demand.

For now, the question is how to keep growth in check once the moratorium ends, Gerend said.

The city Planning Commission forwarded a recommendation to the council this spring suggesting ways to meter new development in the interim. As part of that plan, 906 new homes would be allowed to go up by 2011, and larger development projects would be phased in over time.

The council may vote on the ordinance July 19, but it’s possible the language could undergo changes. Gerend said one example would be to control growth through a lottery system. Or, he said, the city may lift the moratorium entirely and let the market dictate growth.

County and state officials are pressuring Sammamish to go with the latter.

King County Executive Ron Sims wrote a letter to Gerend in May, saying he was “uneasy with the proposed metering plan” because it “might put artificial constraints on housing development,” and possibly spill housing into critical rural areas.

The state Growth Management Act, passed in 1990, requires cities to plan for growth while protecting rural areas and natural resources.

The state Department of Community, Trade and Economic development also sent a letter to Gerend in June expressing concern about the impact of growth phasing on affordable housing.

Sonia Krishnan: 206-515-5546 or skrishnan@seattletimes.com