Rezone of Edmonds’ Westgate commercial area approved, with amendments

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Citizens share their thoughts on Westgate with UW students during an Edmonds meeting in January 2011.
A citizen shares her thoughts on Westgate redevelopment with a University of Washington student during an Edmonds meeting in January 2011.

After years of planning meetings with citizens, staff and city councilmembers, followed by many hours of debate spread over several council meetings, and eight proposed amendments (four of which were approved) during a two-plus-hour discussion Tuesday night, the Edmonds City Council approved a plan to rezone the Westgate commercial area to include taller buildings and mixed residential/commercial use.

It’s unknown how quickly redevelopment will occur since the rezoning applies only to new development. Major commercial occupants on three of the four quadrants at the intersection of Highway 104 and 100th Avenue West include the well-established QFC and the relatively new PCC Natural Markets, Walgreen’s and Key Bank. On the remaining quadrant, Bartell Drug officials have indicated a desire to move their building closer to the street front, but they don’t own all the property in the complex located at the southwest corner of the Westgate area.

Councilmember Tom Mesaros said he believes the rezone to allow a mix of residential and commercial will create an atmosphere that will attract young people to Edmonds. “It’s a good step for our city,” he said.

The 5-2 vote followed a series of seven amendments proposed by City Councilmember Lora Petso (three of which received council approval). In the end Petso voted against the rezone, stating that she didn’t believe it was consistent with the City’s Comprehensive Plan because it in transforms the area to residential.

Also voting against the plan was Councilmember Joan Bloom, who for months has advocated for more citizen involvement in — and a more thorough review of — the Westgate rezone proposal. “We are ignoring some very important concerns that citizen have raised to us,” Bloom said. “I just can’t support it.”

Last September, Bloom hosted her own town hall meeting on the topic, and on Tuesday night, she proposed that instead of approving the entire plan the council should instead conduct a “quadrant by quadrant review,” starting with the southwest quadrant where the Bartell store is located. But her idea received support only from Petso, and shortly after that 2-5 vote Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas made a motion to approve the Westgate Rezone Ordinance as recommended by city staff.

The council’s newest member, Michael Nelson — who lives in the Westgate neighborhood — immediately followed with a proposed amendment to limit the height of buildings to three stories in the northwest quadrant (where QFC is located), and that amendment passed unanimously. Then Petso began ticking off her series of seven amendments (three of which were approved), starting with a proposal to expand building setbacks from the proposed 15 feet to 16 feet. It passed by a 4-3 vote, supported by Councilmembers Bloom, Fraley-Monillas and Kristiana Johnson.

Councilmembers also voted unanimously to support Petso’s amendment to decrease the ratio of parking spaces to building square footage from the proposed 1 to 500, to 1 to 400. And they approved, by a 6-1 vote (Mesaros opposed), an amendment that requires that the first 30 feet of building depth on the Highway 104/100th Street front not be used for parking, to avoid parking cage structures being visible from the street.

But a Petso amendment to require that four-story buildings be allowed only if their developers met additional requirements (such as providing more amenity and/or green space) failed on a 3-4 vote, with Bloom and Johnson supporting. Of the three other unsuccessful Petso amendments, one would have required a 16-foot minimum ceiling height on first-floor commercial space and limited four-story buildings to within 60 feet of the “protected slope line” — essentially ensuring that no buildings could be built along the street front. The second would have created an additional category of building to designate commercial-only buildings in corner parcels. And the third would have limited the width and depth of any new buildings to 400 feet.

In an effort to address concerns that more public process was needed, City Planning Manager Rob Chave noted that the Westgate planning was first initiated at the end of 2010 with a city council-approved study by University of Washington graduate students, and included both extensive informal citizen involvement as well as numerous public hearings and Edmonds Planning Board and City Council work sessions.

Both Bloom and Council President Fraley-Monillas thanked Petso for working so diligently to bring a variety of issues forward for council consideration, and Fraley-Monillas said she appreciated that councilmembers were able to discuss Westgate in a respectful manner, despite their disagreements.

The council also:

– Heard a report on a plan to reconfigure the popular Marina Beach Park (including the popular off-leash dog park) to accommodate the eventual daylighting of the now-underground Willow Creek, which would go from the Edmonds Marsh through the park to reach Puget Sound. (A free-flowing creek is seen as the key to bringing salmon back to the Edmonds Marsh.) The city in early March sponsored an open house to solicit public input on two alternatives for daylighting the creek. As a result of that feedback, a third alternative was developed that was a hybrid of the first two alternatives, and that option was unveiled to the council Tuesday night. The third option leaves the dog park intact but is viewed as somewhat less friendly to salmon.  You can see all of the alignments here. All three options will require parking to be configured, but it’s believed that the current amount of parking will be retained, said City Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite. She also stressed that both the council and citizens will have several more opportunities to discuss Marina Beach Park options before a final decision on the plan is made in late summer.

– Received a presentation on a proposal to issue bonds to support the city’s capital water, sewer and stormwater system projects.

– Reviewed and approved the city’s updated Strategic Action Plan and adopted the plan’s implementation report.

– Confirmed the appointment of Thomas Sweeney to the Edmonds Sister City Commission.

 

17 COMMENTS

  1. Well done to the Council for putting in long hours on this issue. Also to Lora Petso and Joan Bloom for being so diligent and looking at all areas of the plan on behalf of the future look of our City, by looking at the total impact area by area.

  2. “extensive informal citizen involvement”……….regarding evidently some public meetings for Westgate development…….. “informal”

    This does not seem to meet the standards of open pubic meetings. Our citizens deserve open, thoroughly transparent public meetings from our government

    • Ms. Ryder:
      You didn’t see this part of Mr. Chave’s statement? “as well as numerous PUBLIC HEARINGS and Edmonds Planning Board and City Council work sessions.”

  3. I would like to congratulate the council for making a decision on Westgate It was 5 years in the making. The process involved many public open meetings at various boards and council. congrats The staff should also be thanked for all there hard work.

    • Don — we should have noted that acknowledgment as part of the story — many of the councilmembers last night thanked staff for their diligence in working to refine this plan over years of discussion since the initial citizen meetings in early January 2011.

  4. I would like to see the exact list of OPEN government PUBLIC MEETINGS for Westgate, period……..Im not talking about behind closed door stuff….Im talking about open public meetings regarding Westgate ………

    ……..”numerous” public meetings can mean anything……..Im not talking Council “work” sessions, behind closed door meetings with commissions, commission people who just talked to whoever, etc.

    Someone show me the list of those bonafied real Public Meetings regarding Westgate……..I have not seen any documentation posted here.

    Im talking exact dates and where there was notice, time, place and dates of these public meetings

    Again, this certainly appears to me to be another rush through and it is particlarily alarming on a project of this magnitude…….

  5. Things work here through the had work of a number of volunteers who donate their time and experience to help the various boards and commissions to help make Edmonds a better place. Check out some of the work for Westgate at this link and you will find the many sessions that had lots of public involvement and input.

    http://www.edmondswa.gov/five-corners-westgate-studies.html

    This link a number of other events clearly posted for all to see about Westgate and Five Corners

    http://myedmondsnews.com/2015/03/setbacks-form-based-code-questioned-as-council-once-again-takes-up-westgate/#comment-56726

    Democracy in Edmonds works very well when we all get off our keyboards and go to the public meetings involving subjects of interest to each of us. Better still, by volunteering for a board or commission one can have a greater impact. Here is a great place to find out what is happening with our various boards and commissions.

    http://www.edmondswa.gov/government/boards-and-commissions-15.html

    Hope to see you all at the next EDC commission meeting. The EDC is directed by Council to:

    •Determining new strategies for economic development within the City of Edmonds
    •Identifying new sources of revenue as a direct result of economic development projects for the consideration of the City Council

    Revenues for Edmonds are not growing as fast as our expenses. The EDC is working hard to find ways to generate more revenues. Come to the meeting and help us.

      • Donald, you are very right about keyboards, they are a way for disabled to input to democracy. But for those who are not disabled and want to help our cities public process speaking at or serving on one of our boards and commissions is an excellent way to advance our democratic ideals. In fact with a keyboard even a disabled person can send their facts and thoughts to our boards and commissions. Their input can be “heard”.

  6. Darrol, thanks for providing the actual facts on the meetings. . Big thing is the approval .Now lets hope some redevelopment comes from the rezone

  7. Don and Darrol, thanks for your respectful and fact-based comments on this important issue. And I appreciate the note regarding the city’s expenses outpacing revenue growth. This a very real concern, and is one all our citizens need to be aware of. The EDC plays a key role in finding various ways to grow the city’s revenue to reduce the need for property tax increases, and all citizens of our community appreciate that. In fact, the now-approved Westgate plan sets the stage for sensible redevelopment in that area with the potential to drive additional city revenues over time and ease the very real budget issues facing us. Bottom line: we need to diversify our city economy to reduce reliance on funds such as vehicle sales excise taxes so we can more comfortably weather the next economic downturn and avoid being forced to reduce city expenses by doing things such as dropping headcount in our police department. No one wants to see that scenario repeated.

  8. I am concerned that right before this critical vote, one of our most experienced City Council members voiced that she could not vote for the rezone because she didn’t believe it was consistent with the City’s Comprehensive Plan. Was her point properly appreciated?

    Per the Comprehensive Plan, only 4.6% of our existing land use is commercial. I believe Ms. Petso referred to the following, which comes right out of the Comprehensive Plan:

    B. Goals for Commercial Development: Commercial development in Edmonds shall be located to take advantage of its unique locational opportunities while being consistent and compatible with the character of its surrounding neighborhood. All commercial development should be designed and located so that it is economically feasible to operate a business and provide goods and services to Edmonds residents and tourists in a safe, convenient and attractive manner, in accordance with the following policies:

    B.1. A sufficient number of sites suited for a variety of commercial uses should be identified and RESERVED for these purposes. The great majority of such sites should be selected from parcels of land already identified in the comprehensive plan for commercial use and/or zoned for such use.

    The following is from the current Comprehensive Plan:

    Commercial activity is concentrated in two principal areas — the Downtown/Waterfront and the Highway 99 corridor (which includes the retail and medical development in the vicinity of Stevens Hospital). Smaller commercial nodes that primarily serve adjacent neighborhoods are located at the intersection of Edmonds Way (SR104) and 100th Avenue/9th Avenue (Westgate) and at 212th Street/84th Avenue (5 Corners).

    One of the goals for the Westgate Corridor was to permit uses in planned business areas that are primarily intended to serve the local neighborhood while not contributing significantly to traffic congestion.

    When one looks at the Comprehensive Plan, it certainly seems clear that Five Corners and Firdale Village are the two Neighborhood Commercial Centers that goals were established for….not Westgate.

  9. The City passed Ordinance No. 3984 during late 2014. Exhibit C to that Ordinance related to a Comprehensive Plan Amendment related to Westgate. For some unknown reason Ordinance No. 3984 on the City’s website is missing Exhibit C.

    I was able to find a redline draft version of Exhibit C. This version certainly does not change Section B.1. found on Page 74 of the City’s Comprehensive Plan.

    City Council Member Lora Petso read Section B.1. out loud during Tuesday night’s City Council Meeting. She did so as she was explaining why she thought the Westgate Plan was not consistent with the City’s Comprehensive Plan.

    Even had new Ordinance No. 3984 changed Section B.1., one would have to ask why years were spent working on a plan that would require a Comprehensive Plan Amendment very late in the game. Doesn’t this seem a little backwards?

    Furthermore, this bizarre new section C.2. seems very out of place. Why would something be added about residential uses in a Comprehensive Plan section that was clearly established to clarify that Community COMMERCIAL areas are comprised of commercial development serving a dual purpose: services and shopping for both local residents and regional traffic.

    As we all know – Residential uses are not commercial and do not provide “services and shopping for both local residents and regional traffic”. Residential uses usually increase traffic congestion – something that was not supposed to be promoted along the Westgate Corridor.

  10. Whichever way you come down on Westgate, at least the City Council is spending time working on something outside the Bowl.

  11. When the University of Washington did the study work of Edmonds, they also put together some work for Five Corners. Public meetings and the whole nine yards. It would be good for Edmonds if Council were to move this plan along as well. And it would help with economic development.

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