After many months of angst over what to do about the walkway project proposed for one of Edmonds’ most scenic viewpoints, the Edmonds City Council decided Tuesday night to — in the words of Council President Diane Buckshnis — “take a little breather and figure this out.”
City Attorney Jeff Taraday was directed to look into whether the city would lose approximately $70,000 in grant money spent so far on the project design, if a decision were made to change the scope of the project. One compromise idea suggested by Councilmember Lora Petso would be to only extend the walkway as far as Edmonds Street (see black box in map above),
“That part of the project has a limited number of objections, if any, that I have received from the public and therefore seems to be a good place to begin,” Petso said.
Among the worries by citizens about renovations for the much-loved scenic walking and sunset-viewing spot above the BNSF railroad tracks: the possibility that the city will incur additional costs related to shoring up the bluff between the walkway and the tracks, and the details of design work proposed once the enhanced walkway heads east from Sunset Avenue onto to Caspers Street.
The project, which has been under discussion for nearly a year, would include a 10-foot-wide promenade on the west side of the street beginning at Bell Street on the south, running north along the bank above the railroad tracks, rounding the dogleg at Caspers Street, and finally meeting the existing sidewalk at Third and Caspers. The project design is being funded by a $159,000 federal grant; construction of the walkway is dependent on additional grant funding.
Petso, Buckshnis and Bloom all expressed concern that the project has ballooned in scope over the years from what was once proposed as simple walkway overlooking Sunset into a multimodal pathway aimed at accommodating — in addition to walkers — bicyclists, strollers and wheelchair users.
Buckshnis noted that the area is mainly used as “a park for cars” — given the number of people who drive to enjoy the view from their vehicles, and noted that the walkway as proposed carries many unknowns — from the stability of the soil to the uncertain reception it would receive from BNSF, which owns much of the property at the northern portion of the project.
Bloom went much further, declaring that she is strongly opposed to the project, given what she described as a lack of public involvement and unresolved concerns about right of way issues. “I have no interest as a councilmember in allocating any citizen funds — whether they are federal, state or City of Edmonds funds — to enhance, develop or improve property that does not belong to us and the BNSF property takes up a big chunk of this,” she said.
Bloom said she may be open to Petso’s idea of extending the project only as far as Edmonds Street, but currently favors returning the $70,000 in grant money spent so far “and if there’s some portion of the project that can be salvaged, bring it back.”
Both Buckshnis and Petso said they were hopeful that the city might be able to hang on to the grant money, but City of Edmonds Public Works Director Phil Williams was uncertain if that would be possible. Petso also noted that extending the project only to Edmonds Street would not preclude the city from extending the walkway further north at a later date, “if the money is available or the desire is available.”
Mayor Dave Earling said he would discuss the council’s ideas with city staff and see if it would be possible to come up with a revised plan that would be acceptable to the council. Any new concept would be brought back for a public hearing, councilmembers stressed.
The council also:
– Held a public hearing on zoning for marijuana businesses in the City of Edmonds. See related story here.
– Heard an update from City Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite about next steps for the Edmonds City Park spray pad. The city canceled its contract with a former vendor and is instead contracting for design work with a new firm, Site Workshop, which has more experience in siting spray pads. The spray pad is scheduled to be installed in the summer of 2015; City Park is scheduled to get new playground equipment this summer, Hite added.
– Delayed for two weeks a decision on a Concession Agreement between the City of Edmonds and Dean Parmenter/Hot Diggity Dog to install a concession stand on the right of way near the Edmonds ferry holding lanes. The reason for the delay was to further research the amount of liability insurance that should be required.