Based on a report that Edmonds’ North Sound Church has made a $2.4 million offer to the State of Washington for the Edmonds Conference Center, the Edmonds City Council voted 4-2 Tuesday night to continue discussing whether to increase its $300,000 bid for the property at 4th and Bell to $1 million or more.
City Attorney Jeff Taraday said the State Department of Enterprise Services informed the city via email of the church’s high bid of $2.4 million, which also included an escalator clause to $2.8 million to lock in its offer for the 14,375-square-foot building. The Department of Enterprise Services is handling the sale of the former Edmonds Community College property, which the state declared surplus.
The church, which is located across the street from the conference center, has been renting the building for Sunday services for the past several years. North Sound Pastor Barry Crane said in October 2014 that the church intended to submit an offer on the property.
When the Edmonds City Council agreed June 10 to submit a $300,000 bid for the conference center, it was with the intent of eventually tearing the building down for an as-yet-undecided purpose. The wood-framed, stucco-clad building, built in 1997, has suffered water leaks and related damage that a consultant estimated would cost more than $1 million to repair — although there could be additional structural damage that is not readily apparent.
However, Councilmember Joan Bloom, who has been a strong advocate of purchasing the building, said she was told by state officials that “the repairs are much lower than what were estimated.” Bloom also reiterated her concerns that the city has not had a public process — such as a town hall meeting or public hearing — to involve citizens in discussing possible future uses of the property.
“We haven’t had any input from citizens as to what this property could be used for, how we might use it for a public use,” Bloom said. “We based our bid on information that is more than likely inaccurate, and I think that we owe it to the public to increase our bid to $1 million, to at least extend it enough for them [the state] to consider us as a viable bid and give the public an opportunity to comment on this.”
Bloom also noted she has “serious concerns” about a church buying the property. “Churches do not pay taxes,” she said. “There will be no economic benefit that I can see from having a church take over that property.”
Since the state has given the city until July 15 to decide whether it wants to up its bid for the property, Councilmember Lora Petso made a motion to continue discussion of the idea until the council’s July 14 meeting.
In other action, the council:
– voted 4-2 to maintain the council’s study session format, which was the topic of extensive debate at the council’s June 23 meeting. However, several adjustments — many of which were suggested by citizen Bruce Witenberg during the public comment period– will be considered, including moving the councilmembers back onto the dais with improved visibility and microphone quality.
– continued to discuss but didn’t take action on the city’s proposed Six-Year Transportation Improvement Plan. This agenda item was the subject of numerous questions from councilmembers to staff, including several exchanges about what’s next for the current temporary configuration and striping along Sunset Avenue. Public Works Director Phil Williams noted that he expects to provide the council with an evaluation of the year-long project by early fall, so councilmembers can decide next steps.
— again reviewed the city’s Draft 2015 Comprehensive Plan Update with revisions.
— held a closed record review and unanimously approved a variance for the 9/11 Memorial to be built at 6th Avenue and Sprague Street. The memorial, to be located next to the downtown Edmonds Fire Station, will honor both first responders and citizens who lost their lives during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Firefighter Dave “Bronco” Erickson, who is overseeing the project, said he’s hopeful that construction on the memorial will begin later this year.
— appointed three citizens to fill vacancies on the Edmonds Citizens’ Tree Board: Barbara Chase, Crane Stavig and Albert Marshall.
In addition, during the council comment period, Councilmember Bloom noted that she has made a formal request for the council to discuss at a future meeting the crumb rubber playfields currently being installed in Edmonds. The artificial turf fields have raised concerns among some due to potential health and environmental impacts.
Finally, following an executive session at the end of Tuesday’s meeting, the council voted unanimously to settle claims brought by Edmonds resident Finis Tupper under the Public Records Act, and agreed to pay Tupper $50,269.25. City Attorney Taraday said he would provide exact language regarding the settlement after it was officially drafted.