Council April 23 to revisit non-conforming condo buildings, quasi-judicial role in land use

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    As part of a full agenda on Tuesday, April 23, the Edmonds City Council is set to revisit what to do about existing condominium buildings in Edmonds that don’t conform to city code.

    The council will look at next steps, including a review by the Edmonds Planning Board as early as May 8, followed by a council public hearing and vote on either May 14 or 21. The council is also set to revisit the possibility of approving an interim ordinance — proposed last week by Councilmember Mike Nelson — that would be effective for 180 days while the other process continues.

    The issue was raised two weeks ago when the council’s Planning, Public Safety and Personnel Committee learned that during the 1960s and 1970s, more than 20 condominium buildings had been built under a code that allowed for a greater number of units than is currently permitted. That number has grown to 25 buildings (although there are likely more), with a total of 633 condo units affected, according to the council agenda memo.

    If disaster struck — such as a major fire or earthquake — and one of these buildings lost 75 percent or more of its replacement cost at the time of destruction or severe damage, it would have be rebuilt to conform to the new code with fewer units and a height limit of 30 feet.

    At their April 16 meeting, councilmembers by a 4-3 vote rejected Nelson’s proposal for an interim ordinance, stating they wanted more time to review it. Reconsideration of the interim ordinance is also on the April 23 agenda.

    Another agenda item of interest for Tuesday night is further discussion of proposed raises for city department directors so that they are in line with the market median salary for comparable positions in other cities. This issue was discussed briefly at the April 16 council meeting, with Councilmember Tom Mesaros making a case for supporting the salary increases as proposed by the city administration. However, Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas took an opposing view, stating that research conducted by the council indicates the raises aren’t justified.

    Also on the council agenda:

    – Consideration of whether the council should change its quasi-judicial role in land-use permit decision-making-

    – Approval of a temporary employment contract for an Edmonds court administrator to fill the position while a permanent administrator is being sought.

    – A proclamation honoring local historian and My Edmonds News writer Betty Lou Gaeng.

    – The Arts Commission 2018 Annual Report

    – A discussion on the the city’s fund balance and reserve policy.

    Prior to the business meeting at 7 p.m., the council is scheduled to meet at 6:45 p.m. to interview Edmonds resident Ray Liaw, who has been recommended for appointment to the Edmonds Public Facilities District Board.

    The council meeting will be in the Public Safety Complex, 250 5th Ave. N. You can see the complete agenda here.

    7 Replies to “Council April 23 to revisit non-conforming condo buildings, quasi-judicial role in land use”

    1. The code change issue is for all multi-family buildings, not just condos. It says that right in the language of the proposed ordinance. The map and list is far from complete but more research can identify the many more non-compliant buildings that will be impacted by this change.

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    2. I did not see The Ebbtide on the waterfront listed in the nonconforming condos. Surely it does not fall within the current code with its six story height!

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    3. it is important that the City identify all the affected legal non-conforming structures. And they have not been quick to do that. Now that the issue has come to light ( with a poor citizen caught up in the middle of it) it will have to be disclosed to all potential buyers of units in those buildings. Arguing that banks may lend for future purchasers is wishful thinking. Why would an all cash buyer purchase a unit which may or may not be able to be rebuilt? Clearly this affects a lot of folks in Edmonds. And the fix is not going to be an easy one. It also needs to be a clear, unequivocal fix to protect the interests of each and every member of the HOAs affected. That is going to be expensive. It also has to be done. Not half way. Not on the cheap. A real legally binding fix.
      The Council should immediately hire an attorney to determine the proper and binding fix for these folks to be assured their investment is protected. Not spending money on the Code revisions has already been costly. It needs to be done before spending money on new buildings ( the Waterfront Center and the Sunset connector). This issue is too important to just piecemeal attempt to fix it without expert guidance.

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    4. One thought comes to mind, If a building is lost and is rebuilt to current code you lose housing. This is also an important issue that is being discussed. These both appear to be on a collision course. What do you we want more affordable housing, as many of these unit are less expensive than than purchasing in downtown, or to have a code that does not allow for more affordable housing in Edmonds. It appears that council and committees are not looking at the bigger picture. What projects effect other projects in the city?

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      1. Currently the only thing that is being considered is to allow the same number of units as today, same height, and same setbacks so the building box would basically be the same as today in terms of square footage. Other items in the code will have to be updated and with the current building cost what they are and the new code requirements each unit will cost substantially more to rebuild that is the current value. Hopefully the home owner had insurance that will pay for replacement and not the original value. Also some insurance companies will not pay for those items that are “new” in the code unless you have as part of the policy what I think is called “code update” insurance or something like that. Not a costly insurance item but will cost the homeowner a great deal if they do not have it.

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    5. Diane T. (from the good old days) I agree with Ron, bring you voice and insight to our issues, it will do us all good to have your detailed analysis.

      We are dealing with millions of dollars of real estate and billions of dollars of total real estate that is dependent on good government decisions.

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