The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night unanimously approved an agreement to purchase Civic Center field in downtown Edmonds from the Edmonds School District.
Immediately following the vote, Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling invited councilmembers to join him and the city’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director on the floor of the council chambers to officially sign the document, which Hite has been working with the school district to finalize. The agreement is tentative, pending approval by the School Board.
To assist with the purchase, the city was awarded a 50-percent matching grant from Washington State Recreation Conservation Office for up to $1 million, plus a $500,000 grant from Snohomish Conservation Futures. The estimated price — which would be the $1.9 million purchase price plus appraisal fees, title, environmental assessment, escrow fees, survey and related costs — shouldn’t exceed $2 million. The city has budgeted $400,000 for acquisition this year, so the council authorized an additional $100,000 to complete the purchase.
The council also began weighing its options for crumb rubber playfields — an ongoing issue since the Edmonds School District announced plans to install artificial turf fields at former Woodway High School — but made no decisions/ Instead, after hearing citizen testimony and asking questions of city staff, councilmembers agreed to take up the matter again in early December.
City Development Services Director Shane Hope outlined some of the considerations for the council, including whether any ban should apply to projects for which the city is a funding partner, even if the location is outside the city limits. One example mentioned Tuesday night was Edmonds’ partnership with Lynnwood, the Edmonds School District, and Snohomish County on Meadowdale Playfields, located just outside of Edmonds. While located in Lynnwood, the fields are used by Edmonds residents, and Lynnwood is planning to rehabilitate them and install synthetic turf during the next two years.
Another hot topic among councilmembers was whether a ban should only apply to City of Edmonds-owned land or to any “public land” within the city, which could include not only the school district property but land owned by Verdant, the Hospital District and others.
City Councilmember Lora Petso suggested an emergency ordinance to ban crumb rubber that would take effect immediately and apply to new and “substantially renovated” fields. That idea was supported by Joan Bloom, who also spoke strongly in favor of having the ban apply to all publicly-owned land in Edmonds. That idea was opposed by Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and Councilmember Diane Buckshnis, who both said such a ban would interfere with the property rights of the other entities.
Councilmember Kristiana Johnson suggested the council consider a resolution that would “affirm that only natural grass and earthen materials be used in the City of Edmonds,” adding that such a solution “is probably the safest and best for the environment.”
In her presentation, Hope had mentioned that state law directs school boards to consider the purchase of waste shredded tires when they are setting up playgrounds. Councilmember Tom Mesaros asked City Attorney Jeff Taraday if such a directive had any bearing on the city’s decisions about crumb rubber use, and Taraday responded that it did not.
Another point of concern to some was whether a crumb rubber ban should apply only to sports fields and playfields or also to playgrounds that use rubberized materials. Hite noted that the city has been discussing the idea of creating at least one accessible playground in its parks system, and that a rubber surface is much easier for those in wheelchairs to navigate than the wood chips used currently.
Hope said that city staff recommends that any ban or moratorium approved by the council include a three- to five-year sunset period so that the council can review any new data that is comes in on crumb rubber. City Attorney Taraday said the city would be “blazing a trail” if it banned crumb rubber, noting that there is no precedent for such an action nationally. “I believe the city has the power to do that if it wants to,” Taraday added.
“I’m certainly not a fan of crumb rubber and I don’t see a place for it in our city,” Mesaros said. “But I am concerned about overreaching our bounds.”
Citizens who have testified in the past on the topic, as well as a few new speakers, showed up to make their feelings known; many of them — with health and safety concerns — were wearing “Ban Crumb Rubber” buttons. Ruth Blaikie told the story of her son, who recently transferred from Meadowdale High School to Edmonds Heights K-12 School (located adjacently to newly installed crumb rubber fields) and had an asthma flare-up after playing football with friends on the new turf.
Meadowdale High School Booster Club President David Harvey, who has played and coached soccer for 30 years, urged the council to be cautious and do their research while considering a possible crumb rubber ban.
State Senator Maralyn Chase (32nd District), who lives in Edmonds and whose grandson plays soccer, said she plans to introduce a bill in the upcoming session of the State Legislature calling for a statewide moratorium on crumb rubber playfields.
Also during the meeting, the council:
- heard about a planned upgrade for audiovisual equipment in the council chambers, which will include a wide range of technology improvements that will benefit both those attending council meetings and those appearing in district court, which uses the chamber during daytime hours. Among them: a new audio system, new projectors and screens including individual screens for each councilmember to view presentations, and an electronic system for tracking councilmembers’ votes.
- listened to a report from the city’s lobbyist about upcoming priorities in the 2016 state legislative session.
- received and placed on next week’s consent agenda easements from Edmonds-Woodway High School for the 76th and 212th intersection improvements.
- continued discussions about the proposed 2016 budget.
Due to the lateness of the hour, a discussion was postponed until next week on the future of the Citizens Economic Development Commission, which is scheduled to sunset at the end of 2015.