Council approves revised noise ordinance; revisits renewable energy resolution

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Councilmember Neil Tibbott

City of Edmonds construction projects will soon be able to operate more easily outside current noise restrictions of 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily following a 4-3 vote by the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night. Private projects will also get more leeway.

Voting for the city noise code revisions were Councilmembers Kristiana Johnson, Tom Mesaros, Dave Teitzel and Neil Tibbott, Voting against were Councilmembers Diane Buckshnis, Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and Mike Nelson.

The measure now goes to City Attorney Jeff Taraday so he can draft an ordinance that reflects the changes.

There was little discussion on the matter prior to the vote. Councilmember Tibbott noted that the proposal had originally come before the council’s Parks, Planning and Public Works Committee, and then was presented to the council, where several changes were requested. Public Works Director Phil Williams explained that staff modified the proposal based on those requests, spelling out “how staff would evaluate a need or a request for a modification in the noise ordinance and what factors we would consider.”

That information would be included in a memorandum to the mayor — “essentially an application for an administrative variance,” Williams said —  with the mayor making the final decision. If the application is approved, all councilmembers would get a copy of that memorandum. Staff also developed a policy to guide the process for obtaining a variance, he added.

Currently, in both city and private construction, the mayor can issue two administrative variances total in a six-month period for two days, or one variance every six months for three to seven days. Any requests beyond those allowed variances have had to go before the city hearing examiner, which can take months, Williams said.

Some projects have multiple needs that require going beyond existing time limits, especially those that require overnight work to ensure they are completed on time and on budget, Williams said.

The same is true with private construction projects, which will also be affected by the council-approved changes. Just as in city projects, noise ordinance exemptions will now be allowed using an administrative variance, with no hearing examiner requirement.

Noise limits for private projects, such as a contractor building a home or work being done at a business, are from 7 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays, with no work allowed on Sundays and federal holidays.

Also during the business meeting, the council approved the appointment of Kelly Sawyer, a corporate human resources executive, to the city’s Cemetery Board.

Another issue that came up Tuesday night — both at the business meeting and during the Parks, Planning, and Public Works Committee meeting — was the council’s approval of a resolution two weeks ago that commits Edmonds to having city-owned buildings powered completely by renewable energy by 2019; and the city’s community electricity supply coming from renewable sources by 2025.

Councilmember Dave Teitzel questioned whether it would actually be possible for Snohomish County PUD to provide the city with energy from 100 percent renewable sources via the city’s power grid by the 2019 deadline. A short time later, Council President Tom Mesaros then issued an apology for allowing the council to move too quickly in approving the resolution — which originally started out as a measure supporting the Paris climate change agreement. The resolution was expanded to include several last-minute amendments by Councilmember Mike Nelson that included renewable energy goals.

Mesaros said that while he “felt good” about the final resolution that the council approved, he regretted the process the council followed for approving it. “I want to apologize to the council for not listing that item as a study item,” Mesaros said. “It should have been a study item on our first go-round,” he continued, adding that the speedy approval June 27 meant “we didn’t afford the opportunity for other councilmembers to reflect on it, discuss it and offer different things.

“In the future we will make sure we have ample time for study and discussion,” Mesaros said.

Finally, during the Parks, Planning, and Public Works Committee (PPP) meeting, Councilmember Tibbott asked whether city staff would actually be able to meet the 100 percent renewable goals set forth in the resolution — since that determination was not made prior to the council’s approval of the measure. Among the questions: What type of staff resources and budget would be required and could the city be responsible for ensuring that local residents were meeting such a goal. As a practical matter, Tibbott also asked what would happen in the case of the city’s emergency generators, which currently operate on diesel fuel?

“I would like your question to be answered by all the (city’s department) directors,” said Councilmember Kristiana Johnson, also a PPP committee member. “What are the impacts of this resolution? And then if there are untoward impacts we need to consider them before we make any changes.”

Also during the PPP committee meeting, City Engineer Rob English shared that the city has run into some difficulties finding enough room to locate a joint utilities trench for the 76th Avenue West and 212th Street Southwest intersection improvement project. As a result, the city has negotiated with the property owner to acquire additional property for both utility easements and temporary construction easements for a cost of $10,500. The cost will be covered by the city’s traffic impact fees, English said. Committee members agreed to forward acceptance of the easements to next week’s consent agenda.

— By Teresa Wippel

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