Letter to the City Council: Taller buildings will ruin ‘small town feel’

Dear members of our City Council,

It has recently been brought to our attention that there is a proposal on the table to increase building heights on the Edmonds waterfront. This information has been received with disappointment. My wife and I have lived in Edmonds for over 20 years now. We chose Edmonds as our home because of the family-friendly environment and largely due to the fact that the City of Edmonds has been able to maintain a small town feel in spite of the greed that surrounds us in neighboring cities.

Many people love Edmonds for that same reason. Increasing building height takes that away, opens the door for more greed and more businesses to take advantage of this same allowance. To put it simply, if building heights increase it no longer feels like “An Edmonds Kind of Day.” We may as well be in Seattle.

We strongly disagree with this proposal and the fact that this proposal has been discreetly hidden from the public. We ask that you take our feedback to heart and reconsider your plan.

Dr. and Mrs. James D Haberman, Jr.

  1. Tall building “fever” strikes again in Edmonds! The mere whisper of a tall building spreads like wild fire through our town. Folks….there are no proposals on the table! No evil developer has come along with anything to submit to the city. A three Councilmember committee, tasked by their very own peers gave a report on how the future of Harbor Square, the Skippers site and the D.O.T site could work together. Another Councilmember held his own meeting in reaction to the Committee report. That meeting focussed on the possibility of the City buying the Antique Mall property and the Skippers property. I attended both meetings. There were no “tall building” proposals delivered to city offices from either meeting. If citizens, Councilmembers, Port Commissioners, D.O.T officials and City Staff cannot have discussions about the future of our town without someone crying wolf about “tall buildings” then we will never make any progress on the future of Edmonds. If someone tells you that “tall buildings” are coming to Edmonds, ask them to see the proposal. Let’s take some deep breaths folks and act on facts not rumors.

    Mayor Gary Haakenson

  2. Thank you very much for the comment, Mayor. As you said, we’re simply trying to have a discussion about the future of our community. There are no proposals on the table – in fact there is barely a process begun.

  3. Thank you Mayor Haakenson.
    It just seems inevitable the the most efficient use for that very valuable land is for high rise buildings.
    Keep up the good work.
    Peter Baker

  4. As a 40 year resident of Edmonds, I have seen many attempts to raise building heights. However, they have remained a somewhat steady 25′ sloping to 30′ since 1980. Many elections have had this as it’s criitcal factor. It seems new ploys just keep being invented. Around 1999, for instance, Councimen Earling and Haakenson managed to get a 30′ box limit approved if it had wavy stuff called “modulations” along the top outer edges to make it look attractive. The “mods” thing feel out of favor. Then in 2004, current Councilman Peterson with downtown organizations’ help, pushed for 12′ minimum first floor ceilings and 33′ height limit. The 12′ passed but not the 33′. Councilperson Deanna Dawson warned proponents “Be careful what you wish for”. The result is a limiting two stories only in this zoning. Most recently some new protrusions (I don’t know what they are called) above the height limit were approved perhaps in error, creating more problems..

    The “code word” sometimes used for promoting higher building heights is “economic development”. We had for several years an organization known as the “Alliance” which the city supported financially. The Alliance had an office next door to the mayor. Their answer was to raise building heights. Again the city had for a period of time an economic development person who also wanted higher heights.

    However, I look at booming Friday Harbor with about the same height limits we have and wonder with all of our waterfront potential why Edmonds can’t also boom it within current code. And I think the same five Council members are beginning to wonder that also. And they want completely open transparent input from anyone and everyone. D. J. and the Mayor have conducted secret (D.J. calls them private) meetings and secret agreements in the past that hopefully now will remain totally out of favor.

    And now D.J. Wilson stirred the pot real good when he suggested on his own at the 4/6/10 Council meeting that he could somehow “negotiate” higher heights spot zoning with the Port and developers in return for some unknown consideration to encourage some sort of good developemnt. That was disconcerting, not to mention impractical, naive, and likely illegal.

    Currently the mayor is right; There is no imminent danger of hi rises, etc. That’s because five members of the current Council, excluding Wilson and Peterson, I believe, would require a really good reason to exceed current code, such as a overhead walkway or two over the railroad tracks which might exceed 25′ by a tad.

    I believe the majority of our citizens still favor the current code. Nevertheless, there will be more attempts tp raise building heights beyond the current code, and new buiding height proponents running against the current code types.

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