City Council moves ahead on Complete Streets, Westgate setbacks, electric car-charging stations

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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.

38 COMMENTS

  1. Now THIS is the kind of City Council meeting summary I like to see! A long list of things that are voted on and moving into implementation.

  2. The council really showed a commitment to putting the policies in place that create a healthy, sustainable and thriving community by voting to move forward with the complete streets ordinance, Westgate/Five Corners planning process and the new energy cities resolution.

  3. I didn’t attend the entire council meeting last night,so I watched the remainder on CH 21. I noted that Council Member Petso’s report on the June 14th finance committee meeting did not include any comments on the status of REET (real estate excise tax) collections. When REET was discussed by Council Members Petso and Buckshnis at the finance meeting (I was there as an observer) they were pleased that collections for 2011 were now expected to come in at near $800,000. They noted that there was a discrepancy between the graph and the tabular figures in the agenda materials (item #2.C). They concluded that the graph was correct and the lower projection in the tabular figures was incorrect. After the finance meeting I reviewed the materials and determined that it was the graph that was incorrect; this has now been verified by interim finance director Tarte. The correct projection for 2011 is $658,799.

  4. Joe:

    City staff prepared it. What amazed me is that our two city council “financial experts” determined it to be correct.

  5. One thing in Edmonds government that does not seem to be in short supply is bad financial information.

    Hey Ron W, I’m surprised you didn’t comment on the vote to move forward on studying employee compensation. This sounds like a victory (albeit a small one) on an issue you’ve advocated for a long time.

  6. I fully support the hiring of a compensation consultant. I advocated for this two years ago when I was a council member. Staff did not support doing it at that time, so there were not enough council votes to get it done.

  7. Ron B.

    I have only one final comment to make to you, and that is that you are a LIAR. I have never said that I don’t know a debit from a credit.

  8. It seems appropriate to repeat one of my writings from last week.

    “Since Ms. Buckshnis started attending city council meetings in 2009 she has made a number of untrue accusations about the city’s finances. A prime example is her claim in May 2010 that $400,000 was removed from the REET funds. I tried several times, without success, to explain to her that none of the REET funds disappeared,the staff simply loweredthe projection for the amount that would be collected in 2009.

    Ms. Buckshnis consistently exhibits her total lack of experience with operational accounting. She has had no experience with budgets or estimates. As an auditor she only saw the numbers when “they were ready for prime time”. They were the final numbers for the accounting period being audited – there were no estimates and in some cases they would have already been reviewed by internal auditors. Ms. Buckshnis is a “final numbers person” – she is very likely a very good auditor. That experience is virtually irrelevant to the financial operations of our city.

    Ron, you are an operations person. I’m confident that your opinion would not be so much different than mine if you, like me, had set thru all of the finance committee meetings with her. Perhaps you have read the minutes of those minutes, but those very summary meetings don’t at all cover the discussions that routinely go on at those meetings.”

  9. This Ron and Ron discussion is interesting. One day the two of your are on the same side about down sizing govt and all that and then then next day you are at each others throat. It would be interesting to get both of you in the same room together and see if you could actually listen to each other and build on your common ground rather than what you do on MEN. Sad to see two bright people just not willing to talk about issues and work toward common ground.

    • I would like to remind everyone to avoid personal attacks against each other. It is fine to express your opinions and to state your disagreements, but if it continues to denigrate into name-calling, I’m going to have to start editing conversations, and I really don’t want to do that.

  10. Joe and teresa no name calling intended on my part just different points of view, i guess I can agree with Joe to a degree as long as the person is 100% I really don’t care what he or she does but years ago the situation got out of control so they had to drug test, and as always it goes to extremes again no name calling intended on my part and Joe your correct the pot test really isn’t fair because it sticks around for a month where as a person using cocaine its out of your system in 3 days

  11. Mike: Likewise, I took no offense at anything you said. You spoke from your own experience and I respect that. But I think you meant to post the above comment over at the Rick Steves article. It probably doesn’t make sense to anyone just reading the comments on this article.

  12. I’d like to go way back up the chain of comments and concur that the problem with the financial numbers, from my perspective as an operations guy, is clearly all “process.” I simply do not believe that there is anyone on the City staff that would try to muddle the numbers, but I do believe that people make mistakes, and are limited by the systems they use.

    There are straightforward staff management systems to ensure consistency of reporting, but our financial records system is so incredibly antiquated (judging by the report products I’ve seen), that I’m seriously impressed by what the staff can wring out of it. We should demand an upgrade of systems, and stop accusing the hardworking staff of not trying hard enough.

    On a second note, finances are important. But, when we judge the strengths and weaknesses of a City Council candidate, I propose that there is far more to being a Council member than being a very diligent and dedicated reviewer of records. This is not meant to underplay Ms. Buckshnis’ strong auditing credentials (I applaud her work on the S&L scandal!), but rather to propose that highlighting auditing as being her strong suit sells us all short as voters, as that is just not what a City Council person is there to do.

  13. Oh Please, I came in late as I was at the Public Safety committee. I was not even there for the monthly review and to bring drama to this when I wasn’t even there is typical.

    Of course, the citizen did not comment that for the first in the history of Edmonds finance that the CAFR ties to the Q4 and that Ms Petso, myself, Jim Tarte and Deb Sharp are doing a remarkable job of working towards citizen friendly reports.
    Everyone likes to be a critic….but if those comments are not backed by fact…it is just a sound bite.

  14. Further…would you like me to comment about the amendment about the reduction that the former finance director did to the REET…did you look ate the CAFR to see that this was an exception and that the city had to debit some of it reserves to pay for the bond debt since the admentment approved by RW moved the excess REET money to the general fund. Funny, this amendment was placed prior to the seasonal payment of the taxes….so technically the 400K REET estimate was too conservative and cut into the balance.

    I can easily explain any of my positions but would rather have it sent to me via email.

  15. Ron W. I have attended some of the same meetings that you have when council members were confused about the numbers. I was confused too. But you have not pointed the finger at other council members???

    To All including Ron W.

    While Diane may sing the same song about financial reporting issues, she is basically right. Not all of us can grasp a number series they way you can, some of us need help in understanding the implications of the numbers and graphs sometimes helps. Look at the City of Redmond site and look how they display the information.

    So for the quarterly reports in Edmonds all we get is a number, and a percentage like 24.2% That does not tell us what we did last year at this time. It does not tell us if 24.2% is below, at, or above target. Graphs would show that and a complete number series would show that too. We can do better with the numbers. At least Diane is trying to do some things with the numbers and creating a better way to look at the data.

    The working capital approach is not as good as an accural method. For example using real city data, I looked at one fund and with the working capital approach it looks like the fund was a drain on the GF by $30k. When looked at with the accural method like other cities use that same fund actually added to the GF by $45k, a $75k swing. The working capital approach does not show the true activity of the fund and the accural approach does. It is time for some added reports that give the voters the needed information on which to base a levy decision.

  16. Darrol, I think you struck a bullseye. I want timely financial reports that tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in a way that ordinary folks can understand. The reports need to tell the story of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. That’s what transparency means to me.

    I’ve used double-entry accounting systems and have enough experience with debits and credits to be able to confidently say I can’t tell a debit from credit. Debits and credits are a great tool to make sure auditors can verify the financial system is accurate. But if I need to understand accounting to be able to tell how my tax dollars are being spent, something is seriously amiss.

    As a voter, I want to be able to make informed decisions. And I want councilmembers who don’t have a financial/accounting background to be able to make informed decisions. Democracy only serves the interests of the voters when the voters are well-informed.

  17. Can anybody remember what the article was about. It certianly wasnt what is being commented about. Maybe M E N.com can set up finiacil site and political reteric site and then hope fully the comments would pertain to the article

  18. Don, While I agree with you all the discussion when it is civil leads to a good public dialog. During the election period it may will serve our community to have a place to discuss various topics like, financials, levys, budgets, and revenues from all sources. What seems to occur is a topic triggers some of the same comments from some of the same people. I know I talk about street overlays because our streets need work, it does not impact the GF, and we will get what we pay for and we can measure it.

    What would be nice is for all of us to listen to the others and then try to build on the good ideas and move the issue along. As we start the Strategic Planning process I think that is exactly what will happen. We will have an opportunity to discuss what are basic services, what do they cost, do we need more or less and all that. Then we will get the chance to talk about what we want to doing going forward. Things like, Yost Pool, Senior Center, Down town play field, library addition, and all the rest. On the Edmonds capital plan we have $120m+ of outstanding projects. What do we want, and how will be pay for it will all be a part of the strategic planning process. And the great thing is that ALL voters and the kids too will all have a role to play on sorting out a plan.

    As we do all this their will be some great debates but hopefully they will be factually oriented debates that can lead us to a good plan. Time will tell.

  19. I agree with Darrol and believe the citizens of Edmonds can have constructive dialog without it always turning toward a negative/separatist type environment.

    I’m not a politician, nor have the courage to be one. But, as citizens I believe we should be driving the dialog with the candidates. Often our political leaders hold town hall meetings or citizens have the opportunity to deliver a message at city council meetings or a campaign stop. But, typically these opportunities for input/feedback are driven by the candidate/politician or government schedule.

    I’d like to suggest and offer what skills I have to organize a citizen based town hall. What if the citizens were given the opportunity to express what they believe the priorities should be for the incoming Edmonds City Gov’t, directly to the candidates? Not to elicit a response immediately, argue about current/past positions nor attempt to get candidates to take a position. But, to give candidates the information required for success.

    Shouldn’t the citizens of Edmonds be giving our leaders the roadmap?

  20. Ed, Two things that may interest you. 1. The Stragetic Planning process will get at many of your suggestions about what the citizens are thinking. That process will take about 10 months so not much will be completed before the elections. 2. There will be a number of candidate forums around town before the primary and again before the general election. It would be nice to have some real questions about issues around town as we see them now. Real questions will allow the candidates to give complete answers of their views not just sound bites. For example. Senior Center issues. All candidates will say they support the SC but what does that support mean. The $100k in the budget, Fixing the roof? Building a new center, Moving the center to another location and using the $8m of land where the center currently resides and selling that asset? What does support mean and what would the candidate actually support doing with the tough questions? Looking at the capital plan for Edmonds we have more than $100m of projects. What our our priorities and how do we pay for them? It is time to ask the candidates some good questions not just the usual ones like, Do you support the flower program that cost us less than $100k.

  21. I hear you Darrol.

    I guess I probably droned on too long when I could have simply sated my point more directly. 🙁

    I’m a project manager in real life and I believe our elected leaders should be approaching the positions they desire to achieve as a project. At work, the customer comes to me and say’s “We require xyz in order to perform this function”, it is then my responsibility to research requirements, costs and business relevance. After that research is complete, I present my project plan to the stakeholder for approval and then commence acting against the plan.

    I believe our politicians have yet to be provided a true set of requirements. Let alone, in an environment that they have not orchestrated. Exactly what you’re detailing Darrol is what I believe our candidates should hear, absorb, plan and communicate through the campaign stops, etc.

    Thoughts?

  22. At RW #16
    I am appalled and very disappointed at how you are constantly attacking Ms. Buckshnis’ credibility and putting her down thus tacitly shamelessly promoting her opponent, your candidate of choice. Ms. Buckshnis because of a lot of hard work, patience and determination has proven that she does understand numbers, cash flows and budgets. You also know that she has made you and the former Mayor look bad over the Fire District 1 contract and her leadership in crafting a financial ordinance and having it passed unanimously by City Council is a godsend for citizens.
    As Finance Chair, you didn’t care to pass any financial policies and was involved in hiring the former finance director who to many of us appears set this city back a year by not working. You know Mr. Hines was hired to investigate Ms. Junglov’s numbers (who left to work for Fire District 1) and yet, he admitted to do nothing. He then attempted to discredit Ms. Buckshnis in that she didn’t understand municipal accounting and yet, the current interim finance director is now following her lead. She has told me about the Fire District 1 discrepancy between the budgetary numbers used rather than actual, but it is too technical for me to explain…however, I do know she is right as she wanted to use actual salaries and benefits rather than bloated budget numbers.
    As another example of the former administration reckless and unchecked spending of money will come out when we find out exactly how much money was spent on Haines Wharf Park. I understand a huge cost over run occurred and the money was spent prior to city council members ‘numerous requests for a breakdown . Because of pending lawsuits, the total cost cannot be ascertained and from what I heard it ended up twice as expensive as planned and the money spent could have fixed Yost Pool and City Park. So, I wonder what else might be uncovered…. and so I am in total support for Ms. Buckshnis and her tough questions that she continues to ask. Lastly, it almost sounds that you are afraid what might be found during your tenure as a Finance Chairman .
    Why are you attacking her so harshly when all she is trying to do is to provide factual information to the citizens? She is one of the hardest and most valuable members of the city council at the moment. She is finally doing for Edmonds what she has wanted to do all along with the help of the new interim finance director: get factual information available to the public. Something that was most needed and is indeed very welcomed by all.

  23. Haines wharf should be talked about and the numbers should be available. to anyone thats wants to look, Im glad Mrs Buckshnis is looking into it like I told her in an email when I looked into it I got a I got a feeling nobody wanted to talk about it, well too bad, the city wants a levy well explain haines wharf and show the numbers

  24. Ron the mayor won’t sugar coat haines wharf if he does I will personally go in and demand all the cost item for item, remember Im use to be in construction my dad was a union general contractor they have all the cost and reports I know how these things work

  25. Let me make a couple things clear Im not mad at anyone or blaming anyone about haines wharf, but I’ve always had an interest in construction cost and just would like to see the numbers

  26. Ms. Larman:

    I will continue to attack Ms. Buckshnis’ credibility as long as she continues to make incredibile statements. Now I must address what you’ve written in #36 above.
    1) You said “You also know that she has made you and the former Mayor look bad over the Fire District 1 contract”. 6 of 7 council members voted for the FD1 contract; after 18 months into the contract I continue to stand by it without any reservation. It’s a good contract that is saving our city a considerable amount of money, with no decrease in the level of fire service. Please tell me specifically how Ms. Buckshnis has made me look bad.

    2) Interim Finance Director Tarte has said that to fully implement the financial ordinance will require 3 additional staff members in the finance department. If Mr. Tarte’s assessment is correct, my opinion is that adding at least $300,000 in expense, at this time, fails any cost/benefit test.

    3) When Mr. Hines was hired his first priority, as given to him by Mayor Haakenson, was to test the validity of the FD1 numbers that had been produced my Ms.Junglov. The first finance committee meeting in 2010 was held Feb 9th. Mr. Hines had the forsight to make an audio recording of that meeting, which I have purchased from the city. If you listen to that recording you can clearly hear Mr. Hines state that the FD1 numbers are his.

    4) I know of no discrepancy in the FD1 numbers. Again, please be specific. You mention the discrepancy being attributable to not using actual salaries and benefits rather than bloated budget numbers. Well the budget numbers being bloated is certainly untrue. A review of the final numbers for 2009 indicates that the budget was $6,796,702; the actual number was $6,968,352 – 2.5% over budget.

    5) The Haines Wharf project was done while Ms. Buckshnis was on the finance committee; I was not on city council.

    6) You say that “it almost sounds that you are afraid what might be found during your tenure as a Finance Chairman”. Betty, that comment is beneath you; it is a disparaging remark that is totally baseless.

    If you are going to make any more comments on this site I hope in the future they’ll be facts that you have personally verified.

  27. @RW, I am noit getting into a battle on the blog as both of us obviously have different facts.
    1) The FD1 contract included overtime and holiday buy back as well as budgetary numbers, Mr. Hines did not prove those numbers and I have the original audio; so someone isn’t hearing it correctly. Also it was on my edmonds news http://myedmondsnews.com/2010/03/the-recent-fire-district-1-sale-and-the-city-budget-an-analogy/ as an issue…so I don’t know what audio you have, maybe one that has been changed.

    2. Mr. Tarte has moved to modified accural standards as of year end. I don’t know where you received your facts. We are now working on the forecast and trying to attempt to move away from the Modified Working Capital Approach which has the General Fund growing from $5.9MM to $6.1MM to $6.9MM over the past three years. This $6.9 MM doesn’t include the $1.3MM of reserves for public safety.

    3. You are dead wrong or have a audio that was changed.

    4) The final salary and benefit number for the FD1 was $5.6MM (unaudited) and if you look at the MLT contract which I sent you along with the numbers which showed salaries at $4.3MM, it is hard to reach the $6.2MM figure. Yes, you are correct, the City is saving money as the cost of benefits continue to escalate and both the fire and police did not take the furloughs that the rest of the staff had to take because of this sale. Had the fire remained with the city, the would have had to not do furloughs but forfeit some of their holiday buy-backs. All this is documented in the year end ammendment that you approved except DJ Wilson as it was like close to midnight.

    5) You don’t get the fact that the money was spent by the administration on Haines Wharf prior to the amendment going through. As evidenced by the lack of communication from the former finance director which you have brought up a number of time to us during the course of the year, things might be different and we might have saved the City a lot of money since no one was “watching the purse” and so don’t blame this issue on the City Council…it sits squarely with a finance director that did not communicate and evidence shows the money had already been spent.

    Your attack on Betty, one of the most valued citizens and hard working volunteers makes me sad. This forum is not to attack people, but you seem to think that I don’t understand things…but by the way…you were the one that told me when questioning the modified working capital approach that I had gotten by balance sheet mixed up with the profit and loss…sorry friend….Mr. Hines was totally wrong in tell you that as there is no profit and loss in municipality accounting…

    It is unfortunate your sound bites continue to be based on inconsistencies.

  28. Ms. Buckshnis:

    I wonder how many people on this site actually believe that I have a recording that has been changed?? Mr Hines said at the recorded meeting that Ms Junglov produced the revenue projections, but that he produced the FD1 numbers as “he took them on when he came in”. Listen to it again.

    I reviewed the March 2010 sceneario posted by Steven David. I think that Todd Cloutier answered it very well.

    The $6.2M contract fee includes more expense than compensation. When all is said and done there are considerable savings for our city, even without escalating benefit costs.

  29. Stop fighting. Lets sit down, get the numbers as to where we are today and move on. We have to figure out what to do about fire services in the future. The mayor with his RFA effort wants us to move to a vote in 2013, one year before council will have to make a decision about the existing FD1. It is time we work together to get the facts straight and figure out what is best for Edmonds. This should not be a war zone.

  30. Ron W one thing about it There not running this city from this website Im not certain if you are aware of that or not listen to what Darrol has to say

  31. “Diane Buckshnis on June 26th, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    @RW, I am noit getting into a battle on the blog as both of us obviously have different facts.”

    484 words later…

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