The Edmonds City Council at its Tuesday night meeting got a first look at a draft resolution, proposed by Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, “urging a prohibition on the transport of coal ore and crude oil by rail through the City of Edmonds.” The resolution was sparked by the recent oil train derailment and fire in the Columbia River Gorge area of Mosier, Ore., and drew both local residents and members of the Sierra Club to the council chambers to testify in favor of the measure.
The resolution notes that the possibility of a similar derailment in Edmonds, coupled with a fire, evacuation and loss of property and life, “would be devastating to the City of Edmonds and its residents.” It calls for the council to “strongly urge” the U.S. Department of Transportation “to prohibit the transportation by rail through the City of Edmondsof all fossil fuels, while continuing to strive to implement further aggressive, regulatory measures to safeguard our community and natural resources.”
“Most disturbing to me is the blast zone that is currently out there,” Fraley-Monillas said. “If we were to have an explosion along the Edmonds waterfront, the blast zone itself is a half a mile from the railway going inland, so that’s probably right around City Hall.”
Questions were raised by some councilmembers about the fact that the council already passed a resolution in 2014 expressing opposition to coal trains, and whether this new resolution should only focus on oil trains. Councilmember Dave Teitzel added that it appeared that trains carrying oil pose a much greater risk than those carrying coal, and wondered if it would be best to only focus on oil trains. “I think it should be focused primarily or exclusively as a resolution on the oil issue,” he said.
Fraley-Monillas said that while fellow councilmembers are welcome to disagree, she does plan to introduce a final resolution — or two separate resolutions — opposing the transportation of both coal and oil.
Councilmember Mike Nelson said that in reviewing the research, what stood out for him was not so much the increasing number of oil train cars, but the increase in the amount of oil that has been spilled. In fact, Nelson said, there was more oil spilled in 2013 alone than from 1975-2012.
“So to give you an idea of the potential threat we face as a city, I think it’s real, I think it’s immediate, and I think we need to take whatever action we can to prohibit it,” Nelson said.
The council also unanimously agreed to forward to next week’s consent agenda approval of an Edmonds Planning Board recommendation to rezone property in the city’s Westgate neighborhood that has been used as a residence for the past 45 years, even though it was technically zoned as open space.
After conducting a closed-record review of the Planning Board’s decision, the council approved a city-sponsored rezone of 21802 98th Ave. W. from open space to single-family residential.
Associate Planner Michael Clugston told the council that city staff were reviewing a building permit for a nearby site in the Westgate area when they noticed that the parcel in question was zoned open space rather than single family, even though parcels of land surrounding it were zoned single family. The parcel used to be the site of a city-owned water storage facility and so was zoned open space. However, that facility was removed in the late 1960s.
The parcel should have been rezoned to single-family residential at that time but wasn’t. Despite that, in 1971 the city approved a building permit for the existing single family residence on the lot and later, in 1976, approved a pool. The planning board supported the staff recommendation for a site-specific rezone to correct the zoning map for the parcel.
The council also officially welcomed its new legislative and executive assistant Andrew Pierce. A Navy veteran, Pierce received his bachelor’s degree in political science from University of California-Berkley and attended law school at the University of New Mexico.