It was a busy and productive evening for the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night as the council approved a “Complete Streets” ordinance to encourage pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly street planning and development, agreed to smaller street setbacks for the Westgate commercial area, forwarded to the planning board a draft plan for future Westgate and Five Corners development, and approved a rezone of land along Edmonds Way from single-family to multi-family residential.
The Council also accepted a report on the New Energy Cities program aimed at promoting energy efficiency, appointed a consultant to write the city’s strategic plan and decided to install six additional electric car-charging stations in Edmonds (the city already has one in the Public Safety Complex parking lot).
Council President Strom Peterson apologized at the beginning of the meeting for the very full agenda, which he blamed on the fact that next Tuesday’s council meeting will be solely devoted to a workshop to discuss options for a possible levy on the November 2011 ballot, leaving no time for action items next week.
During the audience comment period, councilmembers also heard testimony from about a dozen citizens. Many of those commenting urged the council to approve the “Complete Streets” proposal, although some members of the city’s Economic Development Committee showed up to support the selection of the strategic plan consultant. In addition, downtown business owner Don Hall asked whether local businesses had been consulted about the location of the charging stations between Fifth and Sixth Avenue on Main Street, since they will eliminate two parking spaces from that already popular street.
Here’s a brief report on each of the main action items (note that Councilmember DJ Wilson was absent so only six votes total):
– On a 4-2 vote (Councilmembers Lora Petso and Michael Plunkett against), the council approved the Planning Board’s recommendation to rezone two parcels of land at 9511 and 9513 Edmonds Way from Residential Single Family to Residential Multi-Family. While there are no current plans for development of the parcels in question, city planner Mike Clugston told the council that any project built there would be high-density residential multi-family. Petso asked about the proximity of the Edmonds Way parcels to the single-family residential neighborhood to the north on 228th Street Southwest, expressing concern in particular about increased traffic that any development would create. John Bissell, an Edmonds land-use planning consultant, told the council that Edmonds building height restrictions limit the size of each multi-family unit in a higher-density project and therefore would not result in twice as may people
– On a 5-1 vote (Petso voting no) agreed to send a plan on the future development of the Westgate and Five Corners neighborhood centers to the Planning Board, the result of a several-month effort by a team of faculty and graduate students from the University of Washington’s College of Built Environment. Those reporting from the UW reminded the council that the ideas presented in the report — which included input from residents through surveys, interactive design workshops and meetings — were illustrative to show citizen preferences, but that final implementation of designs will likely take 20 years through gradual development of each site. You can see the final report, including design ideas, here.
– On a 5-1 vote (Petso against), agreed with a Planning Board recommendation to reduce street setbacks in the Westgate commercial area from 20 feet to 8 feet along State Route 104 and from 20 feet to 5 feet along 100th Avenue West. The goal of the setbacks is to better align the neighborhood business zones with city policies and design guidelines, and to also accommodate preliminary discussions with a prospective Westgate developer. The amendment is recommended to sunset one year after adoption to allow for implementation of any final recommendations that may come out of the Five Corners/Westgate neighborhood centers plan.
– Unanimously approved Beckwith Consulting Group as the consultant to research and write the city’s Strategic Plan, which will serve as a guide for future city planning and council decision-making. Beckwith was chosen through a rigorous screening process that involved 13 original applicants and about 400 hours of work from the selection committee. Council President Peterson noted that the company received high marks for its extensive commitment to public outreach, including six City Council/Planning Board/Economic Development retreats, newsletter and website information, plus interviews with key officials and stakeholders. The company also recommended a survey of students, which Peterson said was “very attractive as this is really about Edmonds’ future. The youth of the community need to be heard.”
– Approved 6-0 a Complete Streets ordinance that states the City “will plan for, design and construct all new transportation projects to provide appropriate accommodation for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users and persons of all abilities. Complete Streets principles will be incorporated into City plans, rules regulations and programs as appropriate.” Public Works Director Phil Williams noted that the ordinance does include several exceptions under which it would not apply, such as if a Complete Streets project is contrary to public safety or health, where there is no identified need and where the cost would be “disproportionate to current need or probable future uses.”
– Voted 5-1 (Councilmember Steve Bernheim voting no) to create a request for proposals to hire a consultant to study the city’s employee compensation practices.
– Unanimously accepted the New Energy Cities report that outlines suggestions for helping the city and its residents become more energy-efficient.
– Approved on a 5-1 vote (Plunkett voting against) a plan to install six electric car-charging stations in Edmonds. Two will be located in the Public Safety parking lot (for a total of three), two between 5th and 6th on Main Street, one in the city-owned parking lot immediately south of City Hall, and one in the parking area at City Park. According to Public Works Director Williams, the charging equipment is provided free, but the city must pay installation costs — estimated at $20,000, mostly in labor — and also cover any maintenance and repairs. The City will own the stations and would assess electric car owners an hourly rate to charge — probably between $1-$3 per hour, Williams said. The stations will be connected wirelessly through a company called Chargepoint America, which will receive 50 cents per charge and 7 1/2 percent of the total revenue, plus $199 per year per station from the city, Williams added.