The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night voted unanimously to get tougher on those who set off illegal fireworks in the city — to the tune of $500 for a first-time offense.
Under the amended fireworks code, a first-time violation is now considered a non-traffic infraction. Those getting caught a second time — or more — within five years can be charged with a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 and/or 90 days in jail.
Previously, violating the fireworks code was a civil matter subject to a fine of $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second offense, $150 for the third offense and $200 for each violation thereafter within a three-year period.
The original proposal called for a $250 first-time charge, but Councilmember Vivian Olson proposed an amendment increasing that to $500, which the council also unanimously approved.
Asked whether the changes would help police catch violators, Acting Chief Jim Lawless noted that “it comes down to deterrence and the ability to enforce.” He admitted that the department consistently struggles — during the July 4th holiday — to balance the volume of fireworks calls vs. the personnel available. “But at the same time a $50 fine even when cited is not a huge deterrence when chances are what they just lit off cost more than 50 bucks,” he said.
Most of the time, when police respond to a fireworks complaint, the fireworks have already been discharged, leaving officers to figure out who set them off. “If we have the ability to cite someone, it is a much high deterrence to have it (the ability to charge) at that misdemeanor level,” he said.
Councilmember Luke Distelhorst noted that illegal fireworks discharges are also common other times of the year, including those occurring in recent weeks following Seattle Seahawks football team victories. He added he hoped that officials would begin immediate education and enforcement, and Lawless said that would occur as a team effort between police and fire officials. (Under the amended code, both the police chief and fire marshal “or their designees” are able to cite violators.)
In other action Tuesday night, the council held two public hearings and had a lengthy discussion regarding separate proposals to amend the city’s Comprehensive Plan map to change designations for properties in the Edmonds Bowl and Perrinville. In the end they voted to defer action on either proposal until their Oct. 6 meeting. (The council isn’t meeting next Tuesday, Sept. 29, as it’s the fifth Tuesday of the month — traditionally a night off.)
Both map amendment proposals were reviewed by the Edmonds Planning Board, which approved the staff recommendation to OK the Perrinville project and rejected the recommended staff approval of the Edmonds Bowl proposal.
Staff emphasized that changing the map designations would not mean the approval of any projects for those properties; any future proposals would have be vetted through the regular city process for rezoning.
The first public hearing addressed the Edmonds Bowl proposal, which would impact two parcels at 522 and 530 9th Ave. N. The applicants, Carolyn Mangelsdorf and Robert Grimm, have lived in Edmonds for more than 20 years. Mangelsdorf said that now that their children are grown, the couple would like to subdivide their large lot, build a smaller house in back and sell the house in front. Under the proposal, the map designation would be changed from Single Family-Resource to Single Family-Urban 1, the latter of which allows for greater potential density.
Some of the opponents who live near the proposed map change said during the public hearing they were worried that it would change the neighborhood’s character, which now includes large lots and green space.
The second map amendment involves two undeveloped parcels in the Perrinville area off 76th Avenue West, and a change from Neighborhood Commercial to Multi-Family Residential — Medium Density. The owner of the parcels has proposed building six to seven townhomes on the site, but that would be subject to future city approval if the map change were approved. Some residents offering testimony during the public hearing expressed concerns about the environmental effects of the change, including impacts to the Perrinville Creek watershed, which is already deteriorating.
Both items will be revisited Oct. 6.
The council also:
– Receive an annual report from Edmonds Municipal Court Judge Linda Coburn, who noted that it would be her last report to the council. Coburn, who has served as Edmonds’ Municipal Court judge since 2015, is running uncontested on the Nov. 3 ballot for a position on Washington’s Court of Appeals.
– Discussed but did not take action on a proposed amendment to the Edmonds Cares Fund for COVID-19 relief that would prioritize how to allocate an additional $632,500 the city is receiving in federal CARES Act funds. The city is proposing to distribute the money in the following ways: Increasing grants for housing and small business support; providing additional funds to the Edmonds Food Bank; and offering more scholarships through the city’s LEAP day camp program for elementary students. Based on council discussion and suggestions, Community Services and Economic Development Director Patrick Doherty said he would come back to the council with ordinance language for approval Oct. 6.
– A discussion on a flood damage prevention ordinance was postponed due to the lateness of the hour.
— By Teresa Wippel