Council’s latest letter reminds Ecology director of support for wider marsh buffer

city-of-edmonds-logoThree members of the Edmonds City Council who voted to support a 115-foot buffer and 10-foot setback for the Edmonds Marsh sent a letter Monday to Washington State Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon, reminding her that support for the wider buffer is the official City of Edmonds position on the matter. The letter also cited the “lack of respect” shown by the decision of three councilmembers to send a “minority opinion” letter supporting a narrower buffer.

Monday’s letter was the latest salvo fired over the city’s draft Shoreline Master Program (SMP) document, with the most controversial sticking point being the width of the buffer and setback between the Edmonds Marsh and the property that surrounds it. After months of study and debate, the city council voted 4-3 Sept. 27 to approve the wider buffer. In taking that vote, the council majority rejected the Ecology Department’s request for a 50-foot buffer and 15-foot setback that was included as part of a broader Ecology response to the city’s SMP.

As Ecology Department director, Bellon is responsible for reviewing the city’s response and will issue a final ruling on the matter.

Those supporting the wider buffer/setback included Council President Kristiana Johnson and Councilmembers Diane Buckshnis, Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and Mike Nelson. Three councilmembers who supported the Ecology recommendation — Tom Mesaros, Dave Teitzel and Neil Tibbott — voted against the wider buffer, stating they believed it would prevent future redevelopment that would also include marsh restoration efforts.

Based on that Sept. 27 vote, the City of Edmonds sent a letter to Bellon — signed by Council President Kristiana Johnson —  that outlined the council’s response to Department of Ecology’s recommendations. On Oct. 21, Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling sent his own letter to Bellon, stating he also supported the narrower 50-foot buffer and 15-foot setback. That was followed by the minority opinion letter Oct. 25.

Both the mayor’s and the minority opinion letters elicited strong criticism from the four councilmembers supporting the wider buffer, and that was repeated in the most recent letter, which was dated Nov. 3 but will be sent to Bellon Monday, Nov. 14. (The Nov. 14 letter only includes three of the four majority councilmembers’ signatures — Buckshnis, Fraley-Monillas and Nelson — in order to avoid a rolling quorum of councilmembers, which would violate the State of Washington’s Open Meetings Act, Buckshnis said.)

The three councilmembers supporting the wider buffer/setback told Bellon the Nov. 3 letter served as a reminder that the other letters received “are not the official position of the City of Edmonds.” They reiterated their surprise regarding the Oct. 25 minority opinion letter, and went on to note that the combined legislative experience of those three councilmembers “is approximately 3.5 years,” compare to 19 years of combined experience for those voting for the wider buffer/setback.

“It is unfortunate that in the current climate of partisan politics that your office had to be part of the lack of respect for this extremely complex, lengthy, and detailed process,” the letter said.

The letter also reiterated the council majority’s opinion that they could find “no scientific basis” for the Ecology Department’s recommendation for the narrower marsh buffers.

As Ecology Department director, Bellon is responsible for reviewing the city’s response and will issue a final ruling on the matter.

— By Teresa Wippel



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