Edmonds City Council report: Hwy 99 planning process underway; questions raised about status of Woodway field agreement

HWY_99_Corridor_Map

What does the future hold for the two-mile stretch of Highway 99 that runs through Edmonds? Citizens will soon be asked to weigh in on that question, as the planning process for corridor — home to sales tax-generating car dealerships, strip malls and Edmonds’ own International District ramps up during the next year. The Edmonds City Council received an update on that planning during their Tuesday night meeting.

“The public process will be very important,” City of Edmonds Development Director Shane Hope told the council, noting that citizens will be engaged in a range of ways, from open house events and workshops, to online surveys and newsletter articles, to public hearings at planning board and city council meetings. The city already has a page on its website devoted to Highway 99, and you can access it here.

The cities of Shoreline, Everett and Lynnwood have done their own Highway 99 plans, Hope said, and the City of Shoreline received “significant funding” for its nearly-completed Highway 99 renovation project. The State of Washington has allocated about $10 million from its 10-year transportation budget for Edmonds Highway 99 work, but it’s likely that it will not be available right away, Hope said. Current planning is being funded with $100,000 allocated to Highway 99 in Edmonds’ 2015 budget.

Pedestrians walking along Highway 99 in Edmonds have no buffer from fast-moving traffic. (Photos courtesy City of Edmonds)
Pedestrians walking along Highway 99 in Edmonds have no buffer from fast-moving traffic. (Photos courtesy City of Edmonds)
Unlike the City of Shoreline’s Highway 99 corridor prior to renovation, most of Highway 99 in Edmonds has sidewalks, Hope said. However, they are not necessarily conducive to walking, given their location right next to traffic, long stretches with no safe places for pedestrians to cross and — in some parts of the corridor — crime or other undesirable activities.

Among the issues to be considered during the planning project:

    • What is vision for corridor?
    • How to complement/encourage unique parts of the corridor and also integrate with the whole community?
    • How to retain desirable businesses and encourage new ones?
    • How to include housing in the area?
    • What will be the needs over the next 20 years?
    • Can new development be more attractive? Would design guidelines help?
    • What transit options will help corridor and community connections?
    • What impacts could occur from redevelopment and how can they be reduced or managed?
    • Ideas or lessons from other cities’ Highway 99 plans and projects that could apply to Edmonds?

The next steps include selecting a consultant for the planning process, obtaining public input and studying the issues. The goal is to create a draft plan that identifies environmental and traffic impacts, and recommends activities and projects to meet the plan’s vision and goals.

After obtaining additional public comment, the plan would be finalized and presented to the council for a final decision.

You can see the Highway 99 Power Point presentation from Tuesday night’s meeting here.

In other action, the council:

–Heard a proclamation in honor of Arts and Humanities Month. Citizens representing arts organizations in Edmonds were in attendance, and the council viewed “Arts in Edmonds,” a video produced by Darlene McLellan, director of the Edmonds Arts Festival Foundation, and Dawn McLellan, foundation member. The video, which features a music soundtrack played by EWHS Jazz band, will soon be available on the city’s website.

–Held a public hearing on a proposal to revise the city’s Critical Areas Regulations to comply with the State Growth Management Act. Critical areas include wetlands, fish and wildlife habitat (including streams), geologically hazardous areas (landslide hazards, erosion hazards, and liquefaction hazards), and frequently flooded areas.  Critical area regulations include requirements about buffers on streams and wetlands as well as special report requirements for development within potential landslide hazard areas. These areas are located throughout the city so the regulations apply to a large number of properties, and citizens testified about the importance of protecting sensitive areas from development as well as private property rights. Councilmembers agreed that they weren’t ready to take action on the regulations and wanted more time to research the associated issues. The plan is to bring the regulations back to the council at its Oct. 27 meeting.

During the public comment period and again during council comments, discussed a report by citizens who attended the Edmonds School District Superintendent’s Roundtable meeting Sept. 23 indicating that the district would not been pursuing an interlocal agreement with the city for scheduling and use of the new turf play fields next to the former Woodway High School. The artificial tire-crumb rubber turf installed on the fields this summer generated controversy after some citizens expressed concerns about the fields’ possible health and environmental effects. The council had directed City Attorney Jeff Taraday two months ago to work with the school district attorney on a revised ILA based on citizen and council input.

On Tuesday night, Councilmember Joan Bloom read an email from former Councilmember Ron Wambolt, who attended the Superintendent’s Sept. 23 meeting. According to Wambolt, Superintendent Nick Brossoit indicated that the school district “had told the city that they could not allow the city to dictate to them what type of turf would be used in the future.”

“There’s obviously some miscommunication taking place between the superintendent, the school district’s attorney and me,” said Taraday, who said he has not received any such message from the district. Taraday added that he has followed up twice in the past two weeks with the school district’s attorney “on when we can expect to get a draft back” on the interlocal agreement, but has not received a response.

Councilmembers agreed that they would like to know where the interlocal agreement stands so that the council can make a decision about reallocating funds that had been designated for the sports field complex. “I think we need to get a final answer before we move forward, one way or the other,” Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas told Taraday. “We need to get an answer from the district.”

— The council also received the city’s August 2015 Financial Report from Finance Director Scott James, which included news that the city’s general fund revenues are up $1.28 million compared to the same period a year ago. “Home sales have been spectacular in the city,” James said, and real estate excise taxes have increased 21.5 percent since last year. You can see all the figures in his presentation here.

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