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.

 

 

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17 Comments

  1. A shout-out to Strom for displaying solid leadership during last night’s council meeting.

    Specific to the affordable housing issue – rest assured that any new units developed, which I am in favor of because of the increase in talent and overall increase in property values it would bring, is not usually affordable to very low, low, or even moderate income households when built around transit/rail station areas. The housing would likely attract career-focused families with moderate to high incomes that would add value to Edmonds overall.

  2. How come they can';t do this on there own time conference calls etc etc put something together and bring it to the meeting why does the it have to be on the citys time,

  3. @Mike,
    I,for one, am not of the belief that the size of someone’s bank account adds or detracts from their ability to add to or detract from the “value of Edmonds overall”. Do we only want to attract “career focused families with moderate to high incomes” to Edmonds? Are they the only group that would add value to our community? Or just in the precious “Bowl”?
    That simply sounds like elitism. Edmonds is not simply comprised of the “elite”, and I for one welcome the notion that Edmonds will be a better place when the best interests of all incomes brackets are served equally by our City Government. We have a rich diversity of folks (retirees, families of all kinds, single folks). The “bowl” is not the entirety of Edmonds, though it certainly appears so if one looks at the amount of time and energy the City Government focuses on it.

  4. The council discussed that any more-affordable housing units would be smaller in size. I am not a builder, but I suspect that a building with many more smaller units would cost more to construct – more bathrooms, kitchens, walls, etc.-.resulting in the construction cost per square foot to be higher. So that concept would only work out financially for the developer if he is able to build higher than 55 feet.

    The council also talked about wanting something in return for allowing taller buildings. The Port’s conceptual proposal provided an abundance of open space for the public; allowing some of the buildings to be higher than 35 feet is what makes that possible. It’s a trade of horizontal space for vertical space.

  5. Diane, I agree with you and please know I’m not suggesting that an individual’s bank account adds or detracts from the “value of Edmonds overall.”

    The interests of all people should be served, regardless of their income, by the city. I believe Edmonds is better together when multiple demographics are included in the process.

    My point, which I agree I did not clearly make, was that the Port project would not likely be low income, but rather professionals, who would be living there.

  6. my prediction the council will debate this for about 3 more weeks or more when there all done there will be very little changes to the plan that is in place now, my prediction

  7. Does the City of Edmonds have a responsibility to employ its TOOLS of government in an ethical fashion? Or can the City employ such TOOLS however they desire, even to the detriment of a citizen or property owner?

    The City of Edmonds has many TOOLS available for conducting its business. For example, the City can condemn private property for a PUBLIC purpose such as to acquire real estate for the controversial Five Corners Roundabout.

    The March 19, 2013 City Council Meeting included the following Public Hearing:

    Proposed Ordinance authorizing the acquisition by negotiation or condemnation of real property interests needed for the Five Corners Roundabout Project.

    I strongly encourage interested citizens to watch this video replay on our city’s website. It provides a great window into how our City Government currently functions.

    The City Council ended up voting 5-2 (Council President Petso and Councilmember Bloom voted “no”) to approve a draft Ordinance headed as follows:

    AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF EDMONDS, WASHINGTON, AUTHORIZING THE ACQUISITION BY NEGOTIATION OR CONDEMNATION OF REAL PROPERTY INTERESTS NEEDED FOR THE FIVE CORNERS ROUNDABOUT PROJECT.

    I do not understand why the concept of authorizing the acquisition by NEGOTIATION is included in the heading of this Ordinance. It is mentioned early in the Public Hearing that one of the five property owners at Five Corners has already agreed to an offer made by the City. Negotiations have already commenced. Why does this Ordinance mention authorization of the acquisition by NEGOTIATION in its heading?

    The body of the Ordinance itself does not authorize NEGOTIATION. Instead it only authorizes Condemnation in Section 4, while admitting that NEGOTIATIONS have already taken place, as follows:

    City staff, the City Attorney, and City consultants for the Project have been negotiating with the property owners to obtain land / property rights. They have been authorized and directed to enter into any and all negotiations and agreements necessary to acquire the interests in the Property as described in Exhibits 1 through 4.

    I believe the reference to authorizing NEGOTIATION in the heading of this Ordinance is very misleading.

    Is the true reason for this Ordinance to simply authorize possible Condemnation, to give the City a TOOL to use if negotiations aren’t going the way the City wants?

    If Councilmembers Peterson, Buckshnis, Fraley-Monillas, Yamamoto and/or Johnson voted under any misunderstanding of what this Ordinance was truly authorizing, I encourage them to immediately take action to Reconsider the passage of this Ordinance.

  8. During the Public Hearing discussed in Post #7 above, one of the Property Owners at Five Corners formally requested a continuance of the Public Hearing to allow staff time to address the issues he has raised. He stated it wasn’t until February 14th that he was informed of the details related to how the Five Corners Roundabout will affect his property and redevelopment options.

    Why was this Property Owner’s reasonable request ignored by the Councilmembers who voted in favor of this Ordinance?

    At what point in time should the City Council authorize the City Attorney to prosecute condemnation proceedings in the land acquisition process? Is it fair, proper and ethical for the City Council to provide the City this “Tool” when negotiations related to the purchase of property are ongoing and one agreement has already been reached? Is this fair to the property owners, or does it lessen their negotiating position and/or shorten the time the property owners have to get their questions answered and concerns addressed?

    As a Citizen, I believe it is premature for the City Council to authorize the possibility of Condemnation at Five Corners. This Ordinance and the Condemnation TOOL may lessen the property owners’ ability to negotiate and protect his rights. In my opinion, this is not how a City builds trust between the City and its citizens and/or Property Owners.

    I believe the City needs to move to a higher ethical plane than this. I am very disappointed that the City Council authorized the employment of this TOOL so early in the process. I wish they would have waited to see how the negotiations would work out. These negotiations take time because there are often many details that are absolutely critical to the property owner.

    I encourage Councilmembers Peterson, Buckshnis, Fraley-Monillas, Yamamoto and/or Johnson to correct this situation immediately. Please don’t allow this TOOL to be used prematurely to the detriment of the Property Owners at Five Corners.

  9. Another point of concern is whether or not the City Council has authorized the Mayor and City Attorney to also condemn and take the private property that the City desires a TEMPORARY CONSTRUCTION EASEMENT on. This is another point that needs clarification.

    One reason this is so critical is that the City has established a precedent of pursuing Code Enforcement related to Temporary Construction Easement Areas. I urge the City Council to immediately take action to protect the property owners at Five Corners from Code Enforcement related to any improvements located in the Temporary Construction Easement areas, setbacks from the Temporary Construction Easement areas or anything else. I have experienced Code Enforcement related to a Temporary Construction Easement myself, which required me to remove portions of a building. I know how harmful this type of Code Enforcement can be.

    I hope the City Council will take this very seriously and make sure that the City does not pursue any Code Enforcement related to the Temporary Construction Easements obtained at Five Corners.

  10. Ken,
    For those of us not fluent in the ways and words of condemnation proceedings and procedures, could you say why you are concerned. Clearly you are, and try though I might I am unclear on exactly what your concern is. When a government condemns private property it is always a concern, but you lost me on the finer points here. Thanks.

  11. Hi Diane, my concerns related to the City Council’s 5-2 vote to authorize Condemnation at Five Corners are complex. I apologize for not expressing them more clearly. I will make this post and a second one to try and better explain just two of my concerns.

    First, my opinion is that negotiations between the City of Edmonds and Five Corners property owners were more fair and equitable prior to City Council authorization of Condemnation. Many property owners view their land, its shape and location as very unique and valuable. There are often well researched, strong reasons they bought the exact property they own.

    Prior to City Council authorization of Condemnation, property owners may have had greater ability to negotiate more than just the compensation they are entitled to for their land. For example, property owners may have been better able to negotiate changes to the area the City wants to condemn and/or reserve Temporary Construction Easements on. The City Council has now authorized Condemnation of an EXACT, defined area and they have also defined exactly where the dreaded Temporary Construction Easements will be located. If the Property owners don’t like the exact, defined areas, I believe their ability to negotiate change has been reduced.

    Section 2 of the draft Five Corners Ordinance states the following:

    Section 2. Acquisition of Real Property. The rights and interests in the real property described on Exhibits 1 through 4 (“Property”), attached hereto and incorporated herein by reference, is necessary for the construction of the Five Corners Roundabout Project, and is condemned, appropriated, taken and damaged in fee, easement and/or right-of-way for public purposes, subject to the making or paying of just compensation to the owners thereof in the manner provided by law.

    Section 2 does not state that the property may be condemned if negotiations aren’t successful. My opinion is that it states the following: As far as the City Council’s involvement goes, the exact, defined areas as documented in Exhibits 1 through 4 are necessary for the construction of the Five Corners Roundabout Project and are either CONDEMNED and/or reserved as easements.

    I believe the Edmonds property owners at Five Corners have been let down by the five City Council members who voted to authorize Condemnation.

    The property owner at Five Corners who participated in the Public Hearing made a very reasonable request. He humbly and politely requested a continuance of the Public Hearing to allow City staff time to address the issues he has raised. He stated it wasn’t until February 14th that he was informed of the details related to how the Five Corners Roundabout will affect his property and redevelopment options.

    Why was this Property Owner’s reasonable request ignored by the Councilmembers who voted to authorize Condemnation and remove the City Council from this process so early? Who will now represent and advocate for the impacted citizens and property owners? What motivates some of our elected officials to sometimes ignore the very reasonable requests of our citizens and property owners?

    I think the five City Councilmembers who authorized the employment of the Condemnation TOOL so early in the process were wrong to do so and I hope they reconsider their action.

    I’ll post my second concern later tonight or tomorrow. Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts.

  12. @Ken,
    Thanks for the explanation so far. So much of the condemnation issue is not obvious to those of us with no experience of it. You clearly are knowledgable and concerned. I appreciate your clarification and am beginning to more closely understand the depth of your concerns.

  13. You are welcome Diane.

    Following is a discussion of my second concern. It appears that the City Council has authorized the Mayor and City Attorney to also condemn and take the private property AT Five Corners that the City desires a TEMPORARY CONSTRUCTION EASEMENT on. When I see the words TEMPORARY CONSTRUCTION EASEMENT (TCE) huge alarms go off. I currently have a TCE retained on my property against my will. The EXACT, defined area of this TCE was retained by the City of Edmonds during the City Council’s vacation of a 7 ½ foot wide unopened alley easement left over from the City’s original plat in 1890. Under State Law, RCW 35.79.030, an ordinance of vacation may provide that the City retain an easement or the right to exercise and grant easements in respect to the vacated land for the construction, repair, and maintenance of public utilities and services.

    There were no public utilities and/or services on my 7 ½ foot wide piece of property so there was nothing to repair or maintain. The City could have retained an easement for the CONSTRUCTION of PUBLIC utilities and/or services, but the City had no plans to construct any PUBLIC utilities and/or services on my land. Supporting this is the fact the City has constructed nothing whatsoever on my land since retaining the TCE many years ago. Despite all of this, the City retained a TEMPORARY CONSTRUCTION EASEMENT on my property. My strong opposition was ignored, similar to the Five Corners property owner’s reasonable request for a continuance of the Public Hearing.

    The September 16, 2008 City Council Meeting Minutes document that former City Council President Michael Plunkett made a last second amendment to the main motion on the floor. Plunkett recommended retaining a TCE on my fee title property “in an effort to make everyone as whole as possible”. I don’t think making everyone as whole as possible was one of the reasons allowed under State or City law. Despite this, Plunkett’s Amendment somehow passed.

    It is CRITICAL that all citizens of Edmonds, especially those at Five Corners understand fully that the City of Edmonds has established a precedent by doing BOTH of the following related to public Temporary Construction Easements:

    1. The City has issued right of way permits to PRIVATE parties to make PRIVATE use of the EXACT, defined areas of Temporary Construction Easements.

    2. The City has PROSECUTED Code Enforcement against the owner of the underlying fee title to a Temporary Construction Easement resulting in the permanent loss of improvements located in the EXACT, defined areas of a Temporary Construction Easement and/or within setbacks.

    I think the City has a DUTY to notify everyone of what it can or cannot legally do related to Temporary Construction Easements. Certainly, the property owners at Five Corners deserve to know the truth about Temporary Construction Easements, especially since the City Council may have just voted to authorize the Condemnation of such on their fee title property.

    I strongly recommend that the property owners at Five Corners use whatever slim negotiation powers the City Council left them with to fight the proposed Temporary Construction Easements. My opinion is that Temporary Construction Easements can cause property owners great harm.

  14. Thanks again, Ken for the information and background on the TCE issues. I fully understand what point you are making now and understand your deep concern.

  15. You are very welcome Diane. If you or anybody else ever wonders why I am so passionate about separation of powers and the duties/responsibilities of the Mayor and his staff, City Council and the City Attorney . . . simply read what took place during the September 16, 2008 City Council meeting. That was the evening my passion was born. How often do you see a City Attorney intervene in the Legislative process to recommend an action contrary to the Mayor and his staff’s recommended action? In this case, it was a recommended action that the Mayor and his staff had been preparing for months! Duane Bowman stated during the City Council meeting that evening that the option of retaining a Temporary Construction Easement on my property only arose late that afternoon. Even after Bowman AGAIN stated that he believed an easement wasn’t necessary, former City Attorney Snyder intervened once more and suggested the City Council’s motion could reserve a construction easement. I don’t believe the City Council was ever advised of RCW 35.79.030 and/or the related City laws.

    I’ve often wondered what exactly arose late that afternoon. I do know that Mr. Plunkett’s amended motion has far from made me as “whole as possible”. The Temporary Construction Easement reserved on my property against my will has been a disaster in many ways. I retain hope, however, that some good will come to the City and its citizens related to the trials I have faced. For one thing, I am very excited that a Code rewrite is in process.

    Returning to my initial point in post #7 above, I again ask: Does the City of Edmonds have a responsibility to employ its TOOLS of government in an ethical fashion? Or can the City employ such TOOLS however they desire, even to the detriment of a citizen or property owner?

    Condemnation, permit issuance and Code Enforcement are all TOOLS of government that I strongly believe must be employed in a legal and ethical fashion. I encourage my City Council to appreciate who they are elected to represent. The Five Corners property owner’s request to continue the public hearing instead of authorizing the Condemnation TOOL . . . was a very reasonable request. Why was it ignored so easily?

    As these five Councilmembers took this action, I hope they will make sure that all citizens and property owners in Edmonds are clearly informed of all the issues related to Temporary Construction Easements. Included in this notification must be a clear discussion of the City’s ability to:

    1. Issue right of way permits to PRIVATE parties to make PRIVATE use of the EXACT, defined areas of Temporary Construction Easements.

    2. PROSECUTE Code Enforcement against the owner of the underlying fee title to a Temporary Construction Easement area.

    These are just two of the points that need to be clarified.

    I hope this helps. I’ll check this blog tonight to see if there are any more questions and/or related discussions.

  16. I just sent the following email. Hopefully responses will be received that can be discussed openly:

    To all of my elected officials and Mr. Taraday,

    I am very concerned for the property owners at Five Corners and for all property owners in Edmonds.

    Please immediately provide an answer to the following 2 questions:

    1. Can the City of Edmonds issue a right of way permit to a PRIVATE party to use a Temporary Construction Easement area?

    2. Can the City of Edmonds pursue Code Enforcement and require permanent corrective action related to an area subject to a Temporary Construction Easement and/or setbacks from the boundaries of a Temporary Construction Easement area?

    Please provide the legal support for your answers.

    Assuming the answers are yes, I strongly believe you have a duty to notify the property owners at Five Corners immediately. Answering these questions and notifying the property owners promptly is critical because the City Council appears to have authorized the potential condemnation and taking of these Temporary Construction Easement areas on March 19th.

    Can the City Council still represent and establish policies protecting the property owners at Five Corners or is this now in the Mayor and staff’s hands? Did the City Council retain any Legislative Authority related to the TERM of the Temporary Construction Easements? I sincerely hope the City Council did not ABDICATE their legislative responsibilities related to the easement term and other important issues the property owner referred to when he asked for more time during the March 19th Public Hearing.

    Please respond to this email. In the spirit of Open Government and Transparency, I hope to discuss these issues publicly.

    Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to my email.

    Ken Reidy

  17. I noticed during last evening’s City Attorney Annual Report, reference to 2 condemnation processes related to the 5 Corners Roundabout. This is very disappointing in many ways. For those interested, please see all the posts above.

    Why wasn’t the property owner respected and allowed more time when he made this simple, reasonable request during the March 19, 2013 City Council Meeting?

    I’d still like to know why 5 Councilmembers failed to grant his simple request.

    I am also concerned about the following sentence in easements that have already been signed related to the Five Corners Roundabout:

    “The GRANTOR further grants the use of the property immediately adjacent to the Temporary Easement Area for the purpose of performing this work.”

    What is the purpose of this sentence in each Temporary Easement document? Why would the City also need to use the property immediately adjacent to the Temporary Easement Area for the purpose of performing this work? Why didn’t the City just make sure the Temporary Easement areas were both large enough to perform the work without also having to ask for permission to work adjacent to the Temporary Easement Area?

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