Edmonds City Council votes to keep roundabout plan for Five Corners

An artist's rendering of the proposed roundabout at Five Corners.

With 23 people appearing in person to testify and close to a hundred more submitting opinions via emails and letter (not to mention 150 votes in our My Edmonds News poll), the Edmonds City Council received a good cross section of opinions on the proposed Five Corners roundabout. In the end, councilmembers voted 5-2 Tuesday night to continue the design process for the project, although the city needs to find grant money to actually build it.

The proposal before the council Tuesday was whether to retain the project at 212th Street Southwest and 84th Avenue West — along with a proposed stoplight for 9th Avenue North and North Caspers Street– as part of the city’s 2012-2017 City’s Comprehensive Plan and Capital Improvement Program and Six-Year Transportation Improvement Program.

The City Council voted unanimously last July to authorize the mayor and city staff to sign a consultant agreement to begin the planning process for the roundabout, but some councilmembers and citizens began expressing concerns about the project in light of current city budget challenges. The city received a federal grant for $463,000 to fund final design and right-of-way acquisition; with a required 13.5 percent local match set to be paid for through the city’s Street Fund.  According to Edmonds Public Works Director Phil Williams, the city is continuing to pursue grant money for the construction phase.

Tuesday night’s public hearing was billed as an opportunity for citizens to have their say, and the large turnout transformed the usually sparse meeting attendance into a standing-room-only crowd. After listening to Williams tick off the reasons why the roundabout is a good idea — from decreasing traffic congestion, motor vehicle accidents and air pollution, to increasing the likelihood of future business development in the Five Corners neighborhood — nearly two dozen Edmonds residents chose to offer their thoughts.

They ranged from Lila McDonald, a roundabout opponent who has lived in the Five Corners area for 55 years, and “in all that time I have never seen an accident or a near accident,” to local environmental advocate Laura Spehar, who called the roundabout “a chance for Edmonds to be a smart growth leader in Snohomish County.”

Councilmember Michael Plunkett, who also lives in Five Corners, voted against the motion to retain the roundabout in the plan, along with Councilmember Lora Petso.  Plunkett also tried to remove the 9th and Caspers project from the city’s list, but that motion also failed on a 5-2 vote. (Joining Plunkett on the “no” side was Councilmember Steve Bernheim.) Williams pointed out that removing the 9th and Caspers project would essentially have no effect, as that particular intersection currently has no traffic problems so there is no immediate plan to install a signal (although it’s anticipated that congestion may occur in the future).

In other action, the Council:

– After tweaking some language, approved a proposed legislative agenda and a professional services agreement with city lobbyist Mike Doubleday.

– Identified the cohort of cities that Edmonds would be compared with in a salary and benefits study for non-represented employees.

– Approved a request that the City of Edmonds support the Transportation Partnership, a coalition of business, labor, local government and environmental representatives from around Washington state who are advocating that the state Legislature develop a comprehensive solution to the state’s transportation challenges.

– Agreed to extend the sunset date for the 17-member Citizens Economic Development Commission, which was set to expire at the end of December, for an additional 120 days. After expressing some concerns about both the effectiveness and mission of the commission, councilmembers agreed they would take up the future of the group during their council retreat, traditionally scheduled shortly after the first of the year.

– Recognized the accomplishments and contributions of outgoing City Councilmembers Steve Bernheim and DJ Wilson.





  1. Could someone tell me if the Ordinance relating to the changes in the Medical Activity Center boundaries to exclude the single family neighborhoods to the north and south of Edmonds-Woodway High School passed? It was in the Consent items for the night.

    Thank you.

  2. Well done, City Council. Well done, citizens of Edmonds. Most of all, thank you to Phil Williams for getting all of the information out, so that people could make an informed decision.

  3. I don’t think the information stands up to reality, and think the people may have made decisions on faulty data. I’m not crying about it because we eventually would have to
    do something about 5 corners anyway. I will be scrutinizing future information paraded as “facts” and watching the eventual cost to our city on this one.



    WHEREAS, the current Level of Service (LOS) of the Five Corners Street intersection is rated F,
    WHEREAS, the LOS rating F is the lowest possible, there is no other rating worse,
    WHEREAS, the LOS will continue to degrade until such time that City addresses the problem and implements a solution,
    WHEREAS, current LOS creates pollution, unproductive staff time and is unsafe for city owned vehicles and property,
    WHEREAS, restricting the City Staff use of this intersection with City vehicles may improve the LOS and protect City assets and property,
    WHEREAS, the Council desires to take action to improve the current dangerous, unproductive and polluting situation at the Five Corners intersection,
    NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the City Council being fully advised and informed by both the current and former Public Works Directors of the unsafe, unproductive and pollution contributing configuration of the Five Corners street intersection that no city vehicle shall use this route until the LOS improves and design improvements are implemented.
    RESOLUTION NO. _____

  5. Well said, Mr. Page. From my experience of having listened to business proposal presentations for several decades, the real facts are generally inversely proportional to the smoothness of the presentaion. We’ll watch this project like hawks and keep a scorecard of reality to what’s been presented.

  6. I have been driving through this intersection since I was 16 and now an 60. I have not had a problem negotiating it and do not see the need at this time to proceed with other pressing road problems in other areas that need to be addressed.

    If I read one comment correctly, I guess the Police, Fire, and Aid should not patrol or respond through this intersection in emergencies in the area as a city owned vehicle. Not quite sure what this means.

    Simply getting a grant is the wrong reason to build it, the need needs to be there, and in my opinion it is not at this time. Also, to simply want to lead strategic planning in the county as some sort of a leader in this area is not justified with taxpayer dollars at poor budget times without the need either.

  7. Recently there has been much discussion around the City of a need to improve the level-of-service (LOS) to citizens by installing a Roundabout at 5 Corners. Per State regulations, jurisdictions are required to establish LOS standards for arterials, transit service, and other facilities. The City is supposed to have a program to correct existing deficiencies and bring existing transportation facilities and services up to locally adopted standards.

    I’d like the City and its leaders to appreciate the LOS concept and recognize a responsibility to apply the concept to the City Code and Community Development Code (CODE). To deliver an excellent LOS to citizen taxpayers, developers and business people, the City must first establish a legal foundation that supports a high level of government service. A critical component of this legal foundation is a comprehensive, accurate, consistent and easy to administer CODE.

    This is especially true as the CODE relates to Community Development, which includes Building, Zoning, Land Use and Public Works. A significant portion of the services provided by the City are related to Community Development.

    During the October 25, 2005 City Council meeting, former Development Services Director Duane Bowman commented he had been describing the need to update the Zoning Code since he was hired in 2000. The comment was also made that the City’s code dated to the 1980s and piecemeal amendments make it difficult to use and administer.

    During Harry Gatchens’ February, 2011 Citizens Coffee with former City Attorney Scott Snyder, Mr. Snyder represented that he had suggested to the Council in 2004 that a code rewrite was probably a shrewd thing to do. Money was appropriated to do that the next year(2005), but the process itself has been slow and cumbersome. The Citizens Coffee took place during February of 2011 and Mr. Snyder represented that political issues had brought this issue almost to a standstill.

    It is very alarming that such a critical process, commenced and BUDGETED for many years ago, appears to have ground to a standstill before it was completed. The City has known since 2004/2005 that the piecemeal amendments to the CODE since 1980 had resulted in the CODE being difficult to use and administer. Despite taxpayer dollars being appropriated to address these deficiencies, one can make a compelling argument that the CODE remains difficult to use and administer. Why are citizens as well as developers and business people still subject to this type of CODE? It is difficult to understand how something this critical ground to a standstill before it was completed.

    How does the City justify the lengths it went to towards finishing Haines Wharf Park and yet the Code is left difficult to use and administer?!? Seems to me, that money would have been much better spent rewriting the CODE.

    Now we are discussing a Roundabout at 5 Corners. I have to wonder if this Roundabout will be completed before the CODE rewrite is. I would argue that it is very wrong for the City to not prioritize rewriting the CODE and operating as if everything is fine.

    1. Much as I feared back in 2011, it is now obvious that the Roundabout will be completed before the Code Rewrite is.

      How is this possible?

      The 2007 City Attorney Annual Presentation made on November 20, 2007 stated that the biggest issue at the start of 2007 was the Code Rewrite. I believe $300,000 was budgeted for such purpose back in those days. Still, the Code Rewrite was never completed.

      I think the surface was barely scratched. I think most of the work done was on a tiny section of the Edmonds Community Development Code (ECDC) – Chapter 17.40 related to nonconforming uses. Work on this one small section of the Code started prior to August 9, 2006 and was not completed until August 21, 2008. It took over 2 years to update ECDC 17.40!

      The February 8, 2012 Planning Board Minutes indicate that “the intent is for a team of staff members to attempt a comprehensive rewrite of the ECDC this year (2012), given that this is probably staff’s last opportunity for the foreseeable future and it is a critical item to accomplish.”

      Once again, the comprehensive rewrite of the ECDC did not get done during 2012. So, the City Council budgeted another $75,000 in 2013 and an additional $75,000 in 2014 to fund the Code Rewrite.

      2013 again ended in disappointment when only a portion ($20,000 or $40,000?) of the $75,000 budgeted amount was used for this critical project.

      Incredibly, it has happened again. We are now being told that about $70,000 of the 2014 budgeted amount (totaling $110 K) for a major Development Code update is unlikely to be spent before the end of 2014. A budget proposal is being made to carry forward the unspent portion ($85,000?) of the 2014 budget into 2015.


      What is the City Council supposed to do when they make their legislative intent clear, budget the related funds and our Mayors do not make sure the job gets done?

      1. Following are excerpts from the February 8, 2012 Planning Board Minutes:

        Mr. Chave said the current ECDC is a combination of legal documents and mystery. There is no entry point and no roadmap or guide. It is not easy to read and understand, and there are numerous inconsistencies and contradictions because it has been amended frequently. Staff is proposing a comprehensive structural change in the way the ECDC is written; the document will be reconfigured so it is easier for staff to administer and for the public to access and understand.

        Vice Chair Stewart commended staff for taking this project on; it is long overdue. She agreed with staff that the code must become more user friendly. Mr. Chave said that besides the more obvious benefits to users, it is anticipated that the demand on staff time will be reduced if people can access what they need on line and it is easy to understand and follow. He said this will help the City maintain their current staffing level in spite of mounting mandates from other sources. Board Member Tibbott asked how much savings staff anticipates on a yearly basis. Mr. Chave answered that he would not be surprised if the savings are as much as 15% to 20%. He expressed his belief that the current code works at cross purposes and staff spends a significant amount of time on code interpretation. He said that it takes between two and three years for a staff person to have enough experience to be proficient when working with an applicant.

        1. Finding out last evening that it is now estimated that a total of $385,000 is needed to complete an entire rewrite of the ECDC was difficult to take. I believe this long overdue rewrite of the Code has had $450,000 budgeted for it in the past. I am not sure what benefit we have received from the first $365,000 budgeted amount…but now we are told another $385,000 is probably needed.

          And I believe this is just for the ECDC. The ECC is also terribly in need of a code rewrite.

          I hope the City Council considers doing the following during this budget cycle:

          1. Assuming $385,000 is needed, budget the entire $385,000 so the rewrite of the ECDC can be completed ASAP – no later than December 31, 2015.

          2. Budget the appropriate amount to complete the entire rewrite of the ECC no later than December 31, 2015.

          Both budgeted items should be contingent upon a well documented plan of action that clarifies how the work will be completed and who is responsible for completion. Council should require regular progress updates.

          It may be much smarter and better to contract this work out to a firm that specializes in writing great codes. I highly recommend we look at the process Lake Oswego, Oregon followed when they had the similar challenges.

          Fortunately, the rewrites should increase efficiency and help pay for the related costs. The City must establish a legal foundation that supports a high level of government service. A critical component of this legal foundation is a comprehensive, accurate, consistent and easy to administer CODE.

          Why did we prioritize working on stuff like Westgate prior to correcting the legal foundation of our regular Code, a code known to be a mess going back to at least the year 2000?

          As I said in my June 23, 2012 email to my Elected Officials and Planning Board:

          I must continue to loudly exclaim that updating, clarifying and correcting the Code should be an extreme high priority. My opinion is that governing our City with such widespread knowledge of the Code’s poor condition is wrong in many ways. I believe the condition of the Code has resulted in much waste of public and private resources and will continue to do so. Please make rewriting the Code a top priority. Remember, this was supposed to have been addressed long ago.

        2. “Both budgeted items should be contingent upon a well documented plan of action that clarifies how the work will be completed and who is responsible for completion. Council should require regular progress updates.” This is a must.

          What I don’t believe has been asked is, what is currently causing the delay? It evidently is not a lack of money, because staff expects to have $85,000 in funding left over at the end of 2014. Can it be staffing? One of the justifications for re-establishing the Development Services Director position was to get the code re-written.

          City Council needs to be more pro-active with this issue.

        3. Thanks for your thoughts Ron. I see it slightly differently. I think the Mayor needs to be more pro-active with issues like this and make sure his staff is doing what the Council has budgeted for. Especially for an item that is so needed and so massively tardy already.

          In what ways do you think the Council should have been more pro-active?

          I think it may have helped if Council had taken steps to obtain regular PUBLIC updates on the status of the code rewrite. Let’s assume for a moment that they had done so and were displeased with the progress being made. If this were the case, I think the Mayor is the only one with the authority to redirect the priorities of his staff.

        4. “I think the Mayor needs to be more pro-active with issues like this and make sure his staff is doing what the Council has budgeted for.” We do not know if the Mayor has not been pro-active; his management of staff is not done publicly. We do know that city council has not had agenda items that cover progress updates. We could learn from those updates who has done what.

  8. I have lived in the Shell Park area of 5 Corners since 1980 and I also go through the 5 Corners intersection frequently, at varied times of the day, with little or no delay.

    To spend money on this project while asking the citizens to approve the recently failed levy for street overlay projects is bizarre at best. Where is the fiscal responsibility?

    My thanks to Mr. Plunkett and Ms. Petso for showing good common sense. This project would be fine with me in a robust economy. But to go forward now, with other more pressing needs, makes no sense.

  9. I agree with Tom 100%. What part of voting down the recent levy requests does the council not understand. The people don’t want to spend money on net needed items. Of course they don’t listen to the people, they vote it in anyway.

  10. A very good decision and vote by Councilpersons Plunkett and Petso. This “something for nothing” grant stuff will ultimately be paid for by U. S. citizens (which includes us) if successful and would be far better left unspent.

    The roundabout idea is highly unpopular and unfeasible. And the 5-2 vote in favor is disappointing.

  11. And the roundabout was voted for by 5 council members – Peterson, Fraley-Monillas, Bernheim, Buchshnis and Wilson – despite credible council meeting comments from citizens who had valid reasons for opposing it. The 5 supporters did not weigh the importance of the pros and the cons.

  12. People yell and scream now, but will be happy with the Round-about after we get used to it.

    The decision and proposal were based on a very thorough process of community input, professional analysis of data obtained from the area, and a lot of discussion that included the planning board, the economic development commission, dedicated city staffers, a team of U. WA planners, and others who thought long and hard about this proposal. People seem to fear change in small towns, but if they would attend more of the public meetings and study the options, they might be less fearful and negative.

    Let’s begin the new year with open minds and positive attitudes.

  13. Rebecca:

    If you did not view Tuesday’s public hearing I suggest that you do so. The crucial part of the opposition is not that people do not want a roundabout – they just don’t see the need at this time. The delay there is not what’s been presented by city staff, and the timing is not right from a financial standpoint.

  14. Darrol Rumer has it there are many options for the reserves that the council may be looking at. After all the sooner we spend it the sooner we go broke and put up the for sale sign

  15. Don, I would hope the council would support the ideas that may come out of the strategic planning process, or the ideas that could come out of the Economic Development Commission in the next 128 days. If we think about the use of the safeway building carefully we can find a number of uses for it. Bowling is just one, how about a indoor farmers market, how about and indoor type park and play area. How about using the north end buildings for a senior center and then use the senior center area for more waterfront park area. While the idea of buying Skippers was interesting it was not very bold. If we think boldly about what we want as a community, put together some great ideas, then maybe folks will say “that’s nice, lets tax ourselves to do that” Steve Bernhiem put some interesting ideas together a while back that were bold and creative. The high school students also put some bold ideas forward as well. We still have the models and pictures that they proposed.

    It may be time to think boldly and creatively about that near waterfront properties.

  16. Comingling the general fund and emergency reserves is already a mistake. It makes people think that we have more funds than we really do. The $1.3 million from the sale of the fire department’s rolling stock always should have been placed in the general fund, so let it now remain there to be spent on prudent expenditures. The $1.9 emergency reserve needs to be a standalone reserve for emergencies, not to be used for operational needs that result from revenue shortfalls.

  17. Ron W. I am suggesting that in the name to transparency that the public be made aware of ALL of our reserve accounts and also the status of all of our accounts. There are explainations for all the accounts and their balances but it is hard to find them, understand what the are for and how they can and cannot be spent. There are major reserve accounts. You touched on 2. The 1.3m labeled as public safety reserve created by the sale of fire equipment. the 1.9m emergency that council locked up for acts of god type emergencies. The 3rd major reserve is that which is simple a part of the general fund. It has been kicked around all over the place with definations like 1 month or 2 months of the general expenditures. Now ideas are floating to define it as a percent of the GF. I do not know if council has acted upon a proposed ordinance that creates a sliding scale over time to build these reserves but it may be time to put all the numbers out there for the public to see and learn about our budget in greater detail. Then we can make informed decisions of what reserves we have, how can they be used, and discuss the need of the city with all the pieces visible to all.

  18. Anyone who has been looking at channel 21 to see this week’s council meeting will have noticed that a couple hour segment of it was missing, in fact most of the roundabout discussion. The problem with the tape has been fixed, so the full meeting can now be viewed.

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