Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling brought his town hall meeting to the Highway 99 neighborhood Thursday night, and reaffirmed that the city would like to redevelop the two-mile corridor now dominated by auto dealerships and strip malls — but admitted that it will take both time and money.
The City of Shoreline’s efforts to clean up its section of the Highway 99 corridor – now on its final segment near the Edmonds border — was offered as an example of what could be done. Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, who lives in the Highway 99 neighborhood, cautioned that Shoreline spent 10 years on its redevelopment so it’s not something that can be completed overnight.
Speaking to a group of about 50 gathered at the newly opened Community Health Center of Snohomish County offices, Earling shared that the City of Edmonds in 2015 will seeking from the state Legislature $10 million “for a thorough analysis of what we’d like to do” on Highway 99. But the state is predicting a $700 million to $1 billion shortfall for the next biennium and legislators are also being pressured by the State Supreme Court to fully fund education.
“It’s going to be hard to get a lot of new projects – whether it’s transportation or otherwise – out of the Legislature this year,” he said.
He mentioned other projects of note going on around town, including proposed zoning changes related to the Westgate neighborhood. “I’m a big proponent of walkable neighbors and we have all the infrastructure there for walkable neighborhoods except the housing,” Earling said.
The mayor also gave a sneak peak at priorities for the 2015 city budget, including the continuation of much-needed improvements to Edmonds streets. The city budgeted $2 million for overlays and chip seal work in 2014, and “we will attempt to maintain at least that same level of commitment,” he said.
And he hinted that the city will face a major budget challenge this year involving a large deferred payment Edmonds will need to make to Fire District 1 of Snohomish County – part of the deal the city made when it agreed to sell its fire service to Fire District 1 in 2009. Expect more information to be released from the city on that soon.
Earling also shared some good budget news: Edmonds is seeing a surge in housing starts this year, something that not only helps the city budget but is “great for the community,” he said.
Finally, the mayor noted that work is ongoing to address the increasing amount of train traffic coming through Edmonds. The city will ask the Legislature for a million dollars to perform “a situational analysis” of the problem and possible solutions, he added.
Earling’s department directors each had their own turn at the podium, talking about both Highway 99- specific projects and ones of general interest. We have provided excerpts here; for complete reports of each director as well as audience questions, you will be able to watch the full video of the town hall meeting, which will be posted Friday.
Public Works Director Phil Williams provided a brief update on the east-west 228th Street connector road planned between Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace (expect construction to start next year); the Five Corners roundabout (it’s operational but will be mostly complete by the end of September)
Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite described local improvements that includes completion of the Interurban trail connection, including a spur that goes to Mathay Ballinger Park. which was recently upgraded with new playground equipment. Additional pathways are also planned for the park, she said.
The city has received a Verdant Health Commission grant, in partnership with the cities of Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace to add more bike lanes, Hite said. And staff is working closely with Snohomish County to develop Esperance Park, in unincorporated Edmonds, on 80th Avenue West between 224th Street Southwest and 222nd Street Southwest. Plans include adding an off-leash dog area and a community garden, she said.
Hite also mentioned the $2.5 million Verdant grant the city and the Edmonds School District have received to put in all-turf athletic fields at the Old Woodway High School, with a projected opening of September 2015.
Police Chief Al Compaan noted that Highway 99 does see a greater amount of crime than other neighborhoods due to the transitory population, multi-family high density housing and a significant amount of traffic. As a result, the area sees a significant amount of vehicle thefts prowls, narcotics arrests and robberies.
“Most recently we’ve seen an uptick in organized retail theft, particularly liquor,” he said.
Compaan said he has already had conversations with city’s planning and development staffs about what he called “crime prevention through environmental design” – the idea being that new businesses and housing will bring urban renewal and growth and “the good demographic.”
“That will help,” Compaan said.