Council holds public hearing on interim design standards; committees cover a range of topics Tuesday

Development Services Director Susan McLaughlin, middle row – right, talks with the Edmonds City Council about interim design standards Tuesday night.

During a special city council business meeting Tuesday night, community members offered their ideas for possible changes to the City of Edmonds’ already-adopted interim design standards for multifamily buildings in downtown Edmonds’ BD2 zone.

The council will decide at its next meeting, June 21, whether to keep the interim standards that it approved April 21, which are aimed at addressing concerns prompted by a 24-unit apartment building proposed for the 600 block of Main Street, located in the BD2 zone. The council was required to hold a public hearing within 60 days of adopting the interim standards.

The goal of the interim standards is to ensure multifamily housing units are compatible with the downtown area, with a focus on three requirements: building materials, private amenity space, and a street-side amenity space or pedestrian area.

During the public hearing, Edmonds resident Greg Brewer said the interim standards “are not clear or comprehensive. Guidelines need to be spelled out so citizens, developers, planners, building officials and councilmembers are all on the same page. The less subjectivity in the standards, the better for all.”

Lynda Fireman, who lives in a condo located across the alley from the proposed Main Street apartment building, expressed frustration that citizens had such a short time to express their opinions Tuesday night. (The meeting was sandwiched between regularly scheduled council committee meetings and as such, only lasted 30 minutes.)

Resident Michelle Dotsch asked the council to consider as part of the interim standards those standards that were adopted as part of the council-approved Highway 99 subarea plan. She pointed to subarea recommendations stating that when intense development joins residential areas, it should include “stepbacks and setback standards for mutifamily buildings adjacent to single-family zoning.”

After the council listened to public testimony, Edmonds Senior Planner Mike Clugston noted that the council has already adopted the interim design standards and now has two options — to keep them temporarily while the Edmonds Planning Board works to develop permanent standards, or to reject them altogether “and have no standards at all.” The interim standards will expire Oct. 1, and the hope is have permanent standards in place before then.

During the committee meetings Tuesday night, councilmembers discussed a range of issues, from a proposed ordinance regarding the city’s fireworks fines, to a state grant application to study missing middle housing, to impact fee waivers for early learning facilities.

Here are the highlights:

In the Public Safety, Personnel and Planning (PSPP) committee, councilmembers considered a request from Mayor Mike Nelson to amend the council’s ordinance — passed in 2020 — that raised the fine for setting off fireworks in Edmonds to $500 for a first-time offense. The reason for the proposed change, City Attorney Jeff Taraday explained, is that under state law, the municipal court is also now required to collect a public safety and education assessment that would make the total fireworks fine higher than the $500 the council approved. No decisions were made on this item Tuesday night because several questions required more research, and committee members agreed to bring the matter to the full council for future discussion.

Also in the PSPP, committee members Laura Johnson and Susan Paine agreed to send to the council’s consent agenda approval of a staff request to apply for a State Department of Commerce “missing middle” housing grant,  through a program approved by the Washington State Legislature in 2022. Under the grant, the city would be required to “evaluate and consider” allowing missing middle housing on 30% of lots zoned single family, and also to conduct a racial equity analysis. Development Director Susan McLaughlin said it makes sense to apply for the grant money since the city will need to conduct this type of analysis as part of its 2024 Comprehensive Plan update. Accepting the grant does not require the city to adopt ordinances to require missing middle housing, she added. You can learn more in this Commerce Department FAQ here.

In the Parks and Public Works (PPW) Committee, committee members Neil Tibbott and Kristiana Johnson discussed information from Parks, Recreation, Cultural Services and Human Services Director Angie Feser regarding a proposed interlocal agreement with the City of Lynnwood to renovate the Meadowdale Playfields. Lynnwood has proposed to include a fully inclusive playground there, with the City of Edmonds paying half the $500,000 cost. Councilmembers agreed to have that matter go before the full council for discussion.

Councilmembers Neil Tibbott, top, and Kristiana Johnson, bottom, listen as Transportation Engineer Bertrand Haus talks about the traffic improvement project at 76th Avenue West and 220th Street Southwest.

Also in the PPW, committee members heard updates from Acting Public Works Director Rob English and Transportation Engineer Bertrand Haus regarding several items. One of these was planned street intersection improvements at 76th Avenue West and 220th Streets Southwest. The city received grant funding for the proposal but upon further study has determined that a revised configuration would require less acquired right of way, reducing the total cost by nearly $2 million. Staff would need to go back to the granting agencies for approval of a revised scope of work, English explained. The full council will receive a presentation on this project June 21.

Another PPW item was starting design work for a traffic signal communication/coordination system for five signalized intersections on State Route 104 from 236th Street Southwest to 226th Street Southwest. This adaptive system will improve traffic flow and reduce vehicle emissions, and English noted in particular that it would “address the pulses you get when the ferry unloads.” The city secured a $287,000 federal transportation grant for the design phase, with $123,000 in local matching funds. During the design phase, the city will seeks to fund construction, English added. Committee memebers agree to place this item on the June 21 consent agenda for approval.

Finally, the committee heard a presentation from English regarding a proposal to update Edmonds City Code so the city could waive street and park impact fees for early learning facilities. City staff have proposed that the city grant a partial exemption — of not more than 80% — of the assessed impact fee to early learning facilities. In turn, 25% of the children and families using the facility would need to qualify for state-subsidized child care, including early childhood education and assistance. If the property is converted to a use besides an early learning facility, the property owner would need to pay the applicable impact fees in effect at the time of conversion.

“This would make it easier for new early learning centers to be established in Edmonds,” City Attorney Jeff Taraday said of the proposal.

Committee members agreed to bring this item to the full council for review on June 21.

— By Teresa Wippel

  1. The interim standards approved April 21, 2022 are found in Ordinance 4256. Ordinance 4256 falsely represents it was passed on April 19, 2022 and that its effective date was April 19, 2022.

    In Ordinance 4256, Council ordained that: “In this case, the hearing shall be held on May 17, 2022 unless the city council, by subsequently adopted resolution, provides for a different hearing date. There was no subsequently adopted resolution, so last night’s public hearing was not allowed under Ordinance 4256.

    This process which started on February 15th has been very messy and hard to follow. I hope city government can do better than this.

  2. The “Missing Middle” grant proposal: It appears there are plenty of catches to this grant money. Note the QAs, it appears that:
    If the city does not propose 30% increase to middle housing (rezoning single-family) it will not qualify for the grant.
    The consultant may be provided by the government entity providing the grant (a bit bias) because it’s just so difficult to find consultants.
    Must include use of community-based groups based on previously under-represented group (race?, low income?) that can be compensated financially for their involvement.

    I’m sure there are more hitches to this grant that I have missed. I’m not a lawyer, but it appears to me the grant attempts to limit the involvement of all citizens and if we follow the rules of the grant monies it will not represent the community as a whole.

  3. We live in beautiful Edmonds. Why do Laura and Susan want to make Edmonds 30% more commercial in our neighborhoods. There is no missing middle, this is a tag line the government is using to squeeze more housing and more taxes out of the people, you and me.

    Please write your council and let them know to leave our neighborhoods alone and focus on citizen safety,
    Crime and sidewalks.

  4. Great writeup of some complicated topics!

    I’m glad to hear we’re going for the “missing middle” housing grant. I was walking through downtown Sunday and admiring all the multifamily units on 4th Ave that are mixed in with single family homes. It creates such a lovely, walkable area that fits in more ppl than a traditional single family only neighborhood.

  5. The good news is, with the crashing stock market, housing sales and values starting to stagnate and the huge inflation in gasoline and food prices, we will all soon need housing in the “missing middle.” Susan and Laura can happily bring us prior anti-homeless and anti-poor meanies into their fold of the “under represented” and we can all live happily ever after hoofing or rolling around walk able downtown and then returning to our tiny home apartments that rent for $2500/Mo. We will be moving into our on site travel trailer and renting out both our upstairs and downstairs 800/sq./ft spaces for $2000/mo. each, so others can also enjoy the good life with as many human beings as possible crammed into the downtown area of paradise on earth.

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