Edmonds City Council approves 2014 budget, debates Sunset Walkway and rail overpass options

In a long meeting, the Edmonds City Council approved the 2014 budget. With no changes since the amendments brought forward in last week’s meeting, the vote was unanimous.

The budget showed an increase in revenue of $2.3 million over 2013 projections. This revenue will come from $300,000 in increased EMS property tax, a $725,000 carryover of under-expended funds in 2013, $200,000 in increased permit fee revenue and another $200,000 from reimbursements from utility funds for engineering services.

The budget showed an increase in expenses of $5.2 million over 2013. This included $1.1 million to “restart” the contingency and general reserve funds, $370,000 for engineering and development hires that will be funded by increased revenues, and $1.4 million in one-time projects such as street paving and other smaller items.

The 2014 budget will have expenses in excess of revenues by $1.6 million. However, this is possible due to a surplus that has built up over the past several years. It allows the city to do some deferred maintenance projects that have been put off for the past several years.

The council delayed action on the Point Edwards Building 10 appeal, as the attorney hired by the city to conduct the hearing, Carol Morris, was unable to attend Tuesday night to present a recap of the findings of the hearing held last month. The action has been rescheduled until Dec.17.

The council approved the city’s comprehensive sewer plan and the capital facilities plan with the caveat that the capital facilities plan could be amended after further consideration of the Sunset Avenue Walkway Project.

The Walkway Project had substantial public comment and discussion earlier in the meeting. The public comment ran 11 to 1 against the project with nine of the commenters residing on Sunset Avenue. The main concerns were that the project would narrow the roadway and put pedestrians, bicyclists and skaters all on a narrow walkway. Both ideas were thought to create safety issues. The counter was that the current situation, with people walking in the roadway, is already a safety concern. There are additional issues related to what the railroad’s reaction would be to bringing pedestrians closer to the tracks.

There also was a public hearing on a study to analyze the options for dealing with the downtown railroad crossing and emergency services in the event of crossing blockage. A lively debate came about over whether to do a study looking for a less expensive but more expeditious solution for getting emergency services to the water side of the tracks or to do a more comprehensive study dealing with traffic across the railroad tracks and implications on the ferries, commerce and the emergency situation. The debate was kind of split evenly and there will certainly be more discussion on this topic in the future.

In addition, the council approved a 27-lot plat development to the west side of Hickman Park. Council President Lora Petso recused herself from this discussion to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. The vote was 5-1 in favor, with Joan Bloom voting no.

The Council also delayed discussion and action on a “Code of Conduct” and a change in the city code dealing with confirmation and duties of City Officers.

Even delaying those items the meeting still went until 11 p.m.

– By Harry Gatjens

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6 Comments

  1. Regarding the proposed improvements to the Sunset Ave Overlook trail; the design being developed does not have a “narrow sidewalk” or move pedestrians closer to the railway. The current path is dirt and mud and there is an existing narrow sidewalk on the east side of the street. the proposed new path is a minimum 10 feet wide and would put users further from the embankment edge and the railway. You will note most of the opposition is from homeowners who do not want to share the public space with users from other parts of town. Hopefully some area users that want the path to be improved will attend the next public meeting currently scheduled for December 18. Contact the city for verification of the public meeting date and time.

  2. Hey Ben, if they are not at the meeting, one can safely assume they don’t care.

  3. Edmonds is a quaint town. Why don’t we have more Pedestrian only streets, as they do in many large towns in Europe? What if we make Sunset Avenue a Pedestrian only street? Instead of spending a lot of dollars on a “walkway”, let the whole street be a “walkway” and put in more benches facing the water. And like Europe, let it be family friendly including our pets. With huge ‘on-the-spot fines for not picking up after them or not being on a leash as is the case at Seattle’s Greenlake.

  4. The pedestrian-only streets in European cities are most often streets with retail businesses.

  5. May be time to look at the 4th Avenue corridor again?

  6. I would like to clarify how the people who live on Sunset Avenue feel about the Sunset Avenue Overlook Trail project. All the residents gladly share this whole street with all of the people who come down to enjoy it every day. Not one resident during any of these meetings has complained about the number of people who come to this street to enjoy a wonderful walk and the natural beauty. Living on Sunset Avenue is knowing that you will be sharing this street with residents of Edmonds and outside the community. Our primary concern is the traffic congestion that will result from this project. If anyone has walked down this street recently or driven down it, you can see all the work trucks from new construction and utility work that are causing traffic congestion. If you narrow the street with a 12 foot walkway, a 2 foot buffer zone, and 8 foot parallel parking spaces when most of the street is only 30 feet wide, there will be a very narrow driving lane (approximately 8 foot driving lane) which will have to be shared with bicycles. Our fear is that an 8 foot road will limit access for utility and emergency vehicles and that it will impede traffic flow.

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