Council extends to next week discussion on Harbor Square master plan application
Updated to reflect 5 Corners Roundabout property acquisition vote
By Harry Gatjens
The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night spent two hours on the Port of Edmonds Master Plan Application that would open the door to major changes for the Harbor Square Business Complex, but still has several hours of discussion to go before anything will be voted on.
The discussion began with a proposal from Councilmember Diane Buckschnis to change the plan’s focus from what was submitted by the Port. Instead, Buckshnis said, the council should concentrate on a proposal prepared by City of Edmonds staff to reflect changes requested by councilmembers following the last two public hearings on the plan.
After extensive discussion, the proposal was approved 5-2 with Council President Lora Petso and Councilmember Joan Bloom opposed, stating they wanted to hear the staff’s presentation regarding the new plan before proceeding.
Buckshnis pointed out that the vote was not to approve the staff’s recommendations, but to distinguish the staff plan from that submitted by the Port.” I just want to make it clear that we are not working with the Port’s plan,” she said.
The council then moved to examining a city staff-prepared chart that addressed council issues with the plan and possible solutions. A copy of the chart is included here.
The Council got through the first two pages of the five-page chart Tuesday and will take up the remaining three pages next week. The items covered tonight were perhaps the most controversial including the first one: whether to include residential as part of the Harbor Square plan.
Bloom was adamant that a residential component did not complement the idea of making any future Harbor Square project a “destination,” and also expressed concerns about the ability to incorporate residential units that would be both safe and cost-effective.
Other councilmembers discussed how “affordable” housing was desirable and it would be quite beneficial to be include as part of the plan, which led to heated debate. That discussion was finally resolved when Councilmember Strom Peterson pointed out that no matter what was included in the plan, nothing could be built that didn’t meet with city’s building codes. Even if residential was included in the plan, no units could be built that were unsafe, Peterson noted.
The next discussion revolved around proposed building heights. Buckshnis said that while she did not believe in allowing height exemptions for monetary reasons, she would be open to trading increase heights for perhaps a cash contribution toward maintaining the marsh. This led to a lively discussion regarding height exemptions as a trade out for certain other public amenities.
Bloom maintained that the citizens of Edmonds have spoken and don’t want taller buildings under any circumstances. Council President Petso agreed that no buildings should exceed the city’s current 35-foot height limit.
The compromise was to reduce the Port’s request of 55 feet to 45 feet and then only in exchange for certain public amenities.
The next discussion revolved around setbacks, buffers and environmental issues. This was resolve relatively quickly as Buckshnis was satisfied that any proposed plan was subject to both the “critical areas” portion of the Growth Management Act and the Shoreline Master Plan, and these protections should be sufficient.
Finally, the council addressed how to incorporate a Harbor Square Development Plan (HSDP) into the City’s Comprehensive Plan, and whether it is best to do this by referencing the HSDP in the city’s comprehensive plan or by incorporating it directly into the city’s Comprehensive Plan. Pros and cons were identified for both methods, and the council agreed that further study will be required.
After spending two hours on this subject, councilmembers decided to put on hold the remaining discussions until next week.
In other actions, the council:
– approved by a 5-2 vote an ordinance allowing for acquisition of property for the Five Corners Roundabout, with Councilmembers Bloom and Petso voting against.
– voted to amend the budget to allow an increase in Parks Department staff. It has been found that the cuts instituted for this year’s budget were perhaps too severe and have hampered the Department’s ability to function efficiently. A position that was cut to one half time will be restored to full time.