Updated July 27 with a link to ReVISIONING Westgate Report.
The Edmonds City Council got its first look Tuesday night at a proposed development plan for the Westgate neighborhood, which reflects two years of work by the Edmonds Planning Board and three public hearings, following initial data collection, citizen surveys and meetings, and reports initiated by University of Washington undergraduate and graduate planning and architecture students.
The public will have a chance to offer its thoughts about Westgate during a public hearing on Monday, Aug. 4, although Council President Diane Buckshnis emphasized Tuesday night that no action would be taken right way, given the complex nature of the proposal before them.
The council also made two other notable decisions Tuesday: confirming by a 4-3 vote Mayor Dave Earling’s appointment of former City of Federal Way Economic Development/Community Services Director Patrick Doherty to the same job in Edmonds, and agreeing to extend the deadline — from Aug. 1 to Sept. 18 — for the Citizens Commission on Compensation of Elected Officials to complete its work. The latter follows a flurry of councilmembers’ questions about the commission’s initial recommendations, which included a $500-per-month raise for the mayor and no increase in councilmember compensation.
Regarding Westgate, City Planning Manager Rob Chave provided a detailed explanation of both the project’s history and the Planning Board’s work on the issue since 2012, when the University of Washington Green Futures Lab made its initial recommendations. Citizens who provided feedback during the survey phased expressed a desire for more public spaces and improved walkability in the area, which is now a collection of strip malls dominated by the busy intersection of Highway 104 and 100th Avenue West.
Here are the main changes the Planning Board has made after thorough study:
1- While the original UW plan called for a focus on form-based code –in which form and mass of buildings are regulated in relationship to one another and to the streets and blocks they are on — the Planning Board modified this vision so that it is more of “a hybrid approach” that includes both form-based and traditional zoning. You can view an illustrated example of how form-based codes compare to traditional zoning here.
From the report:
The overall plan provides for opportunities while not mandating that new development conform rigidly to certain minimum building heights or requiring buildings be pushed up to sidewalk lines. Nonetheless, open space and amenity space is still required, as well as pedestrian and non-motorized circulation within each of the four quadrants of the Westgate commercial area. The general emphasis of the plan has changed from buildings organized around the SR-104/100th Ave W intersection to a quadrant-based system which focuses on creating circulation, buildings and spaces within each of the four quadrants formed by the intersection.
– The initial UW report called for development of up to five stories, but following Planning Board revisions the buildings are now capped in most places at three stories. Four-story buildings are allowed only where the nearby slopes are higher, or where no residences are nearby, Chave explained. In some locations with no adjacent slopes, heights are limited to two stories.
– Street setbacks have been increased from the original 8 feet to 12 feet so that streets are wider and to allow turn pockets for traffic access if they are needed.
– The intersection of SR-104 and 100th Ave W has a significant step-back requirement radiating from the intersection, to assure that a sense of place is provided at this key intersection.
– Design standards now include a map indicating “Westgate Protected Slopes” to ensure preservation of vegetation that would help buffer the commercial area from the surrounding residential area.
Citizens who want to learn more about the Westgate project can find extensive documentation including maps, memos and reports as part of the July 22 council agenda here. You can also see Chave’s full presentation here.
While the council discussion on Westgate was minimal, that wasn’t the case regarding the proposal to extend the deadline of the Citizens Compensation Commission to allow for further deliberation. Councilmember Joan Bloom made it clear that she wasn’t happy about receiving the ordinance just prior to Tuesday’s meeting, without time for sufficient council review or citizen input, and she and Councilmember Lora Petso voted against the measure. By extending the deadline, the compensation commission will have time to gather additional information and hold another public hearing on the matter.
Doherty’s appointment also drew “no” votes from Bloom, Petso and Adrienne Fraley-Monillas. Bloom said she was voting against Doherty “because his experience is heavily weighted toward development…rather than economic development.” Bloom said she also would have preferred an economic development director “with experience to lead Edmonds in becoming an events city.”
Doherty fills the vacancy left when long-time Community Services/Economic Development Director Stephen Clifton took a job with Snohomish County. He lives in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood, and is a former manager of the City of Seattle’s Design Review Program.