Council approves 4-month moratorium on subdivisions, OKs Comprehensive Plan map amendment in Perrinville

Associate City Planner Brad Shipley, at right and second from bottom, makes a presentation on the Comprehensive Plan map amendment for the Perrinville area.

With the city set to adopt a long-awaited tree code in early 2021, the Edmonds City Council Monday night voted 4-3 to place a four-month moratorium on subdivision applications citywide that contain eight or more “significant” trees per 10,000 square feet of lot size.

Meeting Monday night to avoid a conflict with Tuesday’s general election, the council also approved an Edmonds Planning Board recommendation to amend the city’s Comprehensive Plan map for two undeveloped parcels in the Perrinville neighborhood. The amended map will be part of the Comprehensive Plan update that the council will approve later this year.

Regarding the subdivision application moratorium, the original proposal came from Councilmember Diane Buckshnis, who said that the measure will give the city “a little pause, a chance to catch up,” not only on the tree code but on pending housing policy recommendations. “It’s just a good time right now to put a moratorium (in place),” she added.

The language initially proposed by Buckshnis called for a six-month moratorium on new subdivision proposals and included a provision for a minimum of four trees. It also defined a “significant” tree as one measuring 6 inches in diameter, at 4 feet off the ground. Councilmember Laura Johnson then submitted amendments,  approved unanimously, that reduced the moratorium’s length from six months to four, increased the minimum tree number to eight per 10,000 square feet, and defined a significant tree as 8 inches in diameter.

Buckshnis had originally proposed an emergency measure, which would have become effective immediately. But that would have required a supermajority approval of 5-2, and the vote was 4-3 (Councilmembers Luke Distelhorst, Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and Susan Paine opposed). So it will take effect instead five days after passage.

The council will hold a public hearing at its Tuesday, Dec. 1 meeting so affected parties can comment on the moratorium.

Distelhorst said he would prefer to focus on approval of the full tree code, rather than on a moratorium, a sentiment that was shared by Paine. Fraley-Monillas said she worried the measure could potentially delay needed housing projects in the city.

Speaking in favor of the measure, Councilmember Kristiana Johnson said “our experience has shown that our current regulations are insignificant in preserving trees.”

“We have just been cutting trees left and right,” she added.

Regarding the application to amend the city’s Comprehensive Plan map in Perrinville, the council had decided at its Oct. 6 meeting to indefinitely table the proposal, which would change the parcels in question — located off 76th Avenue West — from Neighborhood Commercial to Multi-Family Residential — Medium Density. But at the Oct. 20 council meeting, Distelhorst asked that the matter return to the council for a decision, and a Nov. 2 date was set.

The owner of the Perrinville property has proposed building six to seven townhomes on the site, but that proposal would be subject to other city approvals. The site is already zoned as commercial but has never been developed.

Citizens testifying during a related public hearing said they were concerned the map amendment would lead to development that could negatively impact the Perrinville Creek watershed — a point that Buckshnis repeated in stating her opposition to the proposal. But during Monday night’s discussion, some councilmembers noted that there would be less environmental impact from the townhome project than a future commercial project.

“This plan particularly preserves the slope, which I believe is 40% of the property and contains the majority of the trees,” Councilmember Laura Johnson said. “If this property is going to be developed, it appears to be the most environmentally friendly or the least environmentally harmful way to develop.”

In the end, the vote was 5-2, with Councilmembers Buckshnis and Kristiana Johnson voting against the map amendment.

In other action Monday night, the council:

– Approved a request from Mayor Mike Nelson to extend the appointment of Dave Turley as interim finance director for six months or until a hire is made for the position. Human Resources Director Jessica Neill Hoyson told the council that the city in the process of interviewing candidates for this position, but can’t ensure that a hire will occur prior to the Nov. 19 expiration of Turley’s interim assignment. Nelson appointed Turley — then assistant finance director — to replace Finance Director Scott James after the mayor terminated James’ employment in May.

– Heard a presentation on the performance of Zachor & Thomas as the city’s prosecuting attorney, which represents the city in municipal court cases. Concerns were expressed last year about the firm’s communication, quality of work and supervision of new attorneys. The situation is improving, and council agreed with a staff recommendation to extend the Zachor and Thomas contract one more year so that the city can further monitor and evaluate the firm’s work. A final contract will come back to the council at a later date for approval.

— By Teresa Wippel

  1. Regardless of citizen opposition, the city continues to push tree ord. 6” tree is labeled significant? What else?

  2. There was discussion last night about where the Edmond’s “tree canopy” is and “is there a map of it somewhere?” This is simple. The “tree canopy” is Edmonds City Park, Yost Park, Edmonds Woodway borderline, Emerald Hills (somewhat) and Perrinville and the Meadowdale County Park. That’s it. The rest of it has been converted to Condos, Apt.s, giant homes and strip malls. The tree board and tree laws won’t do anything to help and will only cause frustration and cost money for the good folk of Edmonds. But, we will do it anyway.

  3. Thank you Teresa for your continued work keeping Edmonds citizens aware of actions facing city council, outcomes of those action items, and how citizens can be engaged in the process.

  4. Thanks to Diane Buckshnis for trying to preserve our trees. We have been allowing developers to destroy and despoil with no effective regulation.

  5. This is just a push for another feel good law (like the fireworks fine increase) that will end up accomplishing virtually nothing. We have allowed the tree canopy to be “pillaged” for the sake of development, as we wanted it, in order to make Edmonds, not Deadmonds.

    Now we are going to punish the last three or four “pillagers” to make up for our past sins against the environment. It’s too little, too late and, frankly, pretty discriminatory against private land holders. We’ve reached the point where big trees belong in public parks, the pretend city of Woodway and the planned neighborhood of Innis Arden near by. They just don’t work much anywhere else now, and this can’t be corrected by a feel good law or two. But, as I said before, we will do it anyway.

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