Edmonds cheese shop owner Strom Peterson won unanimous election as the new president of the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night but found himself on the losing end of a 4-1 vote to refinance four of the city’s bonds.
The council, which was missing Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and DJ Wilson when the vote was taken, agreed to refinance the bonds using $1.3 million in a public safety reserve fund created with proceeds from the sale of the city fire department to Snohomish County Fire District 1. Peterson spoke out against the idea, stating it was “reckless” given the city’s current financial state. “It’s short-sighted at best and it’s really quite remarkable, when the finances aren’t clear to some, that we are moving forward,” Peterson said. “This is a million dollars in this economic climate to pay off what we don’t need to pay off right now.”
Supporters of the measure said that refinancing the bonds, which include water and sewer revenue bonds and general obligation bonds from City Hall construction, will save the city an estimated $54,000 annually in debt service, and that money could be used to purchase additional park property or perhaps for other capital needs such as street repairs.
The most significant discussion of the evening, however, was a public hearing on a proposed code amendment — recommended by the Edmonds Planning Board — that would change the way that the city permits home-based businesses in residential zones, including allowances for limited visits by customers and employees, and a reduction in fees for those home-occupied businesses requiring a conditional use permit.
Among the proposed changes: allowing a home-based business to have one employee (currently none are allowed); to have one visit by a vehicle per hour between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. (now, no customers are permitted to the visit the site); requiring them to prove that they can provide sufficient parking for three vehicles to accommodate those customers or employees; and allowing them to have a four-foot sign to promote their business.
In addition, under the proposal those home-based businesses that require a conditional use permit would be able to make that request of city staff at a cost of $585, rather than the current process of going before a hearing examiner, which requires a $1,500 fee.
The two Edmonds residents who signed up to testify during the public hearing offered opposite points of view on the issue: Jonathan Bannister, a martial arts instructor whose Seattle studio collapsed due to the economic downturn, told the council that the changes would allow him to conduct private lessons for a small number of students in his home-based Edmonds studio. Meanwhile, Rick Spellman said he was “vehemently opposed and gravely concerned” about the changes, stating that they will essentially transform existing single-family neighborhoods into commercial zones with increased traffic and noise.
But the majority of councilmembers didn’t agree with Spellman, and the measure ended up passing 4-2 (Michael Plunkett and Lora Petso opposed). Councilmembers Steve Bernheim and D.J. Wilson (Wilson left the meeting after this vote was taken) said they saw the changes as a way to assist small businesses that are just starting to grow but not quite ready to afford rental space. In an effort to address the type of concerns raised by Spellman, Plunkett offered several amendments that were defeated, with one exception: A majority of councilmembers did support an amendment to require home-based businesses to obtain a conditional use permit if they want to display a sign.
In other action, the council:
– Approved two interlocal agreements: One defining the roles and responsibilities of Sound Transit, the City of Edmonds and Community Transit regarding the long-term operation, use, ownership and maintenance of the Edmonds Commuter Rail Station Transit Center, and the other authorizing participation in the Snohomish County Tourism Promotion Area, which levies a $1 per night fee on lodging establishments with 50 rooms or more. (As the name implies, all money raised is used to promote Snohomish County tourism.)
– Agreed to create a planning committee to consider formation of a Regional Fire Authority.
– Discussed procedures for evaluating proposals, interviewing and selecting the City Attorney, with interviews to take place soon.