City Council OKs sign code; makes progress on Shoreline Master Plan changes

Newly promoted Sgt. Alan Hardwick turns to family and friends who came to support him during his swearing-in ceremony at Tuesday's Edmonds City Council meeting. Standing next to Hardwick is Police Chief Al Compaan.
Newly promoted Edmonds Police Sgt. Alan Hardwick turns to thank family and friends who came to support him during his swearing-in ceremony at Tuesday’s Edmonds City Council meeting. Standing next to Hardwick is Police Chief Al Compaan.

Following months of review, discussion and public engagement, the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night unanimously adopted a long list of changes to the city’s sign code, including those governing the display of A-frame or sandwich board signs, now known as “pedestrian signs.”

The council also made progress on its review of changes requested by the Washington State Department of Ecology to the city’s Shoreline Master Program, authorized beginning the design process for daylighting Willow Creek through the Edmonds Marsh, and decided to do more work on proposed changes to the city code regarding public indecency. (See our report on that issue from last week’s council meeting here.)

The council’s decision on the pedestrian signs — which generated the lion’s share of concerns for downtown business owners who use them to generate more visibility — generally followed the recommendations of the Edmonds Planning Board. Under the new rules, pedestrian signs are now considered as regular signage rather than temporary ones, but they are also now more closely regulated. For example, only one sign would be allowed per ground floor entrance, it must be located immediately adjacent to the building where the business is located and it is allowed only while the business is open. The signs are also limited to 6 square feet — 2-1/2 feet wide and 3-1/2 feet high.

Other sign code changes include:

– Allowing “directional symbols.”

– Permitting the illumination of symbols as well as letters.

– Specifically allowing halo signs.

– Tying the sign height to the actual finished grade.

– Better defining monument signs.

– Recognizing one-story buildings with a mansard.

– Allowing the Architectural Design Board to grant modifications due to the unique architectural elements of the building.

Regarding the Shoreline Master Program, the council Tuesday night tackled six of the eight proposed changes included in the state Ecology Department’s findings and conclusions regarding the SMP, which is how the city defines, regulates and protects critical areas such as the Edmonds Marsh. The first four were mostly housekeeping measures that generated little discussion; the fifth was related to new critical areas ordinance guidance issued by Ecology shortly after the city approved its Shoreline Master Program, and whether that new information should replace older guidance the city used in its SMP document. City planner Kernen Lien agreed to bring back both sets of guidance documents at a future meeting so the council could make a side-by-side comparison.

The sixth change involved the council’s decision to create a new, two-year interim zoning designation, Urban Mixed Use IV, which would apply only to Harbor Square and the former Union/Unocal site. The Ecology Department has called for this designation to be eliminated.

The Urban Mixed Use IV designation is similar to an Urban Mixed Use III designation previously proposed by the Edmonds Planning Board as part of a Port of Edmonds plan to redevelop its property at Harbor Square. However, unlike that plan, Urban Mixed Use IV does not allow residential development, which was favored by the Port of Edmonds.

The idea behind making the Urban Mixed Use IV designation temporary was to allow the city more time to study its long-term impacts, talk with affected parties — including Unocal and the Port of Edmonds — and decide whether to make it permanent or add a new designation.

City Attorney Jeff Taraday said he can’t find anything in the Shoreline Management Act that allows for a two-year interim designation, but added it shouldn’t be a problem if stakeholders involved in the project agree to support it.

Mayor Dave Earling asked city staff and Council President Kristiana Johnson to research whether affected parties would be open to such a designation, and report back on their findings to the council.

By the time the council got to the last two Ecology Department changes, it was almost 10 p.m and councilmembers decided it would be better to delay further discussion to a future meeting. Those two changes are main sticking points for some councilmembers and citizens. They include reducing the size of buffers and setbacks around the Edmonds Marsh and their categorization of the marsh as a Category II wetland under Washington State’s wetlands ratings system, which marsh supporters say carries fewer protections that a Category I designation.

In other action, the council:

– Authorized Mayor Dave Earling to sign a resolution confirming the City’s application for grant funding to prepare preliminary (60 percent) designs for the daylighted channel connection between Edmonds Marsh and Puget Sound. This project, which has been in the works for several years, would involve reconfiguring the Willow Creek connection across the Unocal site next to the marsh, traveling under the BNSF railroad and across Marina Beach and into Puget Sound.

— Held a public hearing on proposed code changes to the city’s stormwater management regulations (see our earlier report on that proposal here). Given the complexity of the stormwater changes, Councilmember Diane Buckshnis asked that another 30-minute briefing on the issue occur at next week’s council meeting.

— Authorized the mayor to sign a revised goods and materials agreement for the procurement of stone cladding, paving and site furnishings for the new Veteran’s Plaza.



    • “Halo sign” is a sign where the light source is concealed behind an opaque face and the rays of illumination are projected outward around the edges of the sign or directed against the surface behind the sign forming a silhouette or halo effect.

      “Monument signs” are freestanding signs that have integrated the structural component of the sign into the design of the sign and sign base.

      Mansaird is a roof that has four sloping sides, each of which becomes steeper halfway down.




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