Council further explores role in land-use decisions; agrees to special meeting on waterfront center

Dave Buelow of the Edmonds Scarecrow Festival explains during Tuesday’s council meeting the details of the 6th annual event, with registration opening Oct. 1.

The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night revisited what role, if any, it should have in hearing citizen appeals of land-use decisions made by the city’s Planning Board, Architectural Design Board or Hearing Examiner.

The council in August 2016 approved by a 4-3 vote a resolution expressing the its intent to revise city code to remove the council’s quasi-judicial decision-making responsibility. The vote came after city staff and City Attorney Jeff Taraday expressed concerns about possible long-term financial risk to the city if the council makes a bad decision.

Although two years have passed, action to finalize the council’s intent is still pending, and hence the reason for revisiting the issue Tuesday night. City Development Director Shane Hope said via email prior to Tuesday’s meeting that even though the code changes seemed simple, “it required a lot of code review and minor adjustments in various places to actually accomplish the intention without having conflicts left in the code.”

In addition, Hope said, other projects and permits were already in the department’s queue and staff “have been scrambling to catch up.

In explaining the issue, Environmental Programs Manager Kernen Lien noted that as legislators, councilmembers are seeking opinions from their constituents. “With quasi-judicial decisions, you are generally prohibited from contact with citizens outside of the council process,” he said. Another issue stems from councilmembers’ liability if a land-use decision was made due to political pressure, Lien explained.

Those were the main reasons that councilmembers in August 2016 passed by a 4-3 vote Resolution 1367. Councilmember Diane Buckshnis, who was one of three councilmembers opposing the resolution, Tuesday night urged her fellow councilmembers to reconsider their support.

“We are seriously taking the voice of the citizens away from city council,” Buckshnis said, adding that without a city council review, those who want to appeal a land-use decision will have to move to the courts, incurring a filing fee and attorney costs.

Councilmember Kristiana Johnson, who voted for the resolution two years ago, said she is leaning toward continuing that support. Johnson said she read through past materials in preparation for Tuesday’s meeting, and quoted from a 2016 presentation by City Attorney Jeff Taraday. She pointed to Taraday’s statement that the council did have another option if they wanted to appeal a land-use decision: They could ask the city attorney to file an appeal, via the state’s land use petition act (LUPA), on the council’s behalf.

“It is a way for us to respond to the constituents, to be able to have open conversations with them, without jeopardizing any of our council-making decisions,” Johnson said.

In further discussion with councilmembers Tuesday night, Taraday said that the council may be assuming that they would always be “on the side of their constituent” in land use matters. However, in some cases the opposite may sometimes be true, and “you are in fact forced to vote against the will of your constituents,” he said.

The next step is to schedule a public hearing on the matter during a future council meeting, with the date still to be determined.

In other business, the council had a 40-minute discussion related to logistics of a special meeting of the council Finance Committee. The goal is to discuss in more detail a proposal that the city pick up the entire cost of parking lot and street frontage improvements for the multi-generational waterfront center building planned to replace the Edmonds Senior Center.

The Finance Committee would normally take up the issue during its meeting next week, but Committee Chair Dave Teitzel will be out of town. The council wanted to ensure it would be appropriate to hold a special meeting, outside of the regular council meeting time, later in September.

There were concerns raised about meeting transparency, since the waterfront center proposal involves a significant amount of money. (The estimated total cost of the frontage improvements, if the city picked up the entire tab, is just under $2 million.)

Fraley-Monillas suggested that the meeting, whenever it is held, be videotaped, but others noted that no council committee meetings are currently video recorded. Such a decision would set a precedent for future meetings, with the council having to decide what would be important enough to require video coverage, Buckshnis said.

A motion by Fraley-Monillas to videotape the meeting died for a lack of a second, although Council President Mike Nelson said later in the discussion that he believes all council committee meetings should be on video, in the interest of transparency.

Currently, council committee meetings are held simultaneously in separate rooms in the Public Safety Complex, with no video available. Audio recordings are made and notes are taken.

In the end, councilmembers agreed that a special Finance Committee meeting on the waterfront center proposal will be held, with the date and time to be determined. We will provide more details on that meeting when available.

In other action, the council:

– Heard a presentation on the Edmonds Historical Museum Annual Scarecrow Festival. Registration for the sixth annual festival runs Oct. 1-15, with voting for scarecrow entries taking place on the museum website — — Oct. 16-Nov. 2. Scarecrow Festival coordinator Dave Buelow told the council there will be a new noncompetitive category this year for those who want to be part of the fun, but are not interested in collecting votes. There will also be a scarecrow hunt involving prizes, he said.

– Received an introduction to an Update of the Critical Area Regulations for wetlands.

– Got an update on the city’s 2019-2024 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) and the Capital Facilities Plan (CFP). (We’ll have more on that in a future story.)

— By Teresa Wippel

4 Replies to “Council further explores role in land-use decisions; agrees to special meeting on waterfront center”

  1. Quasi-judicial decision-making responsibility regarding land use, City Council is trying to remove that from their responsibility in the name of Liability! Limiting community feed back to make exceptions and changes to Public Land, sounds pretty Authoritarian to me. What’s the point of having a City Council if we start self shedding our Responsibilities and their bequeathed powers. I’m still waiting for responses of where all the Council members fall on adding cost effective Parking to the Civic field plan and revisiting the plan? Or are we going to wait until we can change the codes so we don’t have to address this lost opportunity? Yes know DEED,GRANT RESTRICTIONS FOLKS, just 7 people that can bring our parking lot to and our community and our rapidly evolving downtown. Does anyone in this town honestly believe there will ever be another opportunity to carve out 6.25% of the Civic Public property and add a simple 50 stall paved parking lot? I realize the council is not city planners and park designers, but the nearly entire downtown businesses are asking for more parking, Consider the cars generated in the coming months and years from projects such as Bartel Edmonds Way project- 91 units, 14 town homes tossed onto single parcels “Bracketts Corner” on 212th, New Point Edwards Building #10 68 units, The 5 story 193 unit apartment building the city has been considering, not to mention the controversial eventual 300 Pod units on 84th, the list goes on and on of rapid mixed/high density Residential developments underway now, I welcome growth, just need more parking, Myself and Community do not want to hear excuses about future parking plans and Idea’s to solve the parking issues in Edmonds Someday, that will take years if not decades and I’m sure they will cost a small fortune to implement, We can pave a simple parking lot on Civic Field. Don’t shed your responsibility Council members we need you guys to have power otherwise our voice is lost…. I encourage members of our community to shoot the council an email on this


    1. I couldn’t imagine how upset the town home owners would be with a parking lot on Civic Field. I’m not from here, but appreciate the older folks and their memories of that area. That said, I’m not smart enough to know if you proposal has merit.

      I own two business parking spots I don’t use. I’ve considered renting them out. A lot of the churches (for example) have tons of parking that isn’t used, which maybe they could rent out if it weren’t an IRS risk of some sort (I don’t know the mechanics behind that). I think there is a sufficient amount of parking, it’s just that the City Parking passes are practically free (I own one of those too), that the City has zoned residential development without parking (such as on 3rd), we don’t have meter system. Parking is a function of rent, most of our parking is obfuscated from price.

      Then, public transit in general never meets any of it’s stated objectives. Practically every bus is empty, but the buses run on time. The ferry system does *zero* load leveling, meaning during peak demand the ferry line extends up the hill to Wells Fargo. I have Sounders tickets, but the Sounder train adds too much time to the task of getting to a game so I drive.

      Is all this just growing pain?


  2. Matthew, your response is very good. But, as a past business owner on Main 12 years ago, the downtown really NEEDS parking. They have needed it 12 years ago. We need a 2 story large capacity parking lot. The employees of all the downtown area need a place to park. (INCLUDING the city employees.) Employees continually took so much parking downtown, there was not much parking left for shoppers. It definitely is a problem of law suits (isn’t everything?) of people sub letting their parking space. (Which frankly is a EXCELLENT IDEA…


  3. I can tell you lived her since 1978 the new park is not a representation of its old self any nostalgic remembrance died when they removed the Track & Field and Stadium seating (love new park plan just needs parking). Regarding the Town homes next to Civic field currently looking at rusty fences and run down park and dilapidated Boys & Girls Club building, So I guess I’m not concerned when they will be in walking distance to an awesome park. I’m guessing their neighborhood will be improved along with property values to put up with a simple parking lot so the rest of us can utilize the park as well seems more than fair. Allocating 6% of a grass field could be better utilized as 50 parking spots for the entire community and support the enhanced park. In fact I believe master plan desires multi- family zones on both opposite sides of the park North and South, just taking up more free available public parking spaces in the future, that seems to be the alarming trend. I just drove through town its packed how can anyone honestly think we don’t need more parking? I also just drove by Bartel project on Edmonds-Way being framed up, what a beast! 91 units does anyone actually believe that 91 people that’s assuming just one person in each unit full time, does not own any cars and are not going to drive into Downtown and use the enhanced new Civic Park and visit shops and restaurants? People are paying 770k for townhomes up by Edmonds-Woodway H.S you think its because they can be next to the H.S? or is it they can take a quick drive to Downtown Edmonds and enjoy themselves like we all do? Having massive residential density expansion all over our town and not acknowledging people own cars and will be driving to these amenities and supporting local businesses is a complete travesty and totally irresponsible planning, as one local posted recently don’t “ballardize” Edmonds. I use to visit Ballard I don’t any longer because I can’t find parking, …… I rarely go to Seattle, $25 to park massive traffic. Don’t exponentially change the population of our town in the name of affordability and Growth policy dictated by the State of Washington and then sit back and hope that public transportation fills the gaps someday or we can have paid parking schemes to fix the problem, or use church or bank parking lots after hours, that will not even appease literally hundreds of new cars just from local developments I have listed that will be active soon. I own the parking lot at 550 Main its packed everyday and have local business asking me if they can use it for there customers so I feel I have a pretty good pulse on the situation (yes a course people can park there, not Ombu salon spots though). A paved parking lot using 6% of the property for parking is the most cost effective and logical thing to do now. Why do I have to be Captain Obvious here? We have a city council on the verge of bowing out of Public land use decisions? Is not Public land and the utility derived by the use of public property if not the largest collective asset we have as a community, what is going on in this Town? I hope to compile a list of all the businesses in town see what they think. I can tell you the handful of Anchor longtime businesses in Downtown are not happy parking was not included, once in a generation opportunity to add simple estimated cost 40k paved parking lot, on flat piece of public property, in close proximity to major private, Civic & Art assets of our community (page 15 Civic MP)


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