The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night voted 5-2 to approve a contract governing the lease of the city-owned Frances Anderson Center roof to the Edmonds Community Solar Cooperative. Voting against the project were Councilmembers Michael Plunkett and Lora Petso. Plunkett expressed reservations about the city’s liability for any roof damage the solar panels might cause, while Petso said she was concerned about the possible effects on the seismic stability of the building.
It’s estimated that the project, initiated by non-profit citizens group Sustainable Edmonds, will produce 75,000 kilowatt hours annually – a significant share of the Frances Anderson Center’s electrical use – and will save the City of Edmonds more than $30,000 over the next 10 years. More details on the project and how citizens and businesses can join the solar cooperative can be found here.
Whether the council should put a levy before citizens later this year was also a topic of discussion Tuesday night. Mayor Mike Cooper summarized the details of the $2.26 million levy proposal he sent to councilmembers March 30, including his thinking behind what he included — and what he left out — of the spending package. In reality, Cooper told the council, the city needs $3.67 million annually to cover a variety of expenses. However, the price tag for that levy amount would be 57 cents per thousand dollars of assessed home valuation, which Cooper believes is too much to ask citizens in the current economic climate. Instead, his proposal comes out to 35 cents per thousand and includes partial funding for some areas — $704,000 allocated for street overlays rather than the needed $1.5 million, for example — along with a suggestion to simply not fund other items, such as a $200,000 bond payment due for the Edmonds Center for the Arts.
Cooper’s levy proposal would add $10.94 monthly to the property tax bill of a $375,000 home, the current average home value.
Cooper said he is recommending that the council place the levy on the August primary election ballot — rather than in November –because “November is when you are adopting the budget. If we go to the voters in August, we can do better budget planning.” The council has to finalize a levy proposal by May 24 to place it on the August ballot.
The mayor invited councilmembers to stop by his office to share ideas about what they’d like to see in the levy. In addition, Councilmember Diane Buckshnis, who for several months has been working with the Citizens Levy Committee, said the committee may propose alternative suggestions, including offering a number of separate levy proposals on the same ballot.
Councilmember Petso, meanwhile, requested that public hearings be scheduled so that citizens have a number of chances to express their views on the levy proposals. The council will next discuss the issue at its April 19 meeting.
In other business, the council held a lengthy discussion on a proposed interim zoning ordinance that would reduce the minimum 20-foot street setback to 5 feet in BN (business neighborhood) zones. The proposal was brought specifically to address a request by a developer to build a bank building in the Westgate neighborhood, where Edmonds is in the middle of developing a special district plan that is likely to encourage the development of pedestrian-friendly structures and storefronts. However, since the plan won’t be ready until summer, and the developer was planning to move quickly on the bank project, city staff proposed that the council implement an interim ordinance that would require a more pedestrian-friendly approach: namely reducing street setbacks to bring the development closer to the street.
In the end, the council voted 2-5 against the proposal. A majority of members spoke against the idea of making a zoning decision in a hasty manner, and were also concerned that the interim zone would apply to all BN zones citywide even though the request was made on behalf of a single development in one neighborhood.