Edmonds City Council modifies Highway 99 zoning requirements; gets an earful from Port on shoreline plan

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With two members — Strom Peterson and Adrienne Fraley-Monillas — absent Tuesday night, the Edmonds City Council voted 3-1 with one abstention to change zoning requirements aimed at encouraging more mixed-use development on Highway 99.

The measure — which now has to come back before council in ordinance form — removed the requirement that all general commercial (GC) zoned properties must have two floors of commercial space. However, the council did not follow the city planning board’s recommendation that mixed-use development be allowed on Highway 99 with no specific commercial space requirement. Councilmember Kristiana Johnson introduced an amendment to remove that language, stating she believed that requiring some commercial space better reflected the council’s original direction to the planning board regarding zoning changes.

Johnson was joined by Councilmembers Lora Petso and Joan Bloom in supporting the modified development requirement. Council President Diane Buckshnis voted no, citing concerns that a commercial requirement would hamper the development of affordable housing along the Highway 99 corridor. Councilmember Tom Mesaros abstained.

A second amendment proposed by the Planning Board, aimed at setting a uniform standard for parking requirements for Highway 99 businesses, was defeated 3-2 (Councilmembers Bloom, Petso and Johnson voting no.)

In addition, the council:

– Held a public hearing on the Shoreline Master Program update, which drew comments from citizens and officials. Among them was Port of Edmonds Commission President Jim Orvis, who said that port — which owns the Harbor Square Business Complex bordering the Edmonds Marsh — is concerned about the shoreline plan’s proposal for expanding setbacks at the marsh to 150 feet.

“There is currently a 25-foot buffer at Harbor Square, which has worked well for over 30 years, demonstrating that structures and activities at Harbor Square are compatible with a functioning marsh,” Orvis said. Moving those setbacks to 150 feet would have serious adverse effects, and “will severely impact both port and Harbor tenants’ ability to upgrade existing buildings,” he added.

Both the state Department of Ecology and City of Edmonds staff have gone on record stating that the existing buffer is adequate and “there is no scientific basis to support the expanded setbacks,” Orvis said, calling it “an arbitrary taking of property rights.” If the 150-foot buffer is passed by the council, the port will lodge an appeal with the Department of Ecology and the Shoreline Hearings Board, Orvis added.

The council also heard from citizens supporting adequate buffers as well as two student members of the Save Our Salmon Club at Edmonds-Woodway High School.

The council will continue to discuss next steps on the Shoreline Master Plan at a future meeting, Buckshnis said.

– Passed by a vote of 3-2 after a public hearing, code amendments to the city’s definition of lot and a new definition for lot of record. The amendments stemmed from 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. Councilmembers Petso and Bloom voted against this measure.

– Unanimously approved awarding a $233,753 contract to Kamins Construction for the 15th Avenue Walkway project, which will run from Edmonds Way to 8th Avenue South. Nearly all of the $277,675 project (including contingency fee and construction management) is funded through a state Safe Routes To School grant.

An example of the "Ed!" branding revealed by the Edmonds Downtown Business Improvement District Tuesday night.
An example of the “Ed!” branding revealed by the Edmonds Downtown Alliance via the council’s projection screen Tuesday night.

– Heard a presentation from Pam Stuller, owner of Walnut Street Coffee and a member of the Edmonds Downtown Alliance (formerly referred to the Business Improvement District) board, about the Alliance’s branding efforts. The Alliance hired a Seattle-based marketing consultant, Turnstile Studio, to develop their branding and identity, and unveiled the results to the council Tuesday night. The name is ED! which not only stands for Edmonds Downtown Alliance but also allows for a variety of advertising, branding and marketing options — from playful to serious, Stuller said.

The Alliance is in the process of designing a website that will feature downtown businesses and services, with each business member receiving his or her own web page, she noted.

Creating a business improvement district provides a local funding mechanism whereby businesses assess themselves to fund programs designed to help fulfill goals related to activities such as marketing, promoting special events, security, beautification, parking, clean-up and administration. The Edmonds City Council approved creation of the Edmonds Business Improvement District in January 2013.

 

7 COMMENTS

  1. “No scientific basis…” for a bigger buffer?

    How about 50 years of wetland science that confirms that larger buffers mean better protection for wildlife and clean water.

    How about it is common knowledge that wetlands are vital for life on earth. It is also documented that we have lost a majority of our wetlands across the state over the past 100 yrs. Edmonds has a unique asset in the marsh next to Harbor Square. Improving, upgrading, and redeveloping it could be a big asset to the wetland with a “flexible buffer” if developers could work with scientists and citizens to create a better concept.

    Edmonds, you can have the best of both worlds if you work together on a plan to redevelop Harbor Square. Embrace your marsh as an incredible asset and build a better city.

    While I am one of your neighbors, I am also a frequent visitor and admirer.

  2. Ms. Way,

    I enjoyed reading your comment posted on My Edmonds News this morning regarding the Edmonds Marsh.

    I wanted to let you know that several Edmonds residents spoke about the Edmonds Marsh yesterday evening.

    Please rest assured that many of us share your passion for the marsh.

    I am sending you a copy of my oral testimony before the City Council:

    The Edmonds Marsh is a 24 acre remnant barrier estuary, a uniquely rich Puget Sound habitat that is an ecological asset to our community.

    Less than 20% of tidal wetlands in Puget Sound remain intact. Improving the function of estuaries like Edmonds Marsh is an essential step to Puget Sound recovery.

    Since the founding of Edmonds, the Marsh has lost over 50% of its original size.

    Reestablishment of proper hydrology in the remaining remnant would improve storm water management, and help the community adapt to sea level rise.

    Establishing a more direct connection between the marsh and Puget Sound through Willow Creek will allow juvenile salmon and spawning Coho access to the marsh.

    This marsh is of interest to many groups including the City of Edmonds, Port of Edmonds, Native American tribes and local citizens. We believe that protecting and restoring this ecosystem benefits fish, birds, wildlife and the people who enjoy this unique resource.

    So let us talk about buffers. Their purpose is to protect aquatic ecosystems, such as the Edmonds Marsh, from the negative impacts of industrial, commercial and residential land uses. Buffers are transitional areas and they should be populated by native vegetation. Scientific studies have described, in detail, the ecological and social benefits of buffers.

    A recent study by the Economic Development Commission recommended that Edmonds continue to improve the annual festivals that take place in our city. My husband and I attended Bird Fest and we met people who traveled from places like Colorado and New England. Restoration of the marsh represents a unique opportunity for creating a wildlife and recreational area that attracts more and more visitors to our city.

    To quote Council President Diane Buckshnis “there are eagles, herons, all kinds of birds and fish in there; it could be an even more peaceful and beautiful sight. But we need to get the setbacks right.”

    • Hi Barbara, Glad you are involved and giving substantive testimony on the incredible value of the marsh and the need to improve it with bigger and better buffers. Hope to meet you sometime to discuss further. Do you have a local organization working on this issue? Suggest you contact the Snoho Group of the Sierra Club about this.

      • Hi Janet,

        Thank you for inquiring about local involvement with the Edmonds Marsh. We are fortunate that we have some wonderful people working on the issues surrounding the marsh.

        A citizen task force, Friends of the Edmonds Marsh, was instrumental in raising awareness about the marsh. Restoration ecologist, Keeley O’Connell led our task force and did much outreach to citizens, city staffers and elected officials.

        Council President Diane Buckshnis recognized the importance of the marsh and convinced the Salmon Recovery Council that it was necessary to day-light Willow Creek and connect the marsh to Puget Sound. Due to her efforts, the city of Edmonds secured a grant to conduct a feasibility study. Detailed information about the grant may be found by following the following link: https://secure.rco.wa.gov/prism/search/ProjectSnapshot.aspx?ProjectNumber=13-1107

        May you have a lovely day,
        Barbara

  3. Really?! Using ED! as the downtown branding? Is that how we want people to know the downtown? ED would become the brunt of many jokes and not taken seriously at all. I am sure there would be a lot of “Ha! With all of the old folks in Edmonds, no wonder they chose ED!” Sheesh…. c’mon people.

  4. I believe it was the younger “folks” running the BID in Edmonds that chose the ED! for huge sums of money to the design company…..I believe someone said they paid $50,000 for that little cartoon , correct me if I’m wrong. ………

    People in the medical field will think Erectile Dysfunction or Eating Disorders…..Those terms are seen everywhere now in all media. A 30 something person I know who has a business in Edmonds said that Mr. Ed. came to mind. Mr. Ed was a show in the 1950s about a talking horse. I was also told it was a “man’s name” and there were negatives about it prior but evidently they decided to go with it anyway. I know of many people with business here in Edmonds that do not wish to have their business names connected to this image and logo.

    From what I understand the City Council can do nothing about changing it as it is up to the BID people.

    We are trying to get Edmonds to flourish so businesses will not keep leaving town. I think Edmonds needs something more dignified……..The business people I have talked to are not saying it is a joke……They are upset.

    • Too bad Ed Asner isn’t still with us. He’d make an appropriate spokesperson for the new Ed! campaign…elderly, crotchety, opinionated, exceedingly outspoken–the perfect Edmonds demographic representative. Oh wait, you say the “young” people came up with this? Glad to know we have some of those around.

      Can everyone say “Say WA?” I think that one cost far more to develop…and dispose of!

      And, Ms. Ryder, I love your medical analogies…Ed!, huh…I shudder at the thought. It’s the “Seeing Whales” of slogans.

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