Political reality took center stage at the Edmonds City Council meeting Tuesday night when councilmembers voted 5-2 to defeat a motion by Joan Bloom to discuss passage of a resolution asking the Edmonds School district not to install tire crumb rubber infill on sports fields now under construction at the former Woodway High School (now known as Woodway Campus).
Bloom’s effort to place discussion of the resolution on Tuesday’s agenda was supported by fellow councilmember Lora Petso, but other councilmembers — including Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas — noted that they would prefer to let City Attorney Jeff Taraday continue his work with school district attorneys on negotiating changes to an interlocal agreement for scheduling, operating and maintaining the fields. That agreement would spell out requirements for the type of turf infill that can be used on the property, which is owned by the school district but located within Edmonds city limits.
In addition, Fraley-Monillas noted that past efforts by councilmembers and citizens to convince the district to reconsider its decision to install the crumb rubber infill — which has raised health and environmental concerns among residents — have failed. “Two separate groups of us, including the administration, have talked with the school district about stopping the work and they’ve made it really clear to all of us that they are not going to do it,” Fraley-Monillas said. “I would prefer that we work on an ILA (interlocal agreement) that everyone could agree to and that includes the fields up at Woodway. That seems to be the most plausible way for us to move forward and have some sort of hand in what is occurring.”
Councilmembers voted 6-1 at their Aug. 4 meeting to direct Taraday to develop a draft agreement. City Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Manager Carrie Hite told the council Tuesday night that the fields are 70-75 percent completed and that artificial turf will be installed in the next few weeks, with completion by Sept. 30.
Given that tight time frame, and the fact that the council isn’t scheduled to vote on the interlocal agreement next week, Bloom said she was pushing to pass the resolution Tuesday night as a way of encouraging the district to stop the work before the crumb rubber infill is installed.
“We will be voting on an ILA after the crumb rubber is already in,” Bloom said. “We’ve had an enormous amount of input from many, many citizens who are strongly opposed to crumb rubber being the infill of choice. I still think given the time-sensitive nature of this, we should at least have an opportunity to discuss this resolution that I’ve presented so that we can decide as a council whether we want to request that they stop work to give us more time.”
Responding to a question from Councilmember Diane Buckshnis, City Attorney Taraday noted that Bloom’s resolution was non-binding and unenforceable by the city. “We have absolutely no power to stop work in the absence of a violation of law,” Taraday noted. “This is just a request and they can listen to it or they can ignore. It is simply saying ‘please’ to the school district.”
The two fields currently being installed through a partnership involving the city, the school district and the Verdant Health Commission represent phase one of the planned three-phase sports complex that are eventually supposed to include a walking track, resurfaced tennis and basketball courts, four year-round multi-use turf fields, concessions and bleachers. A $2.5 million grant by the Verdant is funding the first phase, which includes bleachers and safety fencing in addition to the first two fields. There is no funding available currently for phases two and three.
During council comments at the end of Tuesday’s meeting, Bloom said she was “profoundly disappointed” that a majority of councilmembers choose not to discuss the resolution. Fraley-Monillas reiterated that “we don’t own these fields. These are not our property. We are not able to tell anybody what they can do within their property without some sort of law that supports it.”
The council also:
– Held a public hearing on the draft master plan for redesigning Marina Beach to accommodate the daylighting of Willow Creek — and thus provide a channel for salmon — through the Edmonds Marsh and into Puget Sound. Chris Jones, landscape architect for the project consultant Walker Macy, walked the council through draft plan, explaining how public input through five open houses — three in person and two online — helped shape the final draft. Of primary importance to those attending included retaining the dog park, adding a vehicle turnaround for park drop-offs and emergency vehicle access, including a “brick and mortar restroom” instead of portable toilets, and incorporating “nature play” to encourage children to interact with the park features. Jones said that park, when completed, would have a look that is similar to Seattle’s Carkeek Park. The cost of park improvements is estimated at $2.5 million, and the cost to daylight Willow Creek will run about $5 million, with the hope of implementing the plan — with assistance from grant funding — in the next three to five years.
– Unanimously approved for next week’s consent agenda a permanent ordinance that prevents property developers from submitting more than one development application for the same property.
– Discussed the 2015 Non Represented Compensation Survey currently being conducted by human resources staff. The policy will eventually be brought back to council for approval
– Heard a presentation about possible creation of Historic Preservation Districts in Edmonds. Planning Manager Rob Chave explained that creating an historic district involve designating an entire area as historic rather than an individual home, as is currently done in Edmonds. The process has the potential to contribute to tourism promotion, add economic value and enhance property values, Chave said, and also may involve financial perks for building owners – for example, tax breaks for restoration or compatible improvements. However, there are costs involved, including $40,000 to $50,000 in consultant fees to get started, plus the need for a full-time city staff person with technical expertise, which could run about $100,000 a year in annual salary, Chave said.
Councilmember Kristiana Johnson noted that it seemed appropriate to be discussing the idea in the afterglow of last week’s City’s 125th anniversary celebration. “History is something that gives people a lot of pride, a lot of interest in their community,” Chave agreed. “It’s a good thing.”
– Unanimously approved for next week’s consent agenda an amendment to an interlocal agreement with Snohomish County to receive $500,000 in Conservation Futures funds for Civic Field acquisition from the Edmonds School District. The funds were originally designated by the county to purchase beachfront property for open space and passive park purposes. When the owner decided not to sell the beachfront property, the city instead requested that the money used toward the Civic Field purchase, which the city is currently discussing with the school district.
– Approved for inclusion on next week’s agenda two, $3,000 grant requests to provide additional staffing for the Citizens Tree Board and to staff the start-up of the city’s new Diversity Commission.