Dissenting councilmembers send their own marsh buffer letter to Ecology director

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city-of-edmonds-logoUpdated with majority councilmembers’ response.

The three Edmonds City Councilmembers who voted to support narrower buffers for the Edmonds Marsh through the city’s Shoreline Master Program have sent their own letter to the Washington State Department of Ecology, reiterating their opinion that a 65-foot setback is in the long run better for the marsh ecology than the wider 125-foot setback approved by the council majority Sept. 28.

In a letter to Ecology Department Director Maia D. Bellon, Councilmembers Tom Mesaros, Dave Teitzel and Neil Tibbott said that while they respect the council majority vote regarding the wider buffer, “we think it also fair to let you know that the city council decision was divided on a 3-4 vote.

“On this issue, the three of us dissented from the majority because we believe the marsh environment is more likely to be improved within the next few years by allowing a reasonable level of development for which enhancing the marsh — for example, through buffer restoration and a more effective stormwater management system — would be required,” the councilmembers continued.

The three reiterated their concerns that the proposed 110-foot buffer with an additional 15-foot building setback “takes up such a significant amount of private property that the owners will not be motivated to redevelop and improve the marsh environment.”

The councilmembers also noted that they supported Mayor Dave Earling’s letter, sent to Bellon on Oct. 21, that stated his support for the 65-foot marsh setback.

In an email sent to the media along with a copy of the Ecology Department letter, Councilmember Teitzel said the three dissenting councilmembers also believe that “responsible redevelopment in Harbor Square will result in other environmental benefits.” For example, residential living units added to the Harbor Square area would will meet goals of the state Growth Management Act and the Puget Sound Regional Council’s Vision 2040 “by creating transportation-oriented development very near heavy rail, bus and ferry routes,” Teitzel said. “Such redevelopment will contribute to reductions in traffic congestion and greenhouse gasses to the extent residents elect to utilize readily-available transit options.”

You can read the entire letter from the three councilmembers here.

In response, the four councilmembers who approved the 110-foot buffer/15-foot setback — and sent a letter to the Ecology Department as the city’s official response — sent the following statement to My Edmonds News:

“This is unprecedented and divisive for a minority of councilmembers to send a letter to a state agency, the Dept. of Ecology, in direct opposition to the 110 foot marsh buffer passed by Council. We have never heard of such actions taken by a handful of councilmembers in the history of our Edmonds City Council. These actions by Councilmembers Teitzel, Tibbot, and Mesaros have created a new division in the good work we are trying to achieve.

It is disrespectful to the conduct long established and upheld by past councils. What sort of message does this send every time some councilmembers disagree with a vote that they fire off letters to state agencies and other governing bodies in opposition?

Our citizens elected us to work together. We vote all the time and sometimes we win and sometimes we lose, but we learn to move on. Unfortunately, these councilmembers seem to be taking notes from Congress where partisanship trumps common sense. They seem perfectly fine in taking the entire council down with them.

The citizens of Edmonds deserve better.

Kristiana Johnson, Council President
Diane Buckshnis
Adrienne Fraley-Monillas
Mike Nelson”

 

14 COMMENTS

  1. Because Council-members Mesaros, Teitzel and Tibbott are all new to council and development issues in Edmonds, I’m not sure they understand what “reasonable level of development” means when it comes to the Harbor Square site that is next to the Edmonds marsh. Reasonable development would conform to code and zoning.

    However the last plan, per the SEPA checklist is as follows:

    A Master Plan that would provide 340 to 358 [above code] residents, 50,400 square feet of retail, 9,784 square feet of office, buildings up to 55 feet in height. [above code] Buildings of 35 feet are proposed for the SR-104/Dayton Street intersection while buildings of 45 feet [above code] are proposed along Dayton Street (with step back provisions for portions above 35 feet) [above code] Five story buildings (55 feet)[above code] would be located at the far southern edge of the site.

    Now, I’m just reminding people of the last plan that failed for lack of support from people of Edmonds. So we know this is what Harbor Square developers the Port wants. And with this council I would not be surprised if they don’t try for even more density and even taller next time. After all, a one time owner of the Old Safe-Way site wanted ten stories with a gambling casino until councilman Orvis stopped it.

    This is not reasonable development to the people of Edmonds, this is over-development of more people, cars, infrastructure, condos and commercial space that will kill downtown and end the small town character of Edmonds.

    Maybe Council-members Mesaros, Teitzel and Tibbott call this “reasonable” but I know the citizens of Edmonds don’t. And visitors from my neighborhood don’t drive into Edmonds to see tall condos, they come to see and spend money in downtown Edmonds charming Main and 5th Streets.

    If Mesaros, Teitzel and Tibbott want to reduce the proposed 110 foot buffers on Edmonds marsh so they can have this kind of over-development too close to marsh one must ask, for who? Who wants over development close to marsh, who is Mesaros, Teitzel and Tibbott serving?

      • Thank you, and that expresses the thoughts of my Edmonds families as well! We appreciate the value of the marsh for residents. It’s a place of serenity and reflection where I bring visiting friends; it’s a learning center that demonstrates a habitat sustaining wildlife, a place of transition from salt to fresh water that can transport fish, house marine life…and most of all sequester CARBON from the trains, also pollution from the air. Our marsh is essential in maintaining a healthy Edmonds waterfront. PLEASE, DO NOT encroach or reduce it’s buffering area, diminishing it’s function and viability! SAVE THE MARSH FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS. KEEP THE DEVELOPMENT AND HIGH-RISE to the existing transit corridor near Highway 99 where casino’s and dense residential already exist. Why do you want traffic in downtown Edmonds? It will change the character of our community forever. SAVE EDMONDS MARSH, PLEASE.

  2. Who in their right mind would advocate development as a form of habitat restoration? Well, we now know it is three of our not-so distinguished Edmonds Council members and our Mayor. We’ve already lost over half of the Marsh to development and now they want to take more? The redevelopment proposed to “encourage restoration” is no different than any other development that will result in habitat damage when it is too close to a critical area. The citizens of Edmonds do not want the Edmonds Marsh diminished, and the only way to ensure this is to have buffers that are wide enough to prevent the encroachment of development into critical habitat areas.

    The laws of this state require the use of best available science in making decisions that affect our environment. And I’m very proud of the members of our Edmonds City Council who withstood pressure from developers and used the best science in adopting a 110 foot buffer (and 15 foot setback) that will preserve the ecological functions of the Edmonds Marsh. Three cheers for Kristiana Johnson, Diane Buckshnis, Mike Nelson and Adrienne Fraley-Monillas; the voters of Edmonds will remember you as wise decision-makers.

  3. Remember the names Kristiana Johnson, Diane Buckshnis, Adreinne Fraley-Monillas, and Mike Nelson the next time there is a City Council election. These are the folk wanting
    to save our marsh. And keep in mind our current mayor is pro builder.

    This is our chance to save what is the last of our marsh.

  4. Amazing. The majority decision of the council, agree with it or not, is the position of the council. Period, full stop. There is a process, and the “dissenters” are not members of the Supreme Court. They lost and then decided to “work the ref”. There is a process and there is a decision by the Council. Ecology will make the final determination. But for Council members to not respect the decision of their own elected body is simply amazing. They lost. Their “opinion” doesn’t count at all. Or it shouldn’t. Simply amazing.

  5. Harbor Square is owned by the Port of Edmonds, so doesn’t that make it city property and not “private property” as stated in their letter? Keep in mind that the Port Commissioners are elected every 4 years by the citizens of Edmonds–they are there to serve us and to act in the best interest of the City of Edmonds. One of the stated missions of The Port of Edmonds is to “be aware of environmental impacts” and “seek opportunities to promote and enhance environmental programs.” If the City and Port of Edmonds want to redevelop Harbor Square, they must abide by the Department of Ecology’s June 2016 guidelines stating that a 110-foot buffer is required to protect wetlands from damage due to development, and they must do it in a way that preserves the beauty and lifestyle of our charming city and that meets with the approval of the citizens of Edmonds.

    • Then, is there also an IMPEACHMENT PROCESS when members don’t fulfill their elected duty? Is it necessary to keep Council Members for the entire term? There must be a redress process?

  6. Wow. I agree with the above comments. Thank you Michael Plunkett for explaining the code to us!
    Our mayor and 3 new council members want to lower the buffer for the marsh to allow the port to expand development? What a shocker, as in, pro development at whatever cost? Seriously, these newly elected council members will not get my vote next election. I believe the letter was intent on trying to change the opinion of the ecology dept at some point, whether now or in the future by saying there is only a 4-3 vote. That stinks! Going forward will there be more letters sent out when a 4-3 vote happens? Thank you to those that voted for the larger setback!! Once lost, we can never get it back…

  7. The letter linked here is on the Mayor’s letterhead and each Council person signed it in their official capacity. The were all, including the Mayor, acting as private citizens since the Council’s vote is dispositive of the issue. It is unethical. And the use of City letterhead was unethical and deceptive. But with no code of ethics, nothing will come of it.

    • Unethical and deceptive…I wish I’d known prior to election. It’s my opinion, but I definitely would see that as character flaws NOT characteristic of someone you would want in leadership positions. Even in the business world those characteristics do not make for a responsible, community minded employer. Show me your plaque for ‘Who’s Who in Business’!

    • Just to clarify that the letterhead is City of Edmonds letterhead rather than from the Mayor’s office — all city letterhead has the Mayor’s name on it.

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