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.