The City of Edmonds Planning Board serves in an advisory capacity to the city in regional and local planning. The Planning Board assists in the development of the comprehensive plan and zoning ordinances. The Planning Board also advises the mayor and city council on the acquisition and development of all city parks and recreation facilities.
Over the years, I have been extremely impressed with the quality of work done by our Planning Board.
Between July 2019 and September 2019, Planning Board was tasked with a review of the city’s laws governing street vacations. City staff initiated this even though no related state laws had changed since Edmonds City Council passed Ordinance No. 3910 on Feb. 5, 2013. Ordinance No. 3910 amended the city’s street vacation laws, and the amendments adopted under Ordinance No. 3910 are consistent with the related State law, RCW 35.79.030.
I spoke at the following five Planning Board meetings related to city staff’s effort in 2019 to change the city’s laws governing street vacations:
July 10, 2019
July 24, 2019
Aug. 14, 2019
Sept. 11, 2019
Sept. 25, 2019
The related Planning Board meeting minutes are available on the city’s website. I think the minutes provide an excellent example of the high quality of Planning Board deliberations, the advisory process and citizen involvement with such.
On Sept. 25, 2019, Planning Board voted on recommendations to make to city council about street vacation laws. I think it fair for me to say that Planning Board’s recommendations were not exactly what city staff hoped for.
On Oct. 1, 2019, city staff introduced the proposed street vacation code amendments to city council. City staff chose to not simply provide Planning Board’s recommendations to city council. City staff decided to retain staff’s recommendations and present staff’s recommendations alongside Planning Board’s recommendations.
The related public hearing was scheduled for Oct. 15, 2019.
Four citizens spoke at the Oct. 15, 2019 public hearing in front of city council. The public comments are available on the city’s website.
The 2019 city council was unable to reach a final decision. Instead, the 2019 city council voted to initiate a two-step process to resolve the differences between the Planning Board and the staff recommendations and to add a second public hearing. The 2019 city council clearly tasked city staff with responsibilities. The city attorney was asked to help city staff with drafting the related ordinance.
The last words on the topic are documented in the Oct. 15, 2019 city council meeting minutes:
“Mayor Earling assumed this would be done by the end of the year or the process would need to start over.”
What city council requested was not done by the end of 2019. It is still not done as we approach the end of 2021. City staff and the city attorney did not do what the 2019 city council asked them to do.
The “street vacation code update” has been listed as a future unscheduled item on city council’s extended agenda for almost two years.
A great amount of Planning Board work and citizen work was expended in response to city staff’s effort to update our street vacation code. I felt called to get involved as a citizen and I spent many hours working on this. I knew very well what Edmonds city government is willing to do to property owners. I suspected our city staff was not doing this on behalf of our property owners. I believe my fears were confirmed during the Aug. 14, 2019 Planning Board meeting when City Attorney Jeff Taraday told the Planning Board:
“I represent the City of Edmonds. I’m here to advance the interest of the City of Edmonds, not individual property owners.”
Yes, he really said that.
What must happen when city staff and city attorney fail to do what city council asks them to do? This massive legislative process was initiated by city staff. The action city staff initiated required much time to be spent by our valuable Planning Board. Citizens were made to choose to participate or stand by passively and allow city staff to be the only voices Planning Board and city council would hear.
I am very disappointed that city officials allow this conduct to take place. Why have city staff and the city attorney not been held accountable for not doing what they were asked to do by city council on Oct. 15, 2019?
Will this process now have to start over as represented by former Mayor Earling on Oct. 15, 2019? If it starts over, are Planning Board members and citizens going to have to spend more time, over and above what was expended the first time? City staff gets paid while working on stuff like this. Planning Board and citizens aren’t compensated with public money while working hard on legislation.
My hope is that a higher level of respect will be afforded our advisory boards and citizens who participate in the legislative process. I encourage city officials to learn from this failed legislative effort, an effort initiated by city staff.
City council is scheduled to discuss a resolution adopting Council Rules of Procedure during a special meeting on Nov. 18, 2021. I strongly request city council consider its constituents while doing this. Please adopt rules governing the measures that will be taken when city staff or the city attorney do not do what city council asks them to do. Thank you.