After asking staff a month ago to obtain more public input on possible design options for the Highway 99 Gateway signs, the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night agreed to move forward with some initial concepts for further exploration.
The signs will be installed at the north (212th Street) and south (205th/244th Street) ends of Highway 99 running through Edmonds as part of the city’s planned redevelopment project. At its Aug. 24 meeting, the council heard the results of community feedback so far on sign ideas, which were obtained through an online survey and a virtual open house. However, due to the low number of responses (55 participated in the survey and “nine or 10” attended the open house), councilmembers asked staff to renew outreach efforts to get additiional community feedback.
During the Tuesday, Sept. 28 meeting, City Transportation Engineer Bertrand Hauss reported that following enhanced public engagement, the city received an additional 330 responses to the survey. City consultant Rachel Dotson then presented the preferences expressed during the sign survey, updated with the additional responses. In most cases, she noted, despite the increased number of participants, the percentage of those favoring certain options didn’t change by much.
A larger percentage (47% vs. 40%) did prefer the vertical south sign than before, but 52% (a slight increase from 50%) favored the horizontal sign. Two options for a south sign — one vertical and one hybrid vertical/horizontal — will be moved forward for furher design consideration.
For the north sign, four options were presented, and the percentages didn’t change at all despite the increased numbers. The two options moving ahead for more design work were a vertical one with an architectural element at the back of the sidewalk, and a vertical-only shape.
When it came to the messaging on the signs, 70% of those surveyed favored a “Welcome to Edmonds” message for each sign. The second favorite message, at 17%, was simply “Edmonds.” A total of 71% agreed the north and south signs should match each other, and 51% said the signs should have elements similar to other Edmonds signs “but overall should be unique.”
There were a range of opinions expressed about whether the sign’s character should be modern, contemporary or traditional, so the design team decided to leave that question open for the moment to allow for a more fluid design process, Dotson said.
After the designs are further refined, three to four options for both north and south locations will be brought back to council and the public for additional feedback.
Also on Tuesday night, the council continued its public hearing regarding staff-proposed amendments to the city’s stormwater code.
During a discussion with councilmembers prior to the public hearing, Edmonds Public Works and Utilities Director Phil Williams explained that staff have proposed four substantive changes to the Edmonds-specific portions of code.
1. New connections of existing impervious surfaces (Williams used as examples a driveway or parking lot) would be revised so they are treated like new impervious surfaces and mitigated according to the drainage code.
2. Any projects in the Edmonds Way drainage basin would be treated same as rest of the city, recognizing that that runoff from that area flows west to Puget Sound and has an overflow to the Edmonds Marsh. (Right now there are exemptions for those projects.)
3. There would be increased protections for Perrinville Creek by increasing the application of the city’s “retrofit” low-impact development requirement and increasing the flow control standard for projects within the Perrinville Creek basin.
4. The low-impact development best management practices list would be revised so that Edmonds-specific stormwater detention is prioritzed over a “perforated pipe connection.”
Those testifying during the public hearing expressed a range of concerns, but the overarching theme was that stormwater runoff and related flooding problems is a growing problem across the city. Ongoing issues in the Perrinville Creek basin also were acknowledged by both residents and the council. Councilmember Kristiana Johnson repeated a thought expressed during last week’s meeting that Edmonds should develop an interlocal agreement with neighboring Lynnwood to address how that city’s development is impacting the Perrinville Creek basin.
Director Williams said that staff is aware that “things need to change” in the Perrinville area, pointing to the city’s work to find “engineering fixes” for some of the problems; although Scordino expressed impatience with how long that process is taking.
Some residents also stated frustration that the city’s proposed changes have already been submitted at the state level through a SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) review before the public hearing process was completed. Staff noted that the SEPA review and city code updates are on separate tracks, and Williams said the city can resubmit the SEPA document if the council decides to make changes.
In other business, the council agreed by a 4-3 vote to continue meeting virtually rather than returning to a hybrid meeting format that would give councilmembers and residents the option of participating either live or remotely. (The council will revisit the idea again at the end of October.)
Councilmembers Diane Buckshnis, Kristiana Johnson and Vivian Olson argued that with masks and social distancing, the city could safely open the council chambers. Buckshnis noted that people are going to sporting events and dining out; Olson stressed that council meetings were an essential government service. But the four voting in the majority disagreed, stressing that many other nearby cities — including Lynnwood, Shoreline and Mountlake Terrace — are continuing to hold virtual council meetings.
Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas said that as a lung cancer survivor, it wasn’t worth her life to be exposed to those coming to meetings who may not be vaccinated against COVID-19. Council President Susan Paine added that the virtual meetings also provide another layer of protection for city staff and the public.
Councilmember Kristiana Johnson then asked whether — if the decision were made to continue remote meetings — the city’s IT staff could investigate how to ensure the faces of public members appear on the virtual screen (currently only audio testimony is heard). Other councilmembers agreed that was an idea worth pursuing.
In an item added to the agenda Tuesday night at the request of Councilmember Olson (approved on a 4-3 vote with Councilmember Distelhorst joining Olson, Buckshnis and K. Johnson), the council also met for a brief executive sesssion to hear a complaint against a public officer or employee. No action was announced following that discussion, which was closed to the public.
The council also:
– Heard the annual report from the Citizens Economic Development Commission.
– Approved September 2021 budget amendments.
–– By Teresa Wippel