Letter to the editor: Current port commission doing fine job protecting marsh


Dear Editor,

I have been following the port commission campaign and signage with some concern regarding the “Save the Marsh” call to action from the candidates opposing the incumbents.

The implication is that the current commissioners have not adequately protected the Edmonds Marsh.

This could not be further from the truth.

I have been on staff at Harbor Square Athletic Club for over a decade and a member there for longer than that; as such, I have been on the paths along the Edmonds Marsh weekly. I can attest to noticeable, positive improvement in the health and vibrancy of the marsh and its inhabitants during this time. The incumbent port commissioners running for re-election (along with those whose terms are not up this year) have managed to promote the health of the marsh while meeting and exceeding the primary mission of the port. The primary mission of the port, for those who may not know, is to promote economic development.

The Port of Edmonds earned national honors in 2006 when it was named “Marina of the Year”—a first for any West Coast marina—by Marina Dock Age Magazine. Bruce Faires is the candidate for re-election who was on the port commission at the time. Since then, our port conditions have continued to improve in every way- a healthier marsh, more tourism, added businesses and jobs, increased revenues, and a more beautiful landscape. Bruce Faires, Fred Gouge, and Steve Johnston (the candidate I actively endorse—please see https://stevejohnstonforport.com) have all played a hand in this.

This is beyond “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it”…. When we have an elected body operating at the gold standard (as we do with the Edmonds Port Commission), why would we seek change?

Vivian Olson


  1. As the saying goes, “actions speak louder than words”and that needs to be considered when discussing the incumbent Port Commissioners running for election. These Port Commissioners are on record demanding and threatening litigation to have the buffer around the Marsh reduced to 25 feet so that development could be as close to the Marsh as possible (which is to the detriment of the Edmonds Marsh). Does that demonstrate that the incumbents have tried to “adequately protect the Marsh?” I think NOT especially when the best available science from the Department of Ecology indicated a minimum 110 foot buffer was necessary.

    Its time to stop the rhetoric about the incumbent Port Commission candidates “adequately protecting” the Edmonds Marsh and let the facts speak for themselves. Concerned citizens of Edmonds do not want economic development at the expense of the Marsh, our wildlife, or our natural environment. The Port belongs to the public and our elected officials should represent the public interest in preserving our natural environment. The ACTIONS of the three incumbent Port candidates should be considered at election time, not all the rhetoric and “alternate facts” they want people to hear.

    • Mr. Scordino. before you establish yourself as an expert on what the citizens of Edmonds want you need to first go door to door calling on thousands of homes to learn what the vast majority really want.

      • Thank you Mr. Wambolt for your correct observation that I am not an “expert on what the citizens of Edmonds want” – that will be revealed by the election results ONLY IF the citizens of Edmonds are getting the facts and not election-time rhetoric (which was the point of my comment!). Please note though Mr. Wambolt that I used the term “CONCERNED” citizens of Edmonds (not all citizens) and I believe you will find my comment is factual if you go back and review all of the public comments made at our City Council meetings on the Edmonds Marsh buffer issue – the vast majority of the Edmonds citizens (who were CONCERNED enough to go to a Council meeting and comment) did indeed express the view that the citizens of this city do not want economic development at the expense of the Marsh, our wildlife, or our natural environment.

  2. Fred Gouge, currently President of the Edmonds Port Commission, was also a port commissioner when the Port of Edmonds was name Marina of the Year.

    • I hope Mr. Wambolt would agree that the City can and should do more to restore and protect the marsh. However, it is surprising that he overlooks the harmful impacts to the marsh — impacts from the failure of Edmonds Port commissioners to place greater emphasis on environmental damage related to Harbor Square properties. Good marks and awards for a clean marina are commendable, but as Alan Mearns pointed out, “…the Marina is NOT the Marsh.” This distinction cannot be overemphasized.

      All of the impressive, professionally developed, expensive brochures that the Port has mailed to Edmonds residents in recent months focus on the marina. NOWHERE in the brochures do they even mention the Edmonds Marsh! It is extremely important to differentiate between conditions at the marina and those at the marsh. Their latest brochure crafted their message to place more emphasis on the environment than on the economic development stressed in their previous brochure. Good work by their public relations consultant but SO misleading. Please do not be deceived by words. Port’s actions over many decades are what really matter and their actions have not favored the natural resources of their district.

      The seagrasses in the marsh — a rare saltwater estuary — trap and hold enormous amounts of carbon. This is a major boon to our city’s climate protection program. There is an ECONOMIC value to that! Visit “bluecarboninitiative.org” and see how amazing marshes and estuaries are.

      We need to have a clean, well-managed marina to protect Puget Sound waters, but many other forms of life depend on a healthy marsh. The potential for tourism dollars is another ECONOMIC value. For those readers who see only the economic development mission as the Port’s mission, I urge you to learn more about “ecosystem services” that are greatly undervalued here in Edmonds and elsewhere. We’ve already lost far too much of our natural Puget Sound coastline to development.

      Let’s restore and protect what’s left of our saltwater Edmonds Marsh. The three women who are candidates for Port (Harris, Petso, and Paine) may not have the “deep pockets” that Port candidates have for signs and slick mailers, but they are all highly accomplished, experienced in management, and are committed to both appropriate economic development and a thriving Edmonds Marsh. You can trust them with your support and your vote.

  3. The argument continues. Do we want a Marsh, with brackish water, tidal exchange and all the attendant wildlife or do we want a green area over there that doesn’t impinge on the ability to park when coming to play tennis or shop. It will be one or the other. Who you vote for as Port Commissioners and City Council members will determine which it will be.

  4. Mr. Scordino’s comment regarding actions speaking louder than words, rings true to me, and I suspect to most reasonable people. I’d also add we can reasonably expect actions in the future to resemble actions people have taken in the past.

    Two of the three incumbent candidates were on the Port Commission when the Harbor Square redevelopment (55′ buildings 25′ from the Marsh) was fought for by the Port. The third incumbent candidate was a vocal proponent of that redevelopment individually, while his engineering firm worked on the project, and possibly would have gained more work going forward. He was later selected by incumbent commissioners to join them on the Commission.

    I strongly suspect the Harbor Square redevelopment plans may resurface when the Port feels a more receptive City Council is in place. That may be why they fight so hard against more set backs.

    While I don’t pretend to know what any else wants, it seems likely that if you want a 55′ glass cliff (with attendant noise, heat reflection and bird strikes) 25′ from the Marsh, vote for incumbent Commissioners. If not, ask the new candidates their position on this matter, and vote accordingly.

  5. I concur and thank Joe Scordino for his thoughtful comments including, “…These Port Commissioners are on record demanding and threatening litigation to have the buffer around the Marsh reduced to 25 feet so that development could be as close to the Marsh as possible (which is to the detriment of the Edmonds Marsh). Does that demonstrate that the incumbents have tried to “adequately protect the Marsh?” I think NOT especially when the best available science from the Department of Ecology indicated a minimum 110 foot buffer was necessary.”

    To Commissioner Faires… I recommend retirement!

  6. Just circling back to all of this conversation- thanks to all for your comments. In reply, I would like to mention that I followed the Port’s development proposal you are referencing real time and have the following remembered facts to put forth from having done so: the original proposal had included the same buffer setback of 25 feet that currently exists and at which the Marsh has thrived and improved in this last decade plus. During the discussions on the redevelopment plan that ensued, the Port had been open to expanding the buffer beyond the 25 feet (I want to say to 50 feet but I am not certain).

    My whole reason for writing is validated by this discussion. This is not a choice for economy versus the environment as some would have you think. Balance is our friend (and represented by the current commissioners).

    • Vivian, the 25 foot setback/buffer you recall referenced during the buffer deliberations is actually an “open space” requirement in a 1980 contract rezone agreement between the Port and the City (which apparently has not been upheld by the Port given that cars are parking within 10 feet of the Marsh thus preventing any vegetation from growing in this “open space”). Up until approval of the City’s new Shoreline Master Plan (SMP), the buffers around the Marsh were dictated by the City’s Critical Area Ordinance; and from about 2004 until the time of the SMP deliberations, the City was enforcing a 200 foot buffer at the Marsh, not 25 feet (that’s why the Port had to pay about $11,000 as critical area mitigation for the construction of the Jacobsen Marine facility). This factual information can be found in City and Port documents. The 25 foot “buffer” referenced by the incumbent Port Commissioners during the buffer deliberations was, in my view, rhetoric intended to confuse the public into supporting their misaligned effort to reduce the Marsh buffer to allow more space for development.

      I started the comment train on your Letter to the Editor because I think it is important that the voters in this City are well informed on the facts about how well, if at all, the incumbent Port Commissioners have performed in protecting the Edmonds Marsh. I acknowledge that there may be other issues that voters will want to consider at election time, but if voters are being swayed one way or another based on information about the Marsh, then the public needs to have the facts not rhetoric.

  7. I just reviewed the Port of Edmonds glossy pre-election handout that was in my mail today, specifically looking for Port actions toward protecting our environment. It notes two specific items: 25,00 pounds of wasted saved from entering Puget Sound and the marina certified with a clean marina award by Northwest Marine Trade Association. That’s really nice. I wonder if the port has any accolades for environmental stewardship beyond the marina, such as along the marsh edge boundary, or what actions have been undertaken to protect that edge. i do know that a recent study reported hydrocarbon contaminants in the water along that edge that exceed state water quality criteria. Not sure the sources, but Harbor Square is a possibility.

  8. The voters should know that only about ten percent of the marsh is even owned by the Port and falling under the purview of the Port Commissioners.

    Most is owned by the City of Edmonds, with portions along SR 104 owned by the State of Washington.

    I can point out efforts from each of these three “owners” which have contributed to the improved health of the marsh, and I look forward to more improvements as a result of their collaborative efforts in the future.

  9. Vivian, I am not sure your facts are correct on the Port’s ownership percentage.

    I would also suggest folks talk to the old timers that actually used to own property in the Port area (two folks who owned Arnies had their land condemned for Port ownership) and know the entire history of the Port such as the superfund clean-up money that came from the federal government to the Port.

    Also, I know Mr. Johnston personally attacked me on the dias via Maggie Fimia reading his letter and his facts were wrong as he stated I started the dog park. That same night, he personally criticized Mr. Scordino in open session and there are state laws prohibiting defamation of character. Mr. Scordino asked for a public apology by both Mr. Johnston and Mr Gourge (as he too criticized Mr. Scordino in open session) citing the law and nothing occurred.

    For folks that hate the dog park, you can send your criticisms to the City of Edmonds Parks and Recreation Department as it as started when Marina Beach was purchased. For the past 13 years, I along with many volunteers have assisted in cleaning-up the massive mess that was the old off-leash area where one couldn’t even see the water and there was stench all over. While some disagree that dogs are terrible for the Puget Sound, the impact of vehicles, boats and all those chemicals are also very critical to our environment.

    I suggest that everyone just educate themselves this election in these controversial election categories as the Port is doing its best to promote the incumbents with the literature being sent out in mailers to people both in the Port district and outside of the Port district.

    • Diane, your comment includes a number of inaccuracies and misrepresentations that need to be addressed.

      With regard to Marsh ownership, Vivian is correct. The Port owns approximately 10 percent of the Marsh.

      The Port did not request or receive any funding from the federal Superfund program. Harbor Square was cleaned up under the voluntary cleanup program of the State’s Model Toxics Control Act, using Port money derived from revenues from its operations and money collected from other parties responsible for contributing historic contamination to the site.

      I’m sorry that you regard the comments in my letter presented to Council as a “personal attack”. I do not understand how a disagreement on technical issues or approach, or a citation of actions and decisions that have the potential to adversely impact the Marsh constitutes an attack. My comments regarding Marsh issues in the letter were accurate and intended to call into question the basis of decisions and actions being undertaken by Council, with Mr. Scordino’s assistance, that had the potential to adversely impact the Port’s future options for Harbor Square. I was acting in the best interests of the Port, which is my job as a Port Commissioner and my obligation to the taxpayers and residents of the Port District.

      I also did not personally criticize Mr. Scordino in open session the night my letter was read. I was not present at the Council meeting that night.

      As always, I am happy to sit down with you over a cup of coffee to further discuss Harbor Square and Marsh issues, or any other issue related to the Port.

  10. The Port’s percentage of ownership of the marsh is irrelevant. Port property in the form of Harbor Square borders most (if not all) of the northern side of the marsh that lies west of SR 104. Development of Harbor Square can affect the marsh.

    • Let’s at least acknowledge that Harbor Square is already developed and that redevelopment proposals have had the same or better setbacks.

      • And certainly the percentage of ownership is relevant- it has to be enough that what happens there and along that border can in fact “Save…” or “Kill the Marsh”.

        Objectively the port’s impact is limited by the fact they don’t own and influence most of it.

        Per the original letter- all parties of ownership and influence (including a legion of wonderful volunteers) are to be commended on the efforts that have led to the healthier and more vibrant Edmonds Marsh that we have today.

  11. I am always open to more information and education. It is news to me, for example, that you did not start the dog park (or at least start the organization that did). I had always given you credit for that (and I do mean credit!).

    I am not sure why we would be talking about the dog park anyway as the port has nothing to do with that property AND it is bordering Puget Sound rather than the marsh….

    The Clean Marina Washington certification does speak to the port’s stewardship of the sound where it does have influence, however; only 1/4 of all Washington State marinas have earned this distinction.

    We are in agreement that the electorate should get educated about the port race. Part of that education is to know how little or how much of the marsh is under the jurisdiction of the port*- and then how big a part of the puzzle “the marsh piece” is to all things over which the port has influence. Lastly, the voters must know and consider the job done by the current port commissioner on all of those pieces of the puzzle- and weigh that against the job they think the challenger will do on the same.

    *I thought my “about 10%” was correct. Any ideas out there on where to find the exact percentages of marsh ownership?

  12. Diane,
    I was lucky enough to be at the port meeting last night, 9/25/2017. One of the owners of the property where Arnie’s restaurant now stands, purchased by eminent domain by the port, that you spoke about in your response to Vivian Olson, was at the meeting in person to present a copy of the letter that that talked about the transference of land that occurred in the 1970’s. He has stated in past meetings that he is very happy with the way that the port is being run and is a supporter of the Port of Edmond’s and it’s commissioners. If you are concerned about the marsh, you should have been here when I was a youngster in the 1960’s. It was basically a junk yard that no one cared about. It is definitely so much better today, thanks to the efforts of people that care about the waterfront, such as the Port Of Edmonds & the public. We need to stand together to make things better, not talk about past hurt feelings. You seem quick to criticize the port, but I don’t see any sense of coming together as a community. What is wrong at the waterfront and what is your solution as a city council person to make things better?

    • I am not impressed with comparisons of the current marsh condition with when it was a junk pit. Our society has come a long way since that was considered an acceptable use for a wetlands area. What we need to use as a comparison is the condition of the marsh before people nearly destroyed it. True, we can’t go back to when it was four times the size it is now; but we should be able to figure out how to restore the necessary salt-water exchange and how to get rid of the toxic chemicals found there. That those problems still exist is clear evidence that the current port commission is not really focused on environmental health.

      • The City owns the marsh, but you believe that the Port should clean it up! Surely the Port needs to FOCUS on what they are responsible for.

  13. To Dave Buelow:

    You said “it seems likely that if you want a 55′ glass cliff (with attendant noise, heat reflection and bird strikes) 25′ from the Marsh, vote for incumbent Commissioners.”

    Exactly. In the March 27, 2017 Port minutes, Commissioner Faires (challenger Lora Petso) said “The Port should not have to change its plan because someone else does not like it.” The current Port Commissioners fully intend to execute the plan when “something changes with the City Council.” (Commissioner Orvis, same meeting.)

    To Port Commissioner Steve Johnston (challenger Susan Paine):

    Your two page, March 20, 2017 letter to Council was filled with mean spirited attacks on Joe Scordino’s actions, qualifications, and motivations. You attacked a highly respected Edmonds resident in an effort to discredit his extensive work on the Shoreline Master Program to establish adequate buffers to the Marsh. Council member Diane Buckshnis is correct in pointing out that a public apology was in order. Your refusal to apologize demonstrates your disrespect of ALL Edmonds and Port of Edmonds residents who care passionately about the environment.

    To Jean Sittauer:

    Your husband, Port Commissioner Fred Gouge (Challenger Angela Harris) has remained steadfast in his support of the Harbor Square Master Plan which proposes 350 condominiums and up to five story buildings.

    You ask “What is wrong at the waterfront and what is your solution as a city council person to make things better?” I am a former City Council member who reviewed and strongly opposed the Harbor Square Master Plan. I am supporting Lora Petso, Susan Paine, and Angela Harris, because I know that they are ready to work on a new vision for redevelopment at Harbor Square which will respect the environment and provide amenities for public use.

  14. I had issues with the proposed port re-development plan as well.

    Those who have been involved with public input processes (the Urban Forest Management Plan, emergency access west of the railroad tracks, or Civic Field, as recent examples) know that every project needs a starting point.

    That proposal had merits to build on- and some problems to fix….

    • Despite public pronouncements of wanting to work with the City Council, the Port Commissioners refused to negotiate in good faith or compromise on any aspect of their 5-story, residential-centric Harbor Square Redevelopment Master Plan. This plan remains the Port Commissioners strategy and tactical approach to Harbor Square, without a single opposing view (per Port minutes). Their unanimous position regarding buffers for the Edmonds Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary in the Shoreline Master Plan (SMP) are entirely based on apparent conflicts with their existing Harbor Square Master Plan. The buffers specified in the Council and Department of Ecology approved SMP comply with the 2016 Department of Ecology Wetland Guidance for Critical Area Ordinance Update, which is science-based and went through a lengthy adoption process (no doubt, years); of course, this didn’t prevent the Port Commission from spending $84,000 of public funds during the past two years on challenges to the Shoreline Management Plan. Clearly, the current Port Commissioners view the Marsh as a development constraint as opposed to a valuable, environmentally-sensitive ecosystem that needs protection.

      The current Port Commission has been essentially stagnant in membership and perspective for the past 16 years. It’s time for new Commissioners that will bring fresh perspectives and are willing to work with all a stakeholders on creative solutions for the betterment of Edmonds’ waterfront properties and shoreline ecosystems.

      • What do Edmonds residents think about the port spending $84,000 of public money to challenge the shoreline master plan? Why wasn’t this money used to improve some of the many problems in the port’s jurisdiction instead of fighting against environmental protections?
        Why would they be fighting so hard if they were sincere about not planning to develop high-rise condos at Harbor Square next to the marsh? Communications from the port insist no such development is “currently” planned, but their own meeting minutes reveal that they are just waiting for a more favorable political climate.
        Anyone who cares about protecting and restoring one of the few remaining estuaries on Puget Sound should be very wary about keeping the incumbent commissioners in office. Anyone who does not want high rise development at Harbor Square should be working hard to get new commissioners in office.

        • Ron: If you you read carefully, you should notice that my statement indicated the current Port Commission was “essentially” stagnant in membership AND “perspective” for the past 16 years. Commissioner Johnston was appointed to a vacant position in 2016. Prior to that he was CEO of Landau and Associates, which was contracted to do work supporting Port projects. Is their any doubt that the four Port Commissioner’s appointing him didn’t know exactly his perspective with the expectation that he would toe the line regarding Harbor Square, the Marsh and other development issues? Mr. Gouge has been a Port Commissioner since 1999 (18 years). Mr. Faires has been a Port Commissioner since 2001 (16 years). Mr. Orvis has been a Port Commissioner since 2003 (14 years). Indeed, Mr. Preston has been a Port Commissioner since 2011. I have yet to come across a dissenting opinion/vote in Port minutes, especially those involving development or the Marsh.

          Groupthink is the worst characteristic of any decision-making body. I stand by my comment, especially that it’s time for new Commissioners that will bring fresh perspectives and are willing to work with all a stakeholders on creative solutions for the betterment of Edmonds’ waterfront properties and shoreline ecosystems.

      • Rich, I think you make some good points in your original comment here, but I have things to add that offer perspective to those points.

        The port’s proposed re-devolpment plan had been in response to an ASK from the city to come up with one.

        Ports are not like cities with their extensive budgets funded by tax revenue. They have to generate the lion’s share of their funds for operations and capital re-investment. Thus only a project that makes sense financially could, would, or should be proposed by the port.

        On the flip side, we as a community (directly or through our elected officials) can say “no- it is not worth it” when it’s not. This happened in the case of the proposed re-development. That is the process working.

        I support the Port’s role in this. They had their piece right. When the kinds of concessions the council was talking about would make the plan one which a “for profit” developer would not take (because that is who builds projects at the port- these are not projects that get subsidized by tax dollars and philanthropists making donations), the commissioners abandoned the re-development plan. They returned their focus to the established buildings and assets of the port. They have done so with enthusiasm and success – a choice and result we saw savvy private entities making at around the same time (such as the owners of Salish Crossing, just across Dayton Street from the port properties).

        I find it interesting that one of the main objections to the incumbents is that they get along and do their job harmoniously. Would you be looking to shake things up if this was true in a business or a household you were running?

  15. I moved to Edmonds in 1960, to an apartment at 3rd and James that was at the edge of the then much larger Marsh, so I take exception to Jean Sittauer’s characterization of the Marsh as “basically a junk yard that no one cared about.” My friends and I spent many happy hours playing at the edge of the Marsh and observing the multitude of wildlife. To us, the Marsh was far from a “junkyard;” it was a wonderful playground that spawned a life-long love of nature and the outdoors.

    I get frustrated when I read or hear that the Marsh “is definitely so much better today.” Such statements imply that all is well and we don’t need to be concerned about the health of the Marsh, and this is simply not true. Edmonds-Wooodway Stream Team members have been taking water samples in the Marsh and they recently reported that they have found carcinogenic pollutants in the Marsh that significantly exceed state safety standards. (My Edmonds News, July 19, 2017) We DO need to be concerned about the health of the Marsh and its ability to support the wildlife that depends on it.

    I do not believe that the Port’s Harbor Square Master Plan based on height limits being raised from the current 35 feet to 55 feet (so that 350, private, million-dollar condos and more retail businesses can be packed into the Harbor Square property) is a good plan for the Marsh or for the City of Edmonds. Port minutes indicate that they are sticking with this plan for the long-haul and are not interested in exploring an alternative vision.

    I am supporting Angela Harris, Lora Petso, and Susan Paine for Port Commissioner so that fresh ideas can be brought forward and alternative visions explored. Once a piece of land is “over-built,” there’s no going back. Eventual redevelopment is a given, so let’s make sure that before we latch on to any one plan, we fully understand the needs of the Marsh wildlife and the present and potential value of the Marsh to the City of Edmonds and beyond.

  16. To Vivian Olson:

    The incumbents may “get along and do their job harmoniously” as you say, but they are NOT listening to the public they represent. In fact, Steve Johnston has been publicly abusive to Edmonds residents who care deeply about the environment. Bruce Faires’ comment at the March 27, 2017 Port meeting, “The Port should not have to change its plan because someone else does not like it.” was dismissive to Port residents he was elected to represent, who do not like the plan. And there are many.

    You say “That proposal had merits to build on- and some problems to fix…”

    I’m interested in what “merits” you are referring to. Perhaps the five stories with 350 million plus dollar condos that would privatize the views of the Puget Sound and the Edmonds Marsh, and that only an elite group could afford to purchase? Or maybe you see the high end retail and restaurants below the condos, that would compete with established businesses in our quaint down town, as “merits”.

    Or do you, as I, see these two major features of the Harbor Square Master Plan as “problems to fix”.

    I look forward to your response.

    • Thank you for your patience Joan.

      I would like to provide my response against the backdrop that the Washington State Legislature’s Growth Management Act (Chapter 365-196) requires developed areas (like our community) to increase density. So while it may seem dismissive, my preference – or yours- to maintain quaintness IS irrelevant unless we want to fight this at the state level AND CHANGE THAT LAW.

      Barring a movement to change the law, we accept the state mandate for density increase- and the development or re-development to support it- and figure out our best approach to achieve it.

      Obviously our city council thought the Harbor Square Complex was an area to target for re-development because the port worked on that proposal in response to an ask from the council to come up with one.

      While I think that there are parts of Edmonds well-suited to taller buildings and taller trees (where views of Puget Sound and the mountains are not impacted as was the claim here*), our city code does not allow for buildings of this height. This aspect of the proposal, that did not align with city code, seemed like “the cart before the horse” and a problem to me.

      I found the design to show some thoughtfulness about the feeling of welcoming/ openness with the “stepping back” of sections above a certain height near Dayton.

      It is reasonable to think that the people living in 350 new condos (and the people who would come to visit those people) would create a lot of new demand for the services and products from new AND existing businesses in the area.

      Re the “million plus condos”: I do not think of the people who would have the potential to buy expensive condos as villains- they have, in most cases, worked very hard for the privilege of doing so- and additionally, would be paying significant property taxes on that condo, thus supporting services for all in the community. If there would be views of the sound from the condos it would be because of the additional height- the condos and their residents would not be taking away sound views that are currently being enjoyed by the masses on the ground, because as a walker there, I know no such sound views exist.

      Unless human access to the marsh has been found to be too damaging to it environmentally, it should be preserved for all to enjoy. We have public easements throughout our town, and likewise, there should be one here in any re-development plan. If this was not included in the original proposal, this too would be a problem to fix.

      *This impact- or lack of impact- to view is determined by land surveying. It is a matter of fact and not subject to emotion or opinion.

  17. The population is growing in our region and Edmonds is required to provide for several thousand additional residents. We have little to no open space remaining. There are groups of Edmonds residents who do not want taller buildings anyplace, some do not want Westgate or Five Corners developed, others do not want anymore residences on Port property, etc., etc. Some of these people are NIMBYS – not in my back yard – others are simply not realistic; they know what they don’t want, but they do not have any needed VIABLE alternative. Development is eventually going to happen, and we should choose it ourselves rather than have it forced upon us by the State.

  18. Vivian: The Port Commissioners are elected officials which manage their properties for the public benefit. Public benefit includes the well-being and pleasure of the community, not simply the amount of money that can be extracted from the property. A quote from Theodore Roszak expresses this sentiment better than me, “Suddenly, it becomes a subversion of progress to assert the common-sense principle that communities exist for the health and enjoyment of those who live in them, not for the convenience of those who drive through them, fly over them, or exploit their real estate for profit.”

    Did the City ask the Port to put forth an illegal redevelopment plan (e.g. not legally permissible within the current zoning, which excludes residential and 55 foot tall buildings at Harbor Square)? When the Port purchased the Harbor Square property, were they unaware of the associated zoning as well as the proximity to the ecologically sensitive Edmonds Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary? From an economic development standpoint, there is great risk and responsibility owning property containing or adjacent to ecologically sensitive areas. The risk is associated with the potential for new regulations as more is learned about the requirements to preserve these sensitive ecological areas (e.g., 2016 Department of Ecology Wetland Guidance for Critical Area Ordinance Update). The responsibility is the high expectation landowners have for sustaining and restoring the sensitive ecological areas consistent with best available science and practice. Yet, The Port Commission pursued a strategy requiring changes to the Comprehensive Plan and Development Code for any redevelopment. Initially, the Port proposed 3 options; tall, taller, and tallest. After a lengthy “so-called” public process they chose tallest… a 5-story, residential-centric development. There was significant resistance and concern for the Edmonds Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary voiced at the time. But those voices were not seriously considered. The City Council listened to those voices, but expressed interest in negotiating with the Port. The Port took a “my way or the highway” approach. The 3/1/2017 & 3/27/2017 Port minutes confirm the current Harbor Square Master Plan remains the existing approach to this property (despite Port Commissioners suggestion that they are not pursuing it), as well as the Commissions disdain for Council; they are simply waiting for a change in Council to try again. Isn’t this the same scenario that played out for over 25 years for what is now Salish Crossing (across the street from Harbor Square) that was finally developed within existing code?- an asset to our community with an art museum, restaurants, and other businesses which enhance the downtown experience for residents and tourist alike.

    It’s time for new Commissioners that will bring fresh perspectives and are willing to work with all a stakeholders on creative solutions for the betterment of Edmonds’ waterfront properties and shoreline ecosystems.

  19. Vivian: “Groupthink occurs when a team or organization becomes so similar in their outlook that they lose the ability to be creative in their decision making. Some may even feel uncomfortable offering thoughts outside the norm, and over time, products or services may weaken with the narrowed thinking that groupthink creates.” (Forbes Coaches Council). It is a characteristic of a group which can lead to poor decision-making outcomes and can impact any organization including for-profit businesses and governmental entities. Was I suggesting that the Port Commission should not behave harmoniously and respectfully?- Of course not. But deliberations void of alternative and creative perspectives often leads to poor decisions with negative unintended consequences.

    It’s time for new Commissioners that will bring fresh perspectives and are willing to work with all a stakeholders on creative solutions for the betterment of Edmonds’ waterfront properties and shoreline ecosystems.

    • Yes! Very much…because I care about taking care of our natural resources; practicing critical listening, thinking, and reading; and working with others who share this approach to life.

    • John, that was a provocative comment, but I am going to leave it alone. One would have to have their head in the sand these days to think elections do not matter. I am proud to be in the ring with those who care- no matter what vote they cast once they explore and weigh the facts.

      • Vivian,

        Since your responding to a comment, I would appreciate a response to mine, above:

        I’m interested in what “merits” you are referring to. Perhaps the five stories with 350 million plus dollar condos that would privatize the views of the Puget Sound and the Edmonds Marsh, and that only an elite group could afford to purchase? Or maybe you see the high end retail and restaurants below the condos, that would compete with established businesses in our quaint down town, as “merits”.

        Or do you, as I, see these two major features of the Harbor Square Master Plan as “problems to fix”.

        I look forward to your response.

  20. Election cycles! Bah-humbug! (What, too early?). With the amount of “hot air” being expended on just how bad the Port of Edmonds leadership has done, we could heat the Edmonds Marsh up and enjoy swimming in January!
    The Port Commissioner has done a great job in making sure that the story of the Edmonds Marsh has been transparent and that the Port owns the land surrounding a section of the Marsh. The problem is that it is the City of Edmonds City council members who will never make a deal. There are 3-4 Council members ( and you know who you are) who will always block any type of advancement to work out a fair, equitable and structured settlement to bring the Marsh issue to a place where both the Port and the City are both equally satisfied with a decision. As long as these City Council Members are allowed to be seated, then we will never get any closure. So keep blowing hot air and you will be able to see how far that gets you!. At the heart of this issue it is very simple to render a great decision. The Port owns the land. The Port will dictate the set-back terms that they are comfortable with so they don’t have to tear any buildings down. City of Edmonds the ball is in your court! You might want to look at how Southern California has been dealing with lake and marsh clean-up sites and maybe you can start to appreciate the word compromise.
    Finally, all I have to say is that be careful who you vote for in this next election cycle. A former City Council member is running for a Port position and if you let that person get elected, you will be sorry! She did a terrible job as a City Council member and if you vote her in to the Port Club, the whole entire Port and Edmonds City Council will take 50 steps backwards…. That’s a promise that will resonate with a big-fat “I told you so”!
    Ah, Election Cycles, they bring out the worst and worst in people!
    Have a great “Edmonds kind of day”!!

  21. So besides the marsh can any candidates please tell me how they will make the port better? Seems to me the only thing I hear is marsh, marsh, marsh. What will you new candidates do to change the port, will you lower our moarage rates, what will you bring to the port to improve it?

    • John, there are several candidates forums upcoming where the candidates will speak- the soonest is tomorrow, Mon Oct 9th at Edmonds City Council Chamber 121 5th Ave N, then Mon Oct 16th at the Senior Center 220 Railroad Ave, and Thursday Oct 19th at Ed CC Black Box Theater 20310 68th Ave W, Lynn..

  22. To John Freeman: The list of non-marsh issues brought to my attention so far includes: tax rates, moorage rates, guest moorage, pesticide use, job creation, residential development, environmental education, trends in boat ownership, live aboard, waterfront parking, zinc and copper discharge to Puget Sound, and safety. Candidate forums begin next week, if your questions are not answered at that time, please e-mail me at votepetso@aol.com or call 206-542-7464.

    • Lora, you did not answer my question you simply stated a laundry list of things the port attends to. What are your issues with these things and how will you fix them? What will you do for us the public who owns the port?

  23. John Freeman,

    There needs to be a fresh look at how the Port can enhance recreational and tourism activities for our community.

    1. Rewriting the Harbor Square Master Plan based on community input and reflects our community’s values. The last Port plan, with high-rise buildings was withdrawn, temporarily set aside. There are public comments by some Port Commissioners who want to wait until there is a change on City Council. My view is that allowing residential at the very edge of the Edmonds Marsh will bring tall buildings to the waterfront and will negatively impact the health of the Marsh.
    2. The current tenants of Harbor Square are terrific community members, why would the Port want to disrupt their businesses? The vacancy rate is less than 10%, there is no need to bring in additional buildings, etc. The Port could instead look at other opportunities to enhance their marina operations.
    3. Protecting and restoring the Edmonds Marsh builds on our shared values. And, I have no hesitation to say those words proudly. There is more environmental clean-up work that needs to be done. It’s time to get that work started.

    The current panel of Port Commissioners appear dedicated to the re-development of Harbor Square with high-rise buildings. I am opposed to that project. The glossy brochures that have been recently published speak of their environmental investments, but really, those investments were required by the necessary permitting and done years ago.

    Susan Paine

  24. Vivian,

    You have graciously replied to others. I would very much appreciate a response to my question. Please tell us what “merits” and “problems to fix” that you have identified in the Harbor Square Master Plan. For your convenience, here is a link to a PDF of the plan discussed which is posted on the Port of Edmonds website:


    Here is my original question:
    I’m interested in what “merits” you are referring to. Perhaps the five stories with 350 million plus dollar condos that would privatize the views of the Puget Sound and the Edmonds Marsh, and that only an elite group could afford to purchase? Or maybe you see the high end retail and restaurants below the condos, that would compete with established businesses in our quaint down town, as “merits”.

    Or do you, as I, see these two major features of the Harbor Square Master Plan as “problems to fix”.

    I look forward to your response.

    • Sorry Joan- I sent your reply the same day I sent the others- it just took me longer. See reply above (at your original request to response from me)

  25. Vivian: You’re argument justifying 5-story, residential-centric development of Harbor Square based on the Growth Management Act (GMA) is an often perpetuated myth.

    I served on the Edmonds Citizens Economic Development Commission from its inception in 2009 through 2015. In this role when issues pertaining to the GMA came up, I asked Shane Hope (Development Services Director) and Rob Chave (Planning Manager) multiple times whether Edmonds was on track to meet our goals. Each time they confirmed that we were meeting our growth goals.

    Staff has NEVER asserted that we were not on track to meet our GMA goals.

    • Undoubtedly current GMA goals are being met. It’s not a myth to be skeptical about the future if taller buildings are not allowed. For the past several years we’ve had 263 condos at Point Edwards providing a big boost. The 10th and last building there is nearing completion. There is no other project planned that approaches the size of Point Edwards.

  26. Ron: As stated, Staff has NEVER said we are not on track to meet our GMA goals… not now or in the future. In fact, there are surrounding municipalities that have much larger challenges (based on their requirements) than Edmonds.

    The GMA argument is simply a myth perpetuated by those supporting high density residential development anywhere and everywhere in Edmonds, requiring neighborhood zoning changes including relaxation of height limits.

    Recently, Council has adopted the Highway 99 Area Plan and code update, calling for both economic development and affordable housing. This includes residential mixed use and transit-oriented development. Just like there is a right place and a wrong place to plant a tree. There is a right place and a wrong place for this type of development… yet there are some (current Port Commissioners included) that view the Edmonds Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary as a development constraint, rather than a valuable ecosystem that needs protection.

  27. Vivian: Thanks for the reminder for the upcoming candidate forums. Unfortunately, public statements made by current Port Commissioners must be taken as a grain of salt (based on a review of Port minutes and subsequent actions).

    For instance, Port Commissioner Faires (Commissioner since 1999) statement in the 2013 Voter Pamphlet said, “The Port respects the Edmonds City Council’s authority to make land-use decisions regarding Harbor Square’s future. Therefore, the Port must develop a plan different than that submitted previously for Harbor Square… that is in harmony with the City of Edmonds Comprehensive Plan…” But, instead of a new plan, the 5-story, residential-centric development plan (inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan or the 2016 Department of Ecology Wetland Guidance for Critical Area Ordinance Update) was re-adopted in early 2014. And as per 3/27/2017 Port minutes, this perspective was reaffirmed by all commissioners with Commissioner Faires stating, “The Port should not have to change its plan because someone else does not like it.”

    It’s time for new Commissioners that will bring fresh perspectives and are willing to work with all a stakeholders on creative solutions for the betterment of Edmonds’ waterfront properties and shoreline ecosystems.

  28. Vivian,

    Thanks for your reply, above, on October 8 at 6:03PM.

    The GMA has been used for many years as a scare tactic by those who wish to increase heights in downtown Edmonds and the waterfront. It is a waste of time to listen to these threats. See Rich Senderoff’s comments, above.

    The “ask” by Council is a talking point for those supporting the current Port Commissioners. Please show documentation that Council asked for a redevelopment plan for Harbor Square that included increased heights and residential, and provide documentation that Council agreed to accept any plan brought forward by the Port. Good luck with that.

    You say that one of your concerns about the Harbor Square Master Plan is that the increased height “did not align with city code.” You failed to note that residential uses also do “not align with city code.” The contract rezone, the CG (general commercial) designation, AND it’s location in a seismic hazard zone all prohibit residential at Harbor Square.

    You say “It is reasonable to think that the people living in 350 new condos” would provide significant support to the increased commercial. I, and many experts, disagree. It will take more than 350 condo owners and their visitors to support retail at Harbor Square which has only a 180 degree radius of shoppers to draw from. Successful shopping malls have a 360 degree radius supporting them, and even malls are having difficulty because of the popularity of online shopping.

    You say “I do not think of the people who would have the potential to buy expensive condos as villains.” I’m curious how you leapt from “elite” to “villains.” Perhaps you see a connection between the two. I do not. In fact, I’m concerned about home owners outside of the so-called “view corridors” whose views would be adversely impacted by 55 foot tall buildings at Harbor Square. For the record, I live in the bowl, but do not have a view.

    I support Lora Petso, Angela Harris, and Susan Paine because I look forward to an open discussion of redevelopment that the community will support at Harbor Square.

    I appreciate the time that you put into replying to me. Thank you.

    • I am trying to avoid turning this into a Facebook post so I don’t want to pick up all of those “hangers”.

      If the taller buildings would block views that would be available to homeowners, drivers, or pedestrians if we stay with the 25 foot maximum in the current code, I am in agreement that the code on this should not be waived or changed. This can be determined by land surveying. It either does or it does not further obstruct views.

      I do not support increasing building heights at the expense of our amazing natural views, but I do think we will have to- in spite of my own love for our small town feel- be willing to accept taller buildings WHERE VIEWS DO NOT GET BLOCKED in order to meet ongoing pressures that result from the state legislation. As mentioned in another post, Point Edwards has provided the growth we were being held accountable for- and will not be providing the same going forward.

      The people (and the City Council as our representatives) have the responsibility for guiding and directing the Port and all other parties involved with development in our city. We should be paying more attention to our City Council elections, and, as I said in my initial letter, leave what has been working in the Port alone.

      Lastly, I hope people attend the forums and do their due diligence on each of the candidates. While all get my respect for being willing to run for, and ultimately to do these jobs (which take a lot of time for little pay), there is a long established record of ineffectiveness attached to one of the challengers.

      Please take the time to get the facts about the Port’s record- and the individual records of the incumbent Port commissioners and their challengers….

  29. Hello Vivian,
    Ineffectiveness is a matter of opinion. If you are speaking about Ms. No-NO-No Petso, just say it. Please take the time to review Ms. Petso’s record on the Port Master Plan, the environment, zoning laws, the Critical Area Ordinance, the Shoreline Master Program as well as the city Comprehesive Plan and many more. Why I had many healthy disagreements with Ms. Petso, she always did her homework, was passionate about the work and was willing to really dive into a subject to learn more. Yes, she always had an amendment or two or three or ten that she brought forth which were alway thought provoking amendments that made Council think about – and then Council could either vote on or not vote on them. What is wrong with that legislative process?

    So, like I have already said, please take the time to learn the history of Port, the Incumbent Commissioners actions, comments and record, their temperament and thoughts on this very complex area known as Harbor Square adjoining the City of Edmonds Marsh. And, in regards to all the other Port issues that Ms. Petso highlighted, I can assure you – she will definitely do her homework and be all over these issue, if given the chance. To the nice gentleman that comment about Council Members providing comment regarding this topic, I am a citizen and tax payer and Port tax payer.

  30. ALso, how many port meetings have these candidates attended? Is it true none showed up to the 2018 budget meeting? I would hope they would have been active at port meetings prior to running for the position. I don’t think I could ever vote for a candidate that has never taken an active interest in attending meetings.

  31. John,
    The first 2018 Port budget meeting is scheduled for Oct. 16.

    I have attended most, but not all of the Port meetings since I put my name in as a candidate. What I have found that the Port Board meetings are very similar to the School Board meetings I had as a school board Director. The primary differences are the Edmonds School District is much bigger in terms of budget, staff and, naturally, mission than the Port.

    I have had an active interest in the amenities offered by the Port and its tenants for years.

    Susan Paine

  32. Ron Smith and John Freeman. You bet I’ll be careful about who I vote for in this coming election. Will I vote for Commissioners who pretend to have public meetings, but listen to only those who agree with their point of view? Will I vote for Commissioners who keep a Harbor Square Master Plan alive and well, waiting until they can flip the City Council to their viewpoint of allowing 55′ tall buildings near the Marsh and the waterfront? I’ll take Lora Petso, Susan Paine, and Angela Harris all day and every day over the devious Commissioners we have who talk all day about their environmental consciousness and do only what is required of them and never the smallest bit more.


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