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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12 Comments

  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

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/09/01/345007027/it-has-been-100-years-since-the-passenger-pigeon-became-extinct

  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.

  5. The article above indicates that the Council voted on September 2, 2014 to change the system of Council Meetings. The related Meeting Minutes indicate that the City Attorney was directed to create an Ordinance that included the removal of all committee meetings.

    I can find no evidence that this Ordinance was ever passed by the City Council.

    As such, I fear the past two City Council presidents have been violating the Code by not making assignments to all Council Committees, scheduling committee hearings and/or supervising the committee system.

    ECC 1.02.031 includes the following –and please note that the word is SHALL, which means it is mandatory:

    In addition to any other duties assigned by the city council, the council president shall have the following responsibilities:

    1. Make assignments to all council committees, schedule committee hearings, and otherwise supervise the committee system;

    This is a serious matter. Council Presidents are paid extra related to their extra responsibilities.

    I hope there is accountability but I fear the conduct will be justified, excused away and/or ignored.

    Are we going to see different rules for different people once again? Can Council Presidents break the City Code and not be held accountable?

    Will Mayor Earling see that all laws and ordinances are followed as the Code requires? ECC 1.02.031 was established via 6 Ordinances.

  6. Furthermore – ECC 1.04.010 states that “Committee meetings of the council shall be held in conjunction with work meetings of the council at such times and in accordance with such procedures as the council and its respective committees shall establish.”

    The words “shall be held” are pretty clear.

    The Council and its committees shall establish the times and procedures of the Committee Meetings – but no matter what the time is and what the procedures are, Committee meetings of the council shall be held in conjunction with work meetings of the council.

    Again, the words “shall be held” are pretty clear.

    The City Attorney tried to argue something different last night. The video is unavailable for some reason but I hope interested citizens will watch it when it can be watched.

    • Just an FYI — Councilmember Bloom did introduce a motion to add this discussion to the council agenda last night but it was defeated 5-2. The City Attorney said, in part: “I don’t see you as not holding committees as an outright violation of city code when the council has decided not to hold them.” Council President Fraley-Monillas noted that a discussion about the council’s current meeting structure is planned for June 23.

  7. Yes – the video of the meeting was cutting in and out last night, but I think her motion was voted down 6-1. I hope to get a verbatim transcript of what was represented to the Council by the City Attorney before that vote.

    • You are right — it was 6-1.

  8. The relevant code is 1.04.010 which reads in part “Committee meetings of the council shall be held in conjunction with work meetings of the council at such times and in accordance with such procedures as the council and its respective committees shall establish”. The Council (regarding the committee system) did establish doing away with the committees…and one of the intents of that was to be transparent in the workings of the Council and streamline the process. It isn’t clear that the streamlining is happening . The other code (1.02.031) speaks to the duties of the Council president. Because the Council voted to change the committee system, the president is supervising the as established by the Council (not having committees) as was established by the respective committees not have committee meetings.
    It seems a trivial matter. There are more pressing issues. Council President is performing the tasks set out for her in the code that exists and is scheduling matters according to the agreed format set forth by the committees (who voted not to have committees).
    I believe that was what Mr. Taraday was trying to say last evening.

  9. Edmonds City Government needs to address the fact that for approximately the last 7 months, the City Council has been acting as if it passed an Ordinance regarding the City Council Meeting Format. Council was advised by City Staff on August 26, 2014 that minor amendments to the code would be necessary. As a result, Council voted on September 2, 2014 to direct the City Attorney to create the related Ordinance. Incredibly, that Ordinance was never brought back to the Council and Code Amendments were never done.

    The current City Code requires the Council President to schedule Committee hearings and supervise the Committee system. The current City Code requires that Committee Meetings of the Council be held in conjunction with work meetings of the Council. Despite these requirements, there have been no Committee Meetings since September 9, 2014.

    I believe the City Attorney’s failure to draft the Ordinance as requested needs to be addressed along with the failure of the past two Council presidents to supervise the Committee system. They have been paid extra for the time necessary to prepare the agenda and other associated responsibilities. Associated responsibilities include supervising the Committee system.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if all simply admitted what happened, apologized and voluntarily took steps to address the conduct?

    With lack of trust in government apparently growing, an admission of past wrongs coupled with an apology might be refreshing and might actually help start to rebuild some trust in Edmonds.

    In my opinion, the absolute refusal to admit and correct past wrongs is poor policy and leads to much greater distrust in City government.

  10. A local newspaper is reporting this morning that an Everett City Councilmember has researched the 20 largest cities in Washington and found that Everett is the only city with a mayor-council form of government that does not have a subcommittee structure to help formulate legislation.

    He believes this is a problem and that the legislative body needs to be engaged earlier in the process.

    The City of Edmonds City Code states that “Committee meetings of the council shall be held in conjunction with work meetings of the council at such times and in accordance with such procedures as the council and its respective committees shall establish.” The words “shall be held” are pretty clear. I believe the Code is clear in stating that the Council and its committees shall establish the times and procedures of the Committee Meetings – but no matter what the time is and what the procedures are, Committee meetings of the council SHALL be held in conjunction with work meetings of the council.

    The Edmonds City Council and its Council Presidents has been violating the Code for many months and it looks like they plan on continuing to violate the Code for at least a while longer.

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