Council OKs resolution supporting work of Economic Development Commission

The Edmonds City Council took a substantial amount of time Tuesday night debating the fine points of two issues before them –how to best accommodate outdoor dining on city sidewalks and how to word a resolution supporting the work of the newly formed Edmonds Economic Development Commission.

In the end, the council decided to table a decision on outdoor dining for a week so that Councilmembers D.J. Wilson and Strom Peterson, both members of the Council’s Economic Development Committee, could work with city staff to refine the proposed amendments to the Title 18 Edmonds Community Development Code that governs city right of way. That followed a lengthy discussion on a staff proposal to establish guidelines governing both outdoor dining and artwork on city sidewalks that may block the passage of pedestrians or otherwise raise safety and aesthetic concerns. (More details below.)

The Council did end up unanimously approving the resolution — with a few wordsmithing amendments — introduced by Peterson and Council President Steve Bernheim to supporting the January 2010 recommendations of the Economic Development Commission. The 17-member commission was established by the Council in June 2009 to spearhead the city’s economic and tourism development. The recommendations include:
– Ensure full funding of the City’s economic development director position – now being done part-time by Stephen Clifton, who also serves as the City’s community services director. (Mayor Gary Haakenson told the Council Tuesday night that money is available in the current city budget to fully fund the position.)
– Develop a strategic plan and comit to reviewing/updating the plan every year.
– Initiate Neighborhood Business Center plans for three neighborhoods — Five Corners, Westgate and Perrinville — to attract redevelopment.
– Support the process to redevelop Harbor Square, already being considered by the Port of Edmonds.
– Initiate and possibly fund business/marketing plans for the City-owned fiber optic network and tourism development.
– Develop a community vision that addresses quality of life and growth objectives while furthering Edmonds’ “green” initiatives.

The sidewalk dining issue came to the city’s attention in spring 2009, when a local restaurant obtained a permit to use public right of way adjacent to the business for outdoor dining. The restaurant’s proposal included fencing within the right of way to create an exclusive dining area for its patrons. After the fencing was installed, the City received several citizen complaints about the resulting 3-foot-wide sidewalk clearance that inhibited safe pedestrian passage.

The draft proposal discussed Tuesday night included a variety of provisions, including a designation for two categories of use:
-general, in which chairs and tables are not fenced off and therefore available for public use (the Starbucks store at Fifth Avenue and Main Street was cited as an example of this). This category also includes temporary objects such as planters and signs.
-exclusive, in which barriers are defined (such as through the use of stanchions and ropes or planters).

Both of the above uses would require establishments to maintain a minimum sidewalk clearance of 5 feet, and draft staff recommendations called for a time restriction — at the latest 11 p.m. — by which barriers need to be removed and brought inside the establishment for the night (tables and chairs put ouside for general use, however, can stay out overnight if they are located less than 2 feet from the permitted businesses.)

Under the draft proposal, businesses in either use category would be required to pay street use permit fees, ranging from a general use fee of $100 to an exclusive use fee of $100 plus a $30 annual fee, a monthly right-of-way charge of $1.05 per square foot and a 12.84 percent leaseheld tax.

The idea of putting an 11 p.m. curfew on outdoor dining drew concerns from some council members as well as citizens and business owners attending the meeting, who said they would welcome the additional late-night business that the sidewalk cafes might attract. Councilmember Wilson also questioned the wisdom of charging exclusive-use sidewalk cafes by the square foot in addition to the flat fee, since the city is trying to encourage this type of dining and the accompanying tourism benefits.

As a result, Wilson and Peterson agreed to address issues raised Tuesday night within the next week, so that the measure could be quickly addressed by the council in time for Edmonds restaurants to make plans for summer dining.

  1. Those two little tables at Daphne’s last summer were busy almost the whole summer through. I hope we can repeat and expand on that success throughout the City.

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