Updated to clarify there were votes on two separate issues: One that was unanimous to approve the setback and the other that was 5-1 on the issue of “physically separated/functionally isolated.”
By a unanimous 6-0 vote, the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night agreed to recommend a 100-foot interim setback be incorporated into the state-required Shoreline Master Program, an amount that pleased two environmental advocates who were present for the Tuesday night discussion. Councilmember Tom Mesaros was absent.
Both Keeley O’Connell and Val Stewart, who have been active in efforts to promote restoration of the Edmonds Marsh, said after the meeting they believe the recommended 100-foot setback, which includes a 50-foot vegetative buffer, is a positive step.
Council President Diane Buckshnis, who had originally advocated for 150 feet, expressed her support for the 100-foot setback after discussing the matter with O’Connell and clarifying the amount offered the right amount of protection.
The interim designation — meant to last for two years — gives the city time to explore whether the setback size is workable for all parties that will be affected by marsh restoration work, including the Port of Edmonds, the Washington State Department of Transportation and Unocal, Buckshnis said. “It gives us time to put our ducks in a row,” she said.
In a separate vote, the council voted 5-1 (Councilmember Joan Bloom opposed) to support a physically separated/functionally isolated provision. That provision would allow development to occur within an area that — while technically within the physical buffer distance — would not impact the critical area — either in a negative or positive way. An example provided by planner Kernen Lien was the railroad separating the Port of Edmonds property east of Admiral Way from the Edmonds Marsh. That property is within the buffer distance of Edmonds Marsh, but is “physically separated and functionally isolated” from the marsh by the railroad tracks.
City staff is preparing to submit the state-required Shoreline Master Program update to the Department of Ecology, and one of the questions that has been raised in previous discussions is how much of a buffer is sufficient to protect the marsh.
Port of Edmonds officials have said that the larger buffer “is not justified by any available science” and would also prevent the port from any future redevelopment at nearby Harbor Square — development that the port said could generate funds to assist with marsh redevelopment.
The council also unanimously approved a proposal by the Edmonds Senior Center to begin negotiating an agreement with city staff for a long-term land lease that would allow the center to move forward with a fundraising campaign for a new multi-generational activity center. The plan is to replace the existing city-owned waterfront facility at 220 Railroad Ave., which has serious structural problems including a sinking first floor, inefficient design and seismic concerns.
The Senior Center began in 1968 when two buildings, a two-story warehouse and a single-story former boat showroom were used as a venue for their programs. The City of Edmonds acquired the land and buildings in 1972, and in 1980 the two structures were connected to form the 28,000-square-foot space occupied by the Senior Center today.
Senior Center Director Farrell Fleming told the council that he hopes to complete negotiations either by end of 2014 or early in new year, wrapping up before the state Legislature begins the capital budget process as part of its 2015 session.
Councilmember Lora Petso suggested that senior center representatives communicate with citizens about the existing conceptual drawings for possible building options so they have an opportunity to comment, an idea that was enthusiastically received by Fleming and Senior Center Boardmember Phil Lovell.
In addition, the council:
– Heard a report from Sean Ardussi, a senior planner with the Puget Sound Regional Council, regarding a study regarding train traffic and the impact of coal trains: “Economic Evaluation of the Regional Impacts for the Proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point.” You can see the complete study here.
– Held a public hearing on the proposed 2015 city budget (no one signed up to speak) and listened to staff overviews of their 2015 budget requests. Among the highlights:
- City Clerk Scott Passey asked that his department’s public disclosure/records management position, now set at half-time, be increased to three-quarter time to meet the increasing workload.
- Human Resources Acting Director Carrie Hite requested $3,000 for an employee wellness program. And Hite, who also serves as the City’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director, in that capacity noted that the city’s partnership with the Dale Turner YMCA to staff Yost Park pool last summer “went well” and the city is considering whether to renew for next year. The YMCA arrangement also was a financial success, as the city’s pool budget was actually in the black this year after many years running at a deficit, Hite noted.
- Development Services Director Shane Hope asked for $85,000 to continue work on the city’s development code, which drew a question from Councilmember Bloom about whether the amount was sufficient to complete an entire code rewrite. Hope replied that her department would need an additional $300,000 to finish the job, and Bloom asked for a presentation on code work at a future council meeting, prior to budget adoption, so all the options could be explored.
A budget study session is set for Nov. 10. The budget is scheduled to be adopted Nov. 18.