In a letter to the Edmonds City Council April 25, Maplewood residents Michael and Melissa Mearns described their efforts to operate what they believe is “the only neighborhood farm in the City of Edmonds.” (We’ve included a YouTube video about their farm above.) They spoke about making just money to cover expenses as they supplied 10 to 15 families each week with seasonal produce from their 3,000-square-foot garden, called Rubberneck Farms. And they asked why the City of Edmonds had to charge them nearly $600 for a conditional use permit, which conflicts with state law that says farmers and gardeners have a right to sell home-grown produce without a license.
After listening to public testimony Tuesday night by the Mearns’ as well as neighbors who patronized Rubberneck Farms, the Council voted unanimously to support an Edmonds Planning Board recommendation to eliminate the conditional use permit requirement for urban farms.
Prior to the vote, City planner Jen Machuga told councilmembers that removing the permit requirement wouldn’t change other city requirements for urban farming aimed at protecting nearby neighbors, such as restrictions on hours of operation and requirements that there is adequate parking for patrons. But neighbors who showed up to support Rubberneck Farms assured the council that the Mearns’ operation hasn’t been at all disruptive, and instead has provided significant benefits to those living nearby.
“My kids came home with vegetables I’d never seen before,” said Daniel Graham, who lives across the street. “We haven’t had any issues with noise or traffic.” In addition, Graham and several others who spoke Tuesday night talked about the way the farm had connected the neighborhood by encouraging residents to meet and interact.
The council also heard recommendations from the Citizens Commission for Compensation of Elected Officials, which would take affect in January 2013, governing the salary of the mayor, city council members and municipal court judge. The commission, which compared the salaries to those of comparable Puget Sound area cities, recommended no changes in pay for the mayor or judge, but did suggest that councilmembers be paid in a more flexible manner that would allow them to choose whether they wanted to receive city health benefits or to instead receive cash in lieu of benefits.
Councilmembers Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and Joan Bloom noted that the idea behind changing the pay and benefits structure was to make council service more attractive to a diverse range of candidates, including those who might already have health benefits but would appreciate the extra money instead, especially if they had to reduce their work hours in order to accommodate council duties.
Commission members were quick to point out that the proposed change doesn’t increase the amount of dollars the city allocates to council pay — currently at $1,567 per councilmember; it just rearranges how it is distributed. (The Council president, by the way, earns an extra $200 monthly to compensate for his or her extra duties.) You can see the complete presentation of the commission here.
In addition, the council also:
– Heard a brief presentation from Edmonds School District Superintendent Nick Brossoit on the accomplishments of the district’s students, including a significant increase in SAT test scores.
– Listened to a resolution proclaiming May “Puget Sound Starts Here Month.”