The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night unanimously approved an interim ordinance aimed at temporarily addressing the issue of condominium buildings that don’t conform to city code.
Councilmember Mike Nelson had proposed the ordinance last week, but the council decided to wait a week so they could have time to review it. The council also learned about next steps for a permanent fix to the problem, which involves a review by the Edmonds Planning Board May 8, followed by a council public hearing May 14.
City Development Director Shane Hope said the interim ordinance, which is effective for 180 days, will allow the city to write a “rebuild letter” available to any banker who may be concerned about financing the sale of condos that don’t conform to the code.
“It will probably satisfy the bank — at least for now,” Hope said.
A realtor who was working with a buyer to sell her condo recently brought the non-conformance issue to the city’s attention, and the council’s Planning, Public Safety and Personnel Committee heard the details two weeks ago. During the 1960s and 1970s, more than 20 Edmonds 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.
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.
In other business, the council once again addressed the issue of whether the council should change its quasi-judicial role in land-use permit decision-making. While no vote was taken, councilmembers agreed that the council should continue to serve as a quasi-judicial body to hear citizen appeals of hearing examiner decisions. Some members also expressed interest in a proposal by Councilmember Kristiana Johnson to exclude some permitting decisions — those involving design review, preliminary plat or preliminary planned residential developments — from the council appeal process. Based on that feedback Tuesday night, staff will bring language for further review at a future council meeting.
Councilmembers also took more than an hour to discuss what has become a heated topic: Whether city department directors should receive raises that 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, because they were developed using a process established by council policy. But Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas has been pushing back against the raises, stating that her own research shows that current city salaries for the top employees “are well within comparator-city range.”
There was lengthy discussion about the methodology used by Fraley-Monillas versus that used by the city’s Human Resources Department, and whether the two studies were comparing “apples to oranges.” Then, there was some confusion when Mesaros proposed the council approve the mayor’s recommendations, including deferred compensation for the chief of police. Some councilmembers, however, thought they were only approving the police chief’s compensation, so it was moved and seconded to reconsider the vote. After that motion for reconsideration was passed, the council voted 4-2 to table further discussion of the matter until Councilmember Johnson — who left the meeting early — could be present.
The council also:
– Issued a proclamation honoring local historian and My Edmonds News writer Betty Lou Gaeng, who is moving to Alaska at the end of April, for her work in documenting the city’s history. Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling recognized Gaeng for her service on the Edmonds Memorial Cemetery Board and also her efforts to relocate the Edmonds School District Veteran’s Memorial to the cemetery in 2018. “This was a surprise to me and I thank you all,” Gaeng said. “I am really sorry to leave Edmonds. It’s a place I’ve loved the most.”
– Approved a resolution, introduced by Fraley-Monillas, specifying that members appointed to the new Edmonds Citizens Housing Commission would not be anyone currently serving on a city board or commission, or anyone who had served in that capacity during the past two years.
– Heard the Edmonds Arts Commission’s 2018 Annual Report.
– Approved a temporary employment contract for an Edmonds court administrator to fill the position while a permanent administrator is being sought.
– As part of its consent agenda, appointed Ray Liaw to the Edmonds Public Facilities District Board.
— By Teresa Wippel