Council says more work needed on urban forest report; OKs extra dollars for sewer project

City of Edmonds officials Tuesday night accepted an award from the Puget Sound Regional Council for the city’s Highway 99 Subarea Plan, described as “a model for our entire diverse region,” said PSRC Executive Director Josh Brown. Those pictured, from left, are City Councilmembers Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and Neil Tibbott, PSRC’s Josh Brown, Councilmember Tom Mesaros, Mayor Dave Earling, Councilmember Diane Buckshnis, Development Services Director Shane Hope, Councilmembers Dave Teitzel and Mike Nelson. More on the award here.

When it comes to the city’s draft Urban Forest Management Plan, there’s still more work to do. That was the consensus after Edmonds City Councilmembers reviewed a revised draft of the plan Tuesday night.

In his presentation, consultant Ian Scott of the Davey Resource Group noted how he had responded to council concerns expressed during an earlier June 19 review of the plan. For example, the initial draft’s 21 goals were streamlined to five. Examples of incentives to encourage proper tree management were incorporated. More Edmonds-specific information was included, as was a section on citizen input.

Yet, councilmembers still had many criticisms.

There was disagreement, for example, over which parks within Edmonds’ jurisdiction should be included as part the city’s existing tree canopy. Should South County Park be included because it is within Edmonds’ boundaries, even though it is maintained by Snohomish County? Should Esperance Park be excluded because it is located in unincorporated Snohomish County, even though it is an island of land surrounded by Edmonds?

Council President Mike Nelson said he appreciated what had been revised, but he disagreed with one of the five goals that calls for maintaining the city’s current canopy coverage. Instead, Nelson said, the goal should be to grow the canopy.

The other four goals — revised from 21 — are to manage trees proactively, incentivize private tree protection, support and provide community education, and promote the idea of “Right tree, right place.”

Councilmember Diane Buckshnis, who had been a sharp critic of the report presented June 19, did not appear any happier with the revised version Tuesday night. She said the latest report “disrespected” members of the Edmonds Tree Board because it didn’t include their input. After listing several other criticisms, she concluded that the city could have simply copied urban forest management plan reports from nearby cities like Shoreline and saved the $130,000 consulting fee.

Councilmember Kristiana Johnson called the plan “a disappointment,” adding it appeared to be designed for street trees and arborists rather than as a way to increase the city’s tree canopy.

Councilmember Neil Tibbott said he wasn’t sure how the city could apply the report findings and make it useful, especially given the “diversity of opinions” on the topic.

Consultant Ian Scott acknowledged that challenge at the beginning of his presentation, noting that “trees, views and property rights can be divisive topics.” The goal, he said, “is to find consensus.”

Councilmember Dave Teitzel complimented Scott on his work, and added he believes the consultant is hearing “an undercurrent of dissatisfaction because the plan doesn’t go far enough for addressing trees on private property.” Teitzel pointed to a debate three years ago over a proposed Edmonds Tree Code, which highlighted the strong feelings citizens have, adding that he believed the goal of the urban forest management plan was not to explore “private property rights in addressing trees.”

As reported in our July 2015 story here, the earlier proposed tree code generated much heated public discussion. As a result, the Edmonds Planning Board recommended — and the council agreed — that the city not adopt the code, but rather first develop an Urban Forest Management Plan to provide policy direction and better inform the process.

At the end of Tuesday’s discussion on the matter, the council directed the consultant and staff to “sharpen their pencils” and further revise the report to reflect their concerns.

In other action, the council reviewed and unanimously approved a change order for $175,000 to cover unanticipated expenses incurred as part of the city’s 2018 Sewer Replacement Project that has moved across Civic Field and along 7th Avenue North and Edmonds Street. The council also approved a $250,000 increase in the project’s management reserve in case of additional unforeseen problems.

Map of affected area, as shown during Tuesday’s council presentation.

Public Works Director Phil Williams and Engineer Rob English explained that the cost overruns were due to several factors, including the need to install a larger and more secure dewatering system to address high groundwater levels at the Civic Field site; the removal and disposal of creosote-coated wood piles discovered during sewer pipe installation on Edmonds Street; and extensive repair and replacement of existing pavement on 7th Ave North.

Among other items, the council also:

– Heard an update from Verdant Health Commission Superintendent Robin Fenn.

– Unanimously approved a resolution supporting the city’s efforts to receive State of Washington designation as a Creative District to promote and grow Edmonds’ arts and culture sector.

– Approved by a 5-2 vote (Councilmembers Fraley-Monillas and Nelson against) a proposal by Councilmember Diane Buckshnis to rescind an earlier vote related to accounting positions proposed for the public works and finance departments. As a result, the city administration will come back to the council at a later date with a new proposal involving the two jobs.

— Story and photos by Teresa Wippel


2 Replies to “Council says more work needed on urban forest report; OKs extra dollars for sewer project”

  1. So, I see that once again City ‘leaders’ are squandering our tax dollars to the tune of $550,000.00.
    $130,000.00 to a ‘Consulting Firm’ to advise the City on the ‘Tree Canopy’? I agree heartily with Ms. Bucksnish that this could have been dealt with very differently. They use UW Students to do traffic studies in Order to approve construction quicker and cheaper. Couldn’t they have used the Students here as well?
    Once again, ‘cost overruns’ are stealing our tax dollars. I swear! This City needs to hire an actual Financisl Professional to manage these projects. I work in Capital Projects in a Seattle Organization and I could do a whole better than these folks. It’s called budgeting people! Even an entry level Gandyman knows that you have to include a percentage in contingency monies as well as setting the budget on the high side. These Edmonds people sell the Public on projects by presenting the lowest possible bids/quotes just to get buy in, then here come the ‘overruns’.
    I can understand a certain overrun in the seeers due to the pilings but a contingency would have covered that. (BTW, those pilings were found a couple years ago so why are they just now claiming $175,000.00 needed?) then there is the quarter of a Million dollars for ‘Management’?? Huh??


  2. There’s just too much tree cutting, and chainsaws are so accessible. Even George Washington’s son cut down a cherry tree. You don’t even need to register to carry a concealed chainsaw, and there’s no waiting period to buy a chainsaw. I think there should be an ordinance requiring locks on chainsaws. Just think how many trees would be saved!


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