Edmonds Council unanimously approves Civic Field purchase, weighs crumb rubber ban

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City of Edmonds Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite and Mayor Dave Earling, seated, are joined by
Celebrating the signing of the tentative Civic Field agreement: Seated, City of Edmonds Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite and Mayor Dave Earling. Standing, Council Student Representative Ari Gourard and Councilmembers Tom Mesaros, Diane Buckshnis, Mike Nelson, Joan Bloom, Kristiana Johnson, Lora Petso and Adrienne Fraley-Monillas.

The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night unanimously approved an agreement to purchase Civic Center field in downtown Edmonds from the Edmonds School District.

Immediately following the vote, Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling invited councilmembers to join him and the city’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director on the floor of the council chambers to officially sign the document, which Hite has been working with the school district to finalize. The agreement is tentative, pending approval by the School Board.

To assist with the purchase, the city was awarded a 50-percent matching grant from Washington State Recreation Conservation Office for up to $1 million, plus a $500,000 grant from Snohomish Conservation Futures. The estimated price — which would be the $1.9 million purchase price plus appraisal fees, title, environmental assessment, escrow fees, survey and related costs — shouldn’t exceed $2 million. The city has budgeted $400,000 for acquisition this year, so the council authorized an additional $100,000 to complete the purchase.

Development Services Director Shane Hope outlines possible alternatives for crumb rubber ban.
Development Services Director Shane Hope presents possible alternatives for a crumb rubber ban.

The council also began weighing its options for crumb rubber playfields — an ongoing issue since the Edmonds School District announced plans to install artificial turf fields at former Woodway High School — but made no decisions/ Instead, after hearing citizen testimony and asking questions of city staff, councilmembers agreed to take up the matter again in early December.

City Development Services Director Shane Hope outlined some of the considerations for the council, including whether any ban should apply to projects for which the city is a funding partner, even if the location is outside the city limits.  One example mentioned Tuesday night was Edmonds’ partnership with Lynnwood, the Edmonds School District, and Snohomish County on Meadowdale Playfields, located just outside of Edmonds. While located in Lynnwood, the fields are used by Edmonds residents, and Lynnwood is planning to rehabilitate them and install synthetic turf during the next two years.

Another hot topic among councilmembers was whether a ban should only apply to City of Edmonds-owned land or to any “public land” within the city, which could include not only the school district property but land owned by Verdant, the Hospital District and others.

City Councilmember Lora Petso suggested an emergency ordinance to ban crumb rubber that would take effect immediately and apply to new and “substantially renovated” fields. That idea was supported by Joan Bloom, who also spoke strongly in favor of having the ban apply to all publicly-owned land in Edmonds. That idea was opposed by Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and Councilmember Diane Buckshnis, who both said such a ban would interfere with the property rights of the other entities.

Councilmember Kristiana Johnson suggested the council consider a resolution that would “affirm that only natural grass and earthen materials be used in the City of Edmonds,” adding that such a solution “is probably the safest and best for the environment.”

In her presentation, Hope had mentioned that state law directs school boards to consider the purchase of waste shredded tires when they are setting up playgrounds. Councilmember Tom Mesaros asked City Attorney Jeff Taraday if such a directive had any bearing on the city’s decisions about crumb rubber use, and Taraday responded that it did not.

Another point of concern to some was whether a crumb rubber ban should apply only to sports fields and playfields or also to playgrounds that use rubberized materials. Hite noted that the city has been discussing the idea of creating at least one accessible playground in its parks system, and that a rubber surface is much easier for those in wheelchairs to navigate than the wood chips used currently.

Hope said that city staff recommends that any ban or moratorium approved by the council include a three- to five-year sunset period so that the council can review any new data that is comes in on crumb rubber. City Attorney Taraday said the city would be “blazing a trail” if it banned crumb rubber, noting that there is no precedent for such an action nationally. “I believe the city has the power to do that if it wants to,” Taraday added.

“I’m certainly not a fan of crumb rubber and I don’t see a place for it in our city,” Mesaros said. “But I am concerned about overreaching our bounds.”

Parent Laura Johnson speaks to the council Tuesday.
Parent Laura Johnson speaks to the council Tuesday.

Citizens who have testified in the past on the topic, as well as a few new speakers, showed up to make their feelings known; many of them — with health and safety concerns — were wearing “Ban Crumb Rubber” buttons. Ruth Blaikie told the story of her son, who recently transferred from Meadowdale High School to Edmonds Heights K-12 School (located adjacently to newly installed crumb rubber fields) and had an asthma flare-up after playing football with friends on the new turf.

Meadowdale High School Booster Club President David Harvey, who has played and coached soccer for 30 years, urged the council to be cautious and do their research while considering a possible crumb rubber ban.

State Senator Maralyn Chase (32nd District), who lives in Edmonds and whose grandson plays soccer, said she plans to introduce a bill in the upcoming session of the State Legislature calling for a statewide moratorium on crumb rubber playfields.

Also during the meeting, the council:

  • heard about a planned upgrade for audiovisual equipment in the council chambers, which will include a wide range of technology improvements that will benefit both those attending council meetings and those appearing in district court, which uses the chamber during daytime hours. Among them: a new audio system, new projectors and screens including individual screens for each councilmember to view presentations, and an electronic system for tracking councilmembers’ votes.
  • listened to a report from the city’s lobbyist about upcoming priorities in the 2016 state legislative session.
  • received and placed on next week’s consent agenda easements from Edmonds-Woodway High School for the 76th and 212th intersection improvements.
  • continued discussions about the proposed 2016 budget.

Due to the lateness of the hour, a discussion was postponed until next week on the future of the Citizens Economic Development Commission, which is scheduled to sunset at the end of 2015.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting how several Council Members use the “concerned about private property rights” excuse. I am not a fan of government meddling, however the one primary place is in regards to our safety, especially of the children. Government interferes plenty with private property rights, the whole Edmonds City Development Code as well as parts of the Edmonds City Code does this. Zoning heights and densities are interference. Setbacks, landscaping and “Architectural Design Board” requirements as well. They even limit how many vehicles you can have on your private property.

    Also even if there is a concern for private property, to term any State or Local Agency land as “Private” is a serious joke. School property is not private property, it is public property.

  2. On a different topic, interesting how there is not any mention of Council Member Bloom’s question of the City Attorney regarding the information supplied by a citizen that the Hearing Examiner has not been under contract for 10 months. One does not have to be Woodward or Bernstein to know there is a story here and the potential liability to the City could dwarf the Humann lawsuit. I hope the lack of reporting means there is a separate story coming soon.

      • I completely understand it being a late night, I was there. I hope this does not get “swept under the rug” as some other things have like the use of FD1 meeting rooms and the fact that our City Attorney had not paid his business taxes and licensing. I do believe a quick sentence with the known facts that could have been ascertained from the Council Member or her statements would have been appropriate. Sort of a major issue when unauthorized people are making land use decisions that may affect many people.

        • As there have been many unanwered questions regarding some real issues of law and following the law as a city, perhaps these many issues should be brought up to a higher entity, out of state. There are many important questions asked and not answered, interestingly enough by our govrnment or any inquiries made by either of the only two news services available in our community. Simple enquiries, simple questions should be answered at the very least

          Again, we are a nation of laws and thats what keeps us civilized. The fact that our government uses a cheerleader team when some very important questions are asked regarding the laws that are supposed to be followed in our city. …….or my question is………do these laws only apply to certain people?…….again, getting back to that select group thing. And now that we are so intertwined with other whole cities around here, a lot of people are affected…….We hear talk…….we would like some answers regarding these laws by our elected government that works for us as our representatives……not the other way around…..Again, this is not the 1950s, 60s or 70s.

  3. Governmental authorities have a clear authority to regulate what’s dumped on public and private property within their jurisdictions. Council members know that. Nobody is allowed to dump waste oil, petroleum products, depleted uranium, cyanide, or any other toxic substance (such as ground up rubber tires). We’re not even allowed to cut down trees on our own sloped property without city permission.

    Citing private property concerns is a straw man argument meant to excuse elected officials from their duty to protect our children and us from the carcinogens contained in crumb rubber. Keep this stuff away from our children and out of our groundwater.

  4. On the bright side, it is great news that the city is going to proceed with the purchase ( and subsequent improvement) of Civic Field! That space is a treasure for our citizens for many reasons.

  5. What a great picture! Folks have no idea how much time and work the Council, Attorney, Administration and Mayor spent on the purchase of Civic Field. Kudos to everyone. Such a great new asset to our City.

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