Edmonds City Council delays action on Westgate zoning; approves new meeting format and formula for judge’s pay

City planner Kernan Lien discusses the evolution of subdivisions over the years in Edmonds.

At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, planner Kernen Lien discusses the evolution of subdivisions over the years in Edmonds.

By design, there was lots of talk and little action at Tuesday night’s Edmonds City Council meeting. Councilmembers delayed taking action on possible zoning changes for the Westgate neighborhood commercial area so they could allocate more staff time to a presentation regarding the city’s Shoreline Master Program, which will be the subject of a public hearing at the Sept. 16 council meeting.

That lengthy Shoreline Master Program presentation included a discussion regarding a proposed Interim Urban Mixed Use IV designation, which would prohibit residential development within shoreline jurisdiction around Edmonds Marsh and establish a 150-foot setback. City Planner Kernen Lien noted that staff had concerns about the 150-foot setback as it could limit future development of existing businesses at the adjacent Harbor Square Business Complex. For example, Lien said, the recent addition of a silo to American Brewing couldn’t have occurred under the proposed setback. Instead, staff is recommending that the setbacks be limited to 50 feet.

The other discussion involved the legal status of existing property lots and what happens if a lot is developed (or redeveloped) if it hasn’t first been legally created through the subdivision process. Lien noted that recently, there have been a number of properties where the legal status of the lot is in question and property owners have not been able to move forward with development proposals. The City of Edmonds’ definition of lot does not provide a clear criteria for determining legal lot status, he said, noting that this issue is not likely to go away as properties continue to be developed or redeveloped.

The council will hold a public hearing — also during its Sept. 16 meeting — on staff recommendations for addressing this issue, which include proposed code amendments to the definition of lot and a new definition for lot of record.

Councilmembers did take two actions of significance Tuesday night. First, they agreed by a 6-1 vote (Councilmember Lora Petso voting no) to replace the current system of council business meetings and once-a-month, information-only council committee meetings with a new system that involves two information-only work sessions that involve all councilmembers and two council business meetings. Second, they voted 5-2 (Councilmembers Petso and Joan Bloom opposed) to change the formula on which the Edmonds Municipal Judge’s salary is based. The current Edmonds Municipal Court judge’s salary — which is reimbursed from state court improvement account funds — is set at 95 percent of the salary for a full-time district court judge. The Edmonds judge’s position is a part-time (.55 FTE) position and paid on a pro-rated basis — currently $6,294 monthly. Mayor Dave Earling is proposing that the salary be based on a .75 FTE, since the city’s current Judge Doug Fair has indicated that number more accurately reflects his current workload.

Petso and Bloom indicated that they would rather have the salary adjustment be included during the development for the 2015 city budget. Other councilmembers said there was some urgency due to the fact that Fair — who is running unopposed for District Court — will leave his job soon and recruiting for a replacement would be easier with clear salary expectations.

As for those wondering what the future holds for Westgate zoning, that may be delayed a bit longer. Bloom indicated Tuesday night that she plans to pursue the idea of holding a town hall-type meeting on the issue to involve citizens further in the discussion.


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  1. It’s about the environment! Talk of Harbor Square and development. The irony of this regarding making a setback smaller at 50′ for building again (and the staff is worried) here at Harbor Square, when this whole country is getting ready to highlight the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the last passenger pigeon (Martha) that died in captivity almost 100 years ago. One only has to visit this marsh to easily see how few birds are here now compared to what was here before a long time ago. So it’s not bad enough that developers took almost 50 percent of this important marsh (and this city let them, allowed permits, etc.) in the 70s and prior refinery business, but now (even knowing better) would continue developing and building/tearing down anew for short term profits like they know NOTHING of what has occurred to our environment and other living souls that are trying to live in our environment right along with of us

    The passenger pigeon is one of the most remembered American birds which has ever existed because it became extinct from being part of the largest scale human caused extinctions in history!

    One cannot be at the marsh and enjoy its beauty without being aware of what this was originally, and has now become sans the large bird population.

    And talk of more development here at Harbor Square in particular is shameful. Again, we’re not in the 1950s. There are certainly many more, creative ideas for bringing money into our city, and many that do not have anything to do with building, tearing down, pounding the earth over and over, etc.

  2. Yes, on a small amount of building/development at Westgate, and also building affordable housing at Westgate Edmonds needs affordable housing more than anything so everybody can enjoy this fine town and what we are so lucky to have here, right in front of us.

  3. Martha – last Passenger Pigeon Photograph Smithsonian

    A beautiful bird, indeed, now stuffed forever gone. I’m going to walk the beach today, look at our wonderful wildlife and think about Martha and our fragile environment. I hope others will do the same


  4. I just want to clarify some issue brought up about the staff proposed 50-foot buffer in the “Interim” Uban Mixed Use VI area. As many might have noticed by the size of the packet, the SMP is very complex and detailed. We have been talking about this document for over a year. There was a lot of information discussed last night and I just want to provide some background on my position regarding the additional 100 foot setback issue.

    In December, I proposed a 100 foot setback with a 50 foot buffer which received 4 votes in addition to calling this an “Interim” Urban Mixed-Use IV. This “interim” was initially a recommendation by Ecology since there are many variables still in play – such as the Harbor Square and the City working again on their Master Plan, the normal “acceptable setbacks” for grant funding, and the daylighting of Willow Creek.

    To date, the City has received about $500K in grant funding to study and propose a design for the daylighting of Willow Creek. This last week, specialist were down at the dog park “testing the soils”.

    These various grants are funded on the recommendation of WRIA8 (Water Resource Inventory Area 8) which I have been the City’s representative for the last five years. This last year, I was the elected official designated to access granting recommendations and viewed over 25 various projects. While I recused myself from the Edmonds funding request, many times, WRIA8 specialists spoke of the Edmonds Marsh and salmon recovery and how diligent we have been in keeping this target on our radar.

    There is huge amounts of state and federal and local money in salmon recovery and my colleagues in WRIA8 have stated that if the daylighting occurs, it is expected salmon will return.

    To obtain federal funding, the Native Americans are pressing the Federal Government to require a 100 foot being a minimum buffer. Since the acceleration of this project is occuring at a faster timeframe than the Harbor Square Master Planning and all those buildings that are impacted have small businesses with long-term leases, it might be to our advantage to be open minded about these larger setbacks.

    Sorry this is so long, but it is complex and should you wish to know more, you may email me. I know my opinion is just that…and as you all know, this is not my area of expertise and I truly respect staff’s recommendation and the extensive work and knowledge of Mr. Kernen Lien.

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