After a lively debate about the best way to ensure that Edmonds can provide emergency waterfront access across railroad tracks that separate the waterfront from the rest of the city, the Edmonds City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday night to approve a study that will emphasizes and prioritizes “near-term solutions.”
Voting against the measure were Council President Lora Petso and Councilmember Joan Bloom, who objected not to the emergency access portion, but to including as part of the study a consideration of options to the Edmonds Crossing Multimodal Terminal project. That state-proposed project, which would have involved relocating the Edmonds ferry terminal south of the existing terminal site, is currently on hold due to lack of state funding. However, Petso and Bloom expressed concerns that the city — by looking at options to the Edmonds Crossing project — leaves the city vulnerable to having the project taken over by the state ferry system.
There was no shortage of emotion, however, about the need to move as quickly as possible to solve what has become a nagging worry: What happens if someone suffers a medical emergency at the Edmonds Senior Center or anywhere along the waterfront and a train breaks down, blocking access for emergency vehicles trying to get across the town’s two train-crossing intersections.
“Eventually we are going to run out of time here and I don’t want to be the councilmember that has to look that family in the face,” said Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas.
The alternatives analysis proposed by city staff to study waterfront issues included four components: 1) emergency vehicle access, 2) at-grade conflicts where Main and Dayton Streets intersect BNSF rail lines, 3) pedestrian/bicycle access and 4) options to the Edmonds Crossing project.
Several councilmembers made the case that emergency access should be separated from the other three items and addressed immediately, given that when a train is stuck on the tracks, citizens are currently stuck on the other side until the train moves again.
But Economic and Community Development Director Stephen Clifton and Public Works Director Phil Wiliiams pointed out that such a project in itself will require significant planning and funding — and that it would be better addressed “holistically,” as Clifton put it, to ensure that the city can take advantage of any state and federal grant money. Government dollars are more likely to be allocated to an overpass project that is less “Edmonds-centric,” Councilmember Strom Peterson added.
Councilmembers continued to push the issue, however, so Clifton came back with revised language that included “emphasizing and prioritizing near-term solutions” for providing emergency access issues, along with looking at the other three areas as part of the study.
In other action, the council:
— To the applause of many visitors in the room, voted 4-3 (Councilmembers Peterson, Frank Yamamoto and Kristiana Johnson against) to approve the findings of fact and conclusion resulting from the Council’s decision Nov. 12 to reverse the City Architectural Design Board’s approval of plans for Building Number 10, a five-story, 85-unit apartment building proposed for the Point Edwards development. (There was mention during the meeting that Point Edwards developers have already filed a lawsuit against the city related to that decision; we have asked for a copy and will provide more details when they become available.)
–Voted 4-3 (Councilmembers Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, Bloom and Petso voting no) to approve a planning board proposal to include a definition of “reasonable economic use” within the city’s critical area regulations.
— Unanimously approved the city’s 2014-19 Capital Improvement Program.
— Unanimously approved the city’s 2014 legislative agenda and a professional services agreement to continue working with the city’s longtime lobbyist Mike Doubleday.
— Continued discussion on Edmonds’ Shoreline Master Plan update.