Council delays Harbor Square discussion until May 7; agrees to Highway 99 plan, coal train study

The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night spent about an hour discussing possible next steps regarding future development of Harbor Square in light of the Port of Edmonds’ decision to withdraw its proposal for the property, which could have opened the door to taller mixed-use commercial/residential buildings on the site.

In the end, councilmembers chose to delay further discussion and a possible decision until May 7, when two of their absent members — Strom Peterson and Diane Buckshnis — would be back in town. Buckshnis did call in for part of the meeting Tuesday, but Peterson was unable to do so.

Among the questions raised during the discussion were whether the council could indeed move forward with its own plan for the site now that the port had officially withdrawn (City Attorney Jeff Taraday said they could) and whether City of Edmonds staff had the bandwidth, given recent budget cuts, to take on the work involved in further developing the concept.

The council did take action on two major items, however. First, they agreed to include in future planning the revitalization of the two-mile section of Highway 99 that runs through Edmonds, similar what the City of Shoreline accomplished with its section of Highway 99 — median landscaping, pedestrian-friendly features, safe crosswalks and similar amenities. The idea would be to improve the aesthetics of the highway to benefit businesses and attract more economic development, and create a gateway — “something that would at least announce to a traveler on Highway 99 that you were in Edmonds,” City Public Works Director Phil Williams said.

While there is no current funding source for the plan,  State Rep. Marko Liias has included the project as part of a large statewide transportation package currently before the state Legislature, Williams noted.

In addition, the council unanimously approved a request from King County and the City of Seattle to contribute $5,000 toward an assessment of health impacts of the proposed Pacific Gateway Coal Terminal proposal, which would result in a significant increase in coal trains running along the Edmonds waterfront.

You can watch a rebroadcast of the entire council meeting at noon and 7 p.m. daily through Comcast channel 21 and Frontier channel 39 or watch online via the city’s website.

 

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10 Comments

  1. The council continued their arrogance to the Port tonight. Several members asked about what the Port was taking about when they stated that The Council had stopped consideration of the Port’s plan. They made it seem like this was an “out of the blue” comment by the port. Look at this clip from the March 19 meeting, even just the first three minutes, and again at 7:45 in and see what the Port meant.
    http://edmondswa.swagit.com/play/03192013-856/#26

  2. Thanks for your reporting Harry.

    I asked several questions related to Harbor Square during open public comment last evening.

    My third question was: Were funds available in the budget for staff to prioritize and develop a new SUBAREA PLAN related to HARBOR SQUARE?

    I believe this is a very important question. The question’s significance is amplified by the following statement included by Staff in the April 16th City Council Meeting Agenda packet:

    “Given that the Port has withdrawn their application for a master plan, the Council needs to discuss how it wants to proceed. If the Council desires to continue with planning for Harbor Square, this would require docketing a new plan proposal that would need to go through the entire planning process. This would necessitate substantial staff time, review and hearing(s) by the Planning Board, and subsequent review and hearing(s) by the City Council. Given current priorities and staffing levels, we have serious concerns about whether we have sufficient resources to undertake this work.”

    The Staff’s narrative begs the question – What impact does the Port’s withdrawal have on whether or not Staff has or had sufficient resources to undertake this work?
    Did Staff have the resources to undertake this work the evening of February 5th when it was apparently decided (without vote?) “for staff to develop a document with the Council’s ideas and ideas from the public hearing.”

    I will openly admit I have my own desires related to how Staff resources are allocated and prioritized. I strongly support prioritizing the Code Rewrite and I hope that the work done by Staff related to a NEW Harbor Square Subarea Plan has not further delayed work on the Code Rewrite.

    I’ll close this discussion with an excerpt from the 2007 City Attorney Annual Report, found in the November 20, 2007 Edmonds City Council Approved Minutes:

    “The biggest issue at the start of 2007 was the code rewrite; for a variety of reasons including staff illnesses and his sabbatical, little progress was made on the code rewrite.”

    I would encourage Mayor, Staff and City Council to prioritize completing the Code Rewrite as I strongly believe it has been the biggest issue for many years.

    Please prioritize the long overdue completion of the Code Rewrite!!

    The Mayor, Staff and the City Council require a solid City Code as a tool to build consensus. A solid City Code will promote broad-based community support of the City Council’s decisions.

  3. I concluded my questions last evening as follows:

    “Finally, would Port and City Taxpayers have benefited from a CONCURRENT Comprehensive Plan Amendment and Rezone process?”

    “A future rezone was going to be needed either way – Why wasn’t that done CONCURRENTLY with the Comprehensive Plan Amendment Application?”

    “Would a CONCURRENT process have been more efficient than a Comprehensive Plan Amendment followed by a future REZONE effort and/or a DEVELOPMENT AGREEMENT?”

    This series of questions came to mind when I read Staff’s Narrative in the April 16th City Council Meeting Agenda packet that concluded as follows:

    “Given current priorities and staffing levels, we have serious concerns about whether we have sufficient resources to undertake this work.”

    This Staff Narrative made me wonder what would have happened if the Port’s Comprehensive Plan Amendment Application had been approved by the City Council. Would City Staff have had the resources to undertake the work related to a future REZONE effort and/or a DEVELOPMENT AGREEMENT?

    As I researched such, I stumbled upon the concept of a CONCURRENT Comprehensive Plan Amendment and Rezone process.

    As I thought it over, this application seemed like a solid candidate for a CONCURRENT process.

    Does anybody know why a CONCURRENT process was not pursued, especially during the challenging economic times we live in?

  4. I am thrilled that the Port withdrew its proposal. I firmly believe the area can be redeveloped WITHOUT taller buildings and with a plan that would benefit ALL, not a select few. Thank you, City Council.
    Also, I am impressed that we are thinking of developing the stretch along Hwy. 99 in a similar fashion as Shoreline. It is lovely driving through the Shoreline section. I realize funds aren’t available at this time, but just taking it into consideration is a huge step forward.

  5. I encourage my elected officials to publicly disclose the following:

    +++What procedure must be followed by the City Council to convert a land use application for a Comprehensive Plan Amendment to a NEW PLAN, as follows?:

    TO WORK WITH THE STAFF-PROVIDED DRAFT OF THE SUBAREA PLAN KNOWN AS HARBOR SQUARE AS A BASIS TO DEVELOP A NEW PLAN.

    I think it is very important for the City to promptly address the above question and those that follow:

    Can the City Council vote to work with a Staff-Provided draft of the Subarea Plan known as Harbor Square as a basis to develop a NEW Plan . . .AFTER the City Council voted 4-3 on February 5, 2013 against denial of the Harbor Square Master Plan Comprehensive Plan Amendment Application?

    Wouldn’t the City Council have needed to deny the Port’s Harbor Square Master Plan Comprehensive Plan Amendment Application before working on a Staff-Provided draft of a NEW Plan, a Subarea Plan not applied for by the Port?

    Also, what exactly is a Subarea plan? Is Subarea planning something a land owner applies for or can it be City Council initiated? Assuming it can be City Council initiated, what is the process? Is it Legislative or Quasi Judicial? Does the Planning Board play a role related to Subarea plans?

    Is a Non Project Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) required related to the pursuit of establishing a Subarea plan? If so, at what point in the process must the Non Project EIS be prepared?

    I am simply not tracking what took place related to Harbor Square over the last few months.

    Making it even more confusing is the Port’s withdrawal letter includes withdrawal of the Sub Area Plan Amendment. How can the Port withdraw something that I don’t think the Port applied for?

    Hopefully the City and/or Port will clear up this confusing situation.

  6. I’m still hoping to get answers to my questions in Post #5 above.

    As I wait, I’ve been trying to determine if something like this has ever happened before, anywhere.

    The February 5, 2013 City Council Meeting Minutes document the following:

    At Mayor Earling’s request, City Clerk Sandy Chase reread the motion:
    COUNCIL PRESIDENT PETSO MOVED, SECONDED BY COUNCILMEMBER BLOOM, THAT THE COUNCIL DENY THE HARBOR SQUARE MASTER PLAN.

    Mayor Earling clarified a yes vote denied the Master Plan and a no vote was to defeat the motion.

    UPON ROLL CALL, MOTION FAILED (3-4), COUNCIL PRESIDENT PETSO AND COUNCILMEMBERS BLOOM AND FRALEY-MONILLAS VOTING YES; AND COUNCILMEMBERS JOHNSON, YAMAMOTO, PETERSON AND BUCKSHNIS VOTING NO.

    The motion to DENY the Harbor Square Master Plan Comprehensive Plan Amendment Application FAILED.

    My Edmonds News reported the following on April 9th:

    The Edmonds Port Commission sent a letter to the City of Edmonds Tuesday morning stating that it is withdrawing the Port’s application for a modification to the City’s comprehensive plan concerning redevelopment of the aging Port-owned Harbor Square Business Complex at Dayton Avenue and Highway 104.

    I’ve conducted a search for one other example anywhere of an applicant withdrawing a Comprehensive Plan Amendment Application AFTER a City Council vote to DENY a Comprehensive Plan Amendment Application has FAILED.

    So far, my search has been unsuccessful. I’ll keep looking but this may be the first time something like this has ever taken place. The related process took years and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

  7. I continue to STRIKE OUT in my search for a situation similar to what has taken place in Edmonds related to the Port’s Harbor Square Comprehensive Plan Amendment application. I think citizens have a right to know whether or not “withdrawal” was an option available to the Port on April 9, 2013. I asked the City during April 16th Public Comments: Did the City Council’s 4-3 vote on March 19th for City Staff to develop a NEW plan constitute DENIAL of the Port’s application or not?

    I’ve read many places that City Councils have 3 options when considering Comprehensive Plan Amendment applications:

    1. To APPROVE the applied for Comprehensive Plan Amendment.
    2. To APPROVE such WITH MODIFICATIONS and/or conditions.
    3. To DENY the applied for Comprehensive Plan Amendment.

    Two examples of the 3 options mentioned above are found in the Bainbridge Island Municipal Code -BIMC 18.117.030(G)(2); and the Port Townsend Municipal Code -PTMC 20.04.080(B)(3).

    I can’t find a similar discussion in the Edmonds Code. I hope I am just missing it but I fear this very important fundamental concept is not included in our Code.

    I believe my question related to whether or not the Port’s application was DENIED is very significant and I would greatly appreciate an answer from the City. One reason this clarity is significant relates to whether or not the Port can bring their plan back in front of the City Council at a future date.

    The April 16th draft City Council Meeting Minutes indicate Councilmember Buckshnis “asked whether the Port could reapply in the future using the same application if the Council chose not to move forward.” Mr. Taraday answered yes.

    This is one reason why I believe clarity is crucial at this point in time. Did the City Council’s 4-3 vote on March 19th for City Staff to develop a NEW plan constitute DENIAL of the Port’s application or not? My OPINION as a citizen is that the March 19th vote did constitute DENIAL.

    Please realize that there was some controversy related to why the Port’s Harbor Square Comprehensive Plan Amendment application was even attached to the March 19, 2013 City Council Meeting packet. Mayor Earling made a point of explaining that it was attached to the packet as a point of reference, not as the plan the City Council was currently, necessarily working on. Councilmember Buckshnis stated twice during the March 19th City Council Meeting that the City Council was no longer working off the Port’s plan.

    Again, my OPINION as a citizen is that the March 19th vote did constitute DENIAL. Ms. Buckshnis stressed twice before the City Council’s vote to develop a NEW plan that the Council was no longer working off the Port’s plan.

    I am very frustrated that I even feel a need to develop an OPINION related to matters like this. I believe my City has a responsibility to clarify critical situations such as this in its efforts to practice Open and Transparent Municipal Government.

  8. I’d like to correct something I said in my post 7 directly above. I stated that Councilmember Buckshnis stated TWICE during the March 19th City Council Meeting that the City Council was no longer working off the Port’s plan.

    I should have stated that she stated this concept at least FIVE (5) times.

    I just watched the related video and noticed that an approximate 25 second portion of Ms. Buckshnis’ prepared comments are not included in the March 19, 2013 APPROVED City Council Meeting minutes.

    I’m not sure why the 25 seconds were excluded. I decided to prepare an unofficial transcript of the approximate 25 second portion of Ms. Buckshnis’ prepared comments that I believe are not included in the March 19, 2013 APPROVED City Council Meeting minutes. Here goes:

    Start:
    In my opinion the Port was not very sensitive in putting forward this plan with a full understanding of the sensitivity and the value that this community assigns to our downtown building heights. It has been very clear to me and my fellow council members that we are no longer working off of this plan. And many of us know that we are no longer working off of this plan.
    End.

    The second two times Ms. Buckshnis stated such are included on page 9 of the March 19, 2013 APPROVED City Council Meeting minutes, as follows:
    “Councilmember Buckshnis explained her intent was to clarify that the Council was no longer working off the Port’s Master Plan. The motion simply states the Council is no longer looking at the Port plan.”

    The fifth time Ms. Buckshnis stated such is included on page 10 of the March 19, 2013 APPROVED City Council Meeting minutes, as follows:

    “Councilmember Buckshnis clarified the issue she was trying to address was that many citizens still think the Council is working off the Port’s Harbor Square Master Plan. Via her motion, she wanted to make it clear that the Council was no longer considering the Port’s original plan.”

    I hope the City will soon clarify whether or not the City Council’s actions and 4-3 vote on March 19th constituted DENIAL of the Port’s application.

    I simply don’t comprehend how it is possible to AMEND a plan that the City Council clearly represented they were no longer WORKING OFF OF, LOOKING AT, or CONSIDERING.

  9. Just found our Code section similar to the ones in Port Townsend and Bainbridge Island:

    20.00.040 Council action on amendments.

    Within 60 days of receipt of the planning board’s recommendation and the completion of the public hearing required by ECDC 20.00.020, the city council shall consider the recommendation and may at that time or subsequently APPROVE, APPROVE WITH MODIFICATIONS, or DISAPPROVE the proposed amendment based upon the findings required by this chapter and any other applicable provisions. Amendments to the comprehensive plan shall be adopted by ordinance. [Ord. 3076 § 1, 1996].

    Anybody understand what exactly has to be done within 60 days – just simply CONSIDER the Planning Board’s recommendation? Does APPROVAL, APPROVAL WITH MODIFICATIONS, or DISAPPROVAL have any time limit?

  10. Maggie Fimia’s public comment last evening included mention of the City Council’s “… choice to NOT ACCEPT the Port’s plan…” and a statement that the City “… can’t just REJECT a project …”.

    I believe “NOT ACCEPT” and “REJECT” both support the possibility that the City may have DENIED the Port’s Comprehensive Plan Amendment Application on March 19th.

    I believe the Port’s own April 9th withdrawal supports the possibility that the City may have DENIED the Port’s Comprehensive Plan Amendment Application on March 19th. If the Port believed their plan was being APPROVED WITH MODIFICATIONS … Why on earth would they withdraw their application after spending several years and hundreds of thousands of dollars pursuing their desired Comprehensive Plan Amendment?

    It is very important to determine whether or not the City Council actually DENIED the Port’s Comprehensive Plan Amendment Application on March 19th.

    Related to my Post #7 above: Would it be legal for a City Council to DENY a Comprehensive Plan Amendment Application after earlier voting to NOT DENY the very same application?

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