The final Edmonds City Council meeting of 2021 turned into two meetings, as the council decided to continue its Tuesday meeeting to Thursday — when it is scheduled to vote on whether to extend the downtown streateries beyond Dec. 31.
The action was perhaps inevitable, as the meeting — already boasting a lengthy agenda — started a half hour later than normal due to three committee meetings held prior.
The council did approve two significant items Tuesday night: the final design for the Highway 99 Gateway signs, and adoption of the city’s 2022-2027 Capital Facilities Plan and Capital Improvement Program. Both measures were subject to amendments that illuminated the presence of new Councilmember Will Chen, who took office Nov. 23.
The Highway 99 gateway sign project includes signs to 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 Highway 99 redevelopment project.
Of the options presented for public review, city staff and consultants selected Option C as the preferred design. The south sign is horizontal, to be placed next to the Campbell-Nelson car dealership, while the north sign is a vertical shape that will be installed in the highway median across from the Magic Toyota dealership.
Questions were raised about whether the north sign could also be designed horizontally as it was easier to read. However, staff explained that the only place to put the horizontal sign would be on Magic Toyota property, and it would conflict visually with a nearby car dealership sign.
Chen noted, however, that the recommended proposal also included the city’s purchase of private property (see area at right in the north sign placement in above photo) for a landscaping element at an estimated cost of between $35,000 and $65,000. In addition, there would be a cost of $30,000 to $40,000 for planting and irrigation, plus ongoing maintenance costs. He proposed an amendment, approved unanimously by the council, to remove the landscaped section from the plan, retaining the center median only, for the vertical sign placement.
The second item that reflected Chen’s presence on the council was the council’s decision to delete $17.3 million from the Capital Facilities Plan and Capital Improvement Program (CFP/CIP) stormwater budget for 2022, which had been designated for Edmonds Marsh restoration. Marsh advocates, led by Councilmember Diane Buckshnis, have been working to move marsh money out of the Public Utilities Department’s stormwater budget and instead have it live under the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services budget — but that idea has never gained traction with past council majorities. In making their case, supporters have stated that the marsh should be treated as a parks project, not a stormwater project, and have also said that placing the marsh project in the stormwater budget will lead to higher utility rates.
Council President Susan Paine first offered a compromise proposal that would have moved 75% of the marsh restoration funding — or nearly $13 million — from stormwater to parks. That idea failed on a 3-4 vote, with Chen joining with Buckshnis, Kristiana Johnson and Vivian Olson to oppose it. After Paine’s proposal was defeated, Buckshnis proposed that the total marsh allocation of $17.3 million be deleted from the CFP/CIP budget altogether for 2022, which was approved by a 6-1 vote (Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas opposed).
Chen noted he was hopeful that the council would discuss in 2022 how parks department funds could be used in 2023 and beyond for marsh restoration, an idea that Buckshnis agreed with. “There’s too many balls up in the air to do any type of planning,” Buckshnis said in supporting the removal of marsh funds altogether from the CFP/CIP next year. She pointed in particular to the uncertain fate of the Unocal property located next to the marsh, which is now undergoing environmental cleanup. “You can’t do anything until we figure out the land,” she said.
The Unocal property will be transferred to the Washington Department of Transportation once the state Department of Ecology certifies that the cleanup is complete. And after the state transportation department takes over the property, the City of Edmonds has first right of refusal to purchase it.
Also during the discussion of the CFP/CIP, there was an attempt by Councilmember Kristiana Johnson to add $150,000 in design money for the 4th Avenue Cultural Corridor, which was a project cited for future completion when Edmonds was named the state’s first Creative District. Johnson’s idea was opposed by most other councilmembers, who said that when it comes to new projects, it’s time to focus on other Edmonds neighborhoods — especially Highway 99.
“I can’t support putting money into another project in the Bowl,” said Councilmember Laura Johnson.
Chen, who also voted against the idea, adding that he would like to see a mulicultural performing arts center on Highway 99 instead. The final vote was 2-5, with Kristiana Johnson and Buckshnis supporting the measure.
In other business, the council presented a resolution thanking Councilmember Fraley-Monillas for her 11 years of service on the city council. She was defeated in the November general election by former Councilmember Neil Tibbott, who takes office in January.
Fraley-Monillas served three years as council president and two years as council president pro tem, and “presided over the business of the city council with a sense of humor, steadfast dedication, using her knowledge, experience, and expertise to manage the day-to-day administration of the city council and to communicate with and embrace the concerns of Edmonds citizens, city staff, community leaders, and other elected officials,” the resolution stated.
Listed among her accomplishments:
- Restricting building heights in Edmonds
- Protecting the Edmonds Marsh through enhancing the buffers and limiting redevelopment
- Reducing the impacts of oil and coal trains throughout the Puget Sound region
- Sponsoring Edmonds Safe City code and working on safe gun storage
- Advocating and lobbying for the redevelopment of Highway 99
- Advocating for a human and social services program to serve Edmonds’ most vulnerable
- Initiating task forces on homelessness and opioids, and formation of the Edmonds Diversity Commission
During her time on the council, Fraley-Monillas sat on the Snohomish Health District Board, serving as chair, vice chair and budget chair. She also served as council representative to several boards and commissions, including the Affordable Housing Alliance, the Snohomish County Tomorrow Leadership Team, the Snohomish County Law and Justice Commission and the Lake Ballinger Regional Workgroup.
The council also:
– Approve the December 2021 budget amendment.
– Approved an agreement with Zachor, Stock & Krepps (formerly Zachor and Thomas) for prosecuting attorney services.
– Delayed until January 2022 a vote on a council resolution supporting House Bill 1156. The measure would give jurisdictions the option of using ranked choice voting in local elections. Learn more about that here.
During public comment Tuesday night, the council heard opinions — as they have in the past — both for and against extending permitting for the streateries. There was also a comment from a resident living at 6th and Bell, Lynda Fireman, who expressed concerns about a proposal to build a new 24-unit apartment building at 605 and 611 Main St. The building would include 24 parking spaces underneath, with access from a 15-foot alley that runs between Fireman’s building and the new apartment complex. Two existing structures on Main Street would be demolished to make room for the new apartment building. An Architectural Design Board hearing on the proposal is set for 7 p.m. Jan. 5.
Prior to the council business meeting, councilmembers met in committees. Of particular interest was the Finance Committee meeting, where Committee Chair Buckshnis stated that she and fellow Councilmember Kristiana Johnson intend to conduct a full 2022 budget review in the new year with the newly seated council. This includes proposals to remove several decision packages approved as part of the 2022 budget. (See the list at this link.)
Both Buckshnis and Kristiana Johnson had proposed numerous amendments to the 2022 budget. However, very few of them were considered because neither councilmember was able to attend the council’s Nov. 17 continued meeting when those amendments were on the agenda.
In addition to the streateries, Thursday’s continued meeting — starting at 7 p.m. — will include approval of the city’s 2022 legislative agenda for the upcoming session of the Washington State Legislature.
— By Teresa Wippel