Public hearings set on rules that could impact Highway 99 neighborhoods

The public will have a chance to comment on proposed updates to City of Edmonds State Environmental Policy Act regulations that could potentially allow for increased development along the Medical/Highway 99 Activity Center and the Highway 99 Corridor. The Edmonds City Council has scheduled two public hearings on the issue, one after the other, at Tuesday night’s council meeting, which starts at 7 p.m.

When the updates were first discussed at the July 27 council meeting, several councilmembers expressed concerns that the proposed relaxation of SEPA regulations in those two geographic areas could potentially have a negative impact on residential neighborhoods. As a result, the council voted to hold two public hearings – one for each geographic area. Maps of both areas and more details are available via the council agenda here.

In addition, the Council will discuss and may take action on a proposal from Council President Steve Bernheim to establish a seven-member Tree Board, to be appointed by the City Council, designed to preserve and protect existing trees, encourage the planting of additional trees and encourage active stewardship of the urban forest.

The meeting will be in the Council Chambers, Public Safety Complex, 250 5th Ave. N.

  1. Two important components of the SEPA changes are 1) the increases in the SEPA threshold triggers are significant [4 residential units increased to 20, 4,000 sf commercial increased to 12,000 sf and 20 parking spaces increased to 40] , and 2) the time and cost added for developers to complete and process applications is not substantial. Continuing SEPA reviews are, in my opinion, particularly critical for residential neighborhoods bordering the Hwy 99 zones. Development will not be stymied (zoning is the correct way to manage and facilitate that), but the impact of development and redevelopment on surrounding areas would continue to be carefully evaluated if the current thresholds are maintained.

  2. Reading the attachments for the Council meetings is interesting to say the least. It’s especially revealing for the neighborhoods being asked to embrace large increases in traffic, pollution, noise while experiencing decreases in light, open air, and the destruction of existing stands of at least 50-year old trees. It is clearly stated that the waterfront, Five Corners, Westgate and ‘Bowl’ communities would be protected from such developments and impacts. Existing residential neighborhoods, in our part of East Edmonds, could be overwhelmed by 20-unit developments with at least 40 vehicles parked there, as well as 12,000 square foot commercial developments. Why are our family neighborhoods and lives valued less than these other places? Additionally, the staff and Board have trouble with language describing where this development should occur. Is it ‘on’ Highway 99, ‘along’ the Highway, ‘in the Activity Center’ or where? Each twist of a word creates a different impact and I assume this is understood. During my 7 years on the Hwy 99 Economic Development Task Force, having such developemnt ON the Highway is a stated position of several our members. This with transition buffers into adjoining neighborhoods (as discussed with Planning staff), not destroying existing communities by building up to our fences. Residents from these neighborhoods have attempted to educate Commission and Council on this matter, yet all I see a proposed decision to sacrifice long-standing communities for the goal of ‘maximum development at any cost.’ I hope the Council acts in a more reasonable and protective way.

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