I’ve heard it represented that streateries are allowed by individual permits made possible under a temporary ordinance (Ordinance 4209) enacted by the Edmonds City Council last winter. I’ve also heard it represented that this temporary ordinance is scheduled to sunset at the end of 2021, but councilmembers can extend the ordinance upon request. I’m not convinced any of this is true.
In late 2020, Edmonds City Council was told there was an emergency. The special event permit allowing streatery dining was set to expire Dec. 31, 2020.
This “emergency” provides a great example of the many challenges facing a city council. It is difficult to perform well the duty to represent all constituents. It has been mentioned around Edmonds that the streateries have helped some while harming others.
Edmonds City Council was told that any uncertainty in the ability of the city’s restaurants to continue offering streatery dining could further jeopardize an already struggling restaurant industry.
Immediate adoption of an emergency ordinance was recommended.
State law allows a public emergency ordinance necessary for the protection of public health, public safety, public property or the public peace to be made effective immediately upon adoption. In Edmonds, the adoption of an emergency ordinance requires a unanimous vote.
City council was convinced there was an emergency. The streatery dining ordinance passed unanimously and became known as Ordinance 4209.
Was it really an emergency? One reason I ask is because Ordinance 4209 does not claim it was effective immediately. Ordinance 4209 claims it was effective Dec. 23, 2020, even though it was adopted Dec. 15, 2020. If Ordinance 4209 wasn’t effective immediately, did it need to be an emergency ordinance? Could the public and other businesses impacted by streateries been provided more opportunity for participation in the legislative process? Could harm have been mitigated or prevented? Why such confusion?
Again, was it really an emergency? How can permitting 20 streateries in the small BD zone be necessary for the protection of public health, public safety, public property or the public peace?
Prior to voting unanimously to pass Ordinance 4209, city council was told that a public hearing was required within 60 days of adoption. Feb. 2, 2021 was mentioned as a possible public hearing date.
Emergency ordinances don’t require public hearings after adoption. The 2020 city council was very aware of this. For example, Emergency Ordinance 4176 was adopted on March 17, 2020, and made effective March 17, 2020. Ordinance 4176 was adopted without any mention of the need for a public hearing within 60 days of adoption. The March 17, 2020, city council meeting minutes even document the following city council discussion: “As this is an emergency ordinance and there is no opportunity for a public hearing….”
But something about Ordinance 4209 was different. It was stressed to the 2020 city council that a public hearing was required within 60 days of adoption.
So, what was going on?
When all else fails, I believe it best to read the details found in the ordinance itself. Ordinances passed by city council are approved as to form by the city attorney. As such, I believe citizens should be able to rely on the details found in ordinances.
The 2020 Edmonds City Council declared the following in Ordinance 4209:
“Without an immediate adoption of this interim zoning ordinance, streateries would need to continue to operate under a special event permit, but that permit was supposed to expire on Dec. 31, 2020.”
There was the answer! The 2020 city council had declared the streatery dining crdinance to be an interim zoning ordinance.
Interim zoning ordinances are a unique tool available to a city council. State law allows such to be adopted if a public hearing is held within at least 60 days of adoption.
Edmonds City Council declared in Ordinance 4209 that it was using this unique tool. On Dec. 15, 2020, Edmonds City Council voted to allow up to 20 streateries to be permitted in the BD Zone. The permits are for a period of no more than one year but may be extended. The provision for extension of permits is yet another confusing part of Ordinance 4209.
Interim zoning ordinance or not, there is no arguing the fact that city council voted under the representation that a public hearing must be held within 60 days of adoption.
No public hearing was ever held.
What was the status of the individual permits for streateries once 60 days passed without city council holding a public hearing? Were those permits null and void? Can Ordinance 4209 really be extended upon request even though a public hearing was never held? Who can make a request to extend Ordinance 4209? How is such a request made?
Much confusion and many questions. Hopefully, city officials will answer all questions in an open and transparent fashion.