Council votes to reject ‘missing middle’ housing grant; OKs interim design standards

During Tuesday night’s council meeting, Councilmember Diane Buckshnis — filling in for absent Mayor Mike Nelson — presented a plaque to Edmonds resident Brook Roberts, right, who has served as the council’s student representative for the past two years. Roberts, who attends Shorewood High School, was lauded for his work on the city’s suicide prevention campaign and facilitating a speaker presentation on ranked choice voting, as well as other accomplishments. Roberts thanked the council for giving youth an opportunity to be involved in local government.

After hearing numerous public comments in opposition, the Edmonds City Council voted 5-1 Tuesday night to reject a Washington State Department of Commerce grant that would have funded the evaluation of  “missing middle” housing in Edmonds.

The lone vote supporting the grant application came from Councilmember Susan Paine. Both Councilmember Laura Johnson and Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson were absent from the meeting.

A council also voted to unanimously to approve a resolution supporting interim design standards for multifamily buildings in downtown Edmonds’ BD2 zone. The standards will be in effect for four months while the Edmonds Planning Board works on developing permanent ones, subject to city council approval. The council during its April 21 meeting approved the interim standards, 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. Tuesday night’s vote was related to adopting “findings of fact” following a public hearing last week on the interim measures.

The city’s intention to apply for the $100,000 Dpartment of Commerce grant was first announced during the council’s Public Safety, Personnel and Planning committee last week. Under the grant, available to Puget Sound cities, Edmonds would have been required to “evaluate and consider” allowing missing middle housing on 30% of lots zoned single family, and also to conduct a racial equity analysis.

“Middle housing types” include duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, fiveplexes, sixplexes, townhouses, courtyard apartments, cottage housing and stacked flats.

Development Director Susan McLaughlin said during the June 14 committee meeting that it made sense to apply for the grant money since the city would need to conduct this type of analysis as part of its 2024 Comprehensive Plan update.

McLaughlin reiterated that point during Tuesday night’s business meeting, and also stressed that accepting the grant didn’t commit the city to adopt zoning changes. “Any approach will be Edmonds driven and not dictated by outside agencies,” she added.

During discussions Tuesday night, some councilmembers expressed reservations about the plan to seek the grant funding. Councilmember Neil Tibbott said he objected to starting with a premise of adding 30% missing middle housing, stating that percentage may not be the right amount for Edmonds. Tibbott also said the grant work would be redundant because the Edmonds Citizens Housing Commission already studied the missing middle housing issue and has made its own recommendations on the topic.

Councilmember Vivian Olson pointed out that the Department of Commerce has many resources available to staff that don’t require applying for a grant.

Councilmember Kristiana Johnson then made a motion to reject the grant, stating that “land use control is a local responsibility.” Those voting to reject the grant were Johnson, Tibbott, Olson, Diane Buckshnis and Will Chen.

In other business Tuesday night, the council:

– Heard an update from Community Transit, with CEO Ric Ilgenfritz and Director of Planning and Development Roland Behee presenting. Ilgenfritz said the agency is working to adapt its service model to accommodate a variety of changes — including a focus on expanding local bus service and its network of Swift buses — now that light rail is arriving in South Snohomish County in 2024. Behee also noted the agency will be conducting a pilot in Lynnwood for in-demand transit service that people can order on their phones, similar to Uber but with  “a public transit price point.” Councilmember Paine said she was excited about the possibility of implementing on-demand services in Edmonds at some point.

– Unanimously approved placing on next week’s consent agenda a code amendment to allow city board and commission members to attend meetings remotely.

– Voted unanimously to approve revisions to the city’s fireworks ordinance passed by the council in 2020. That ordinance had raised the fine for setting off fireworks in Edmonds to $500 for a first-time offense. However, City Attorney Jeff Taraday explained 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 for a first-time violation. The revisions approved Tuesday night ensure the total fireworks fine amount stays the same despite the additional court fees.

– Heard an update on plans for phase 2 work on the city’s tree code. The city’s urban forest planner, Deb Powers, explained that the process for updating the code is likely to take 12 months, and will involve both the Edmonds Planning Board and Tree Board, as well as members of the public and council.

– Approved a change in street intersection improvements planned for 76th Avenue West and 220th Streets Southwest. The city received grant funding for the proposal but upon further study determined that a revised configuration would require less acquired right of way, reducing the total cost by nearly $2 million. The $6.2 million price tag for the revised plan also includes $1.8 million to underground utilities next to the project. Councilmember Buckshnis proposed an amendment to remove the undergrounding due to the expense. That amendment failed on a 2-4 vote (Council President Vivian Olson also voting yes). The council then unanimously approved the proposal for the revised intersection improvements.

– Approved Councilmember Kristiana Johnson’s appointment of David Kaufer to the Citizens Economic Development Commission.

— By Teresa Wippel




  1. Thank you. “Land use control is a local responsibility,” is the right answer.

    One of the issues brought up consistently in the responses to MyEdmondsNews post on this was the need to plan for growth first, rather than after developers have gotten their hands on what they want, and racing to fix the known consequences of fast, dense development.

    Look at Kirkland, look at Bothell and look at Ballard and think about what Edmonds can be for the next 50 years. Beautiful, artistic, peaceful and at the same time a hub that connects us to the rest of the state in vital and vibrant ways.

  2. Thank you to Council Members Johnson, Tibbott, Olson, Buckshnis and Chen for voting to reject this grant application. Clearly the members of our community who spoke and wrote to the Council were against it. I agree that any changes to zoning need to be done very carefully and should be totally a local decision.

  3. “The lone vote supporting the grant application came from Councilmember Susan Paine.”

    I missed the meeting, what was the reasoning behind her vote?

    Well done citizens in making your voices heard!

    1. Count me in on the nimbyism. A person has as much of a right to fight for what they deem is good or to protect what they deem is good as a person that thinks change is better. We got it pretty good in Edmonds and a little “not in my backyard” will go a long way to keeping it that way..
      Sincerely Captain NIMBY.

  4. It’s disappointing that Council voted to reject the grant application for missing middle housing, especially when city staff recommended going for it. I don’t like the direction we’re going in.

    1. I like the direction we are going unelected bureaucrats being held in check by elected officials isn’t this how the system is supposed to work?

    2. Thank you, City Council for voting in line with our wishes! Missing Middle” died a natural death because the people who lived in it wanted to move out and have a yard, a car and more privacy. To bring it back when the only people who clamor for it are urban planners like Dan Parolek, is a bad mistake and a huge step backwards. People enjoy their own home, a patch of grass, some distance from neighbors and a driveway, things that give families some breathing room and privacy. We moved from what we now call the “missing middle” to the suburban sprawl after WW II. Many suburbs wanted that “vacation” feel: the lawn, the garden, only local traffic, most stores on the periphery, and changes were made only in few instances. No one ever said “I don’t want my quiet street and garden”. Most suburbs changed when the population of cities with jobs spilled over. In Edmonds, we already have many spots we’re there are apartments/townhouses etc where the residents can walk to stores and transportation points, and given our high per square foot population density, we don’t more.

  5. Wise decision by Council to pass on the “dance offer”grant, and it’s tune of changing 30% of the single-family lots. The city doesn’t have to act like a “cheap date”.

  6. Since this went through committee, staff and Mayor had already sent a letter of intent, and it was quietly placed on the consent agenda, perhaps it is time to reassign committee memberships. The hope, obviously was that no one would notice, and it would have gone through without any discussion at all. Granted someone on Council would likely have pulled it, but the committee voting it to consent (Paine and L Johnson) knowing the long term impact of the restrictions agreed to should never be something on consent.

    1. Thanks, Diane T, for raising the issue of re-evaluating committee memberships. Thanks to Council Members V. Olsen, Tibbott, Johnson, Buckshnis, and Chen for listening to residents and voting against this. Special thanks to Councilmember Tibbot for pointing out that the Housing Commission has already studied these issues. Well done!

      If you want to see what rampant development looks like, look at North City in Shoreline. A cute, quirky neighborhood is rapidly becoming an urban canyon.

  7. Thank you to our Council members that voted to reject this grant…K. Johnson, Tibbott, Olson, Buckshnis and Chen. Well done. Thank you!!!

  8. I agree so much with this Well done citizens of Edmonds. Everyone is awake now and paying attention to every detail. THAT is wonderful. I also Thank; Pres Olsen, Tibbott, Johnson, Buckshnis, and Chen for voting for what a huge percentage of our city wanted and didn’t. That is how it should be. Clearly that wasn’t just a vote from the wealthiest areas of Edmonds but the other areas of Edmonds as well. I applaud that. I am curious as to why plans for 5 corners were mentioned as “scrapped” I believe is what I heard? Why? This money could be used somewhere away from residential areas to help even more to house our homeless and protect them as well. It saddens me to see young people shivering from need of a drug in heavy sweatshirts hugging their bodies on a warm sunny day. They need help, so lets focus on that some more. I understand that addiction is a horrid thing for those addicted so building another place as Lutheran Church has with Housing Hope would be nice. Get people out of these cold, wet tents etc, or sleeping bags in woods and bushes. Help them. Offer education as we are to them and then they can work and stay somewhere in our large county. Edmonds is very expensive so why start here, why not go places where rent is more affordable. Its a big state and a big country. If you excel and can find a job that will = the expense of living here, great. All are welcome but income decides where one can afford to buy or rent. That is just another fact. The idea that everyone has to live in Edmonds will just not work for many. As I said had I not bought my home so long ago I would not be living here either. We looked in SEA first with an agent and he brought us to Edmonds. WE couldn’t afford the Bowl even then. But we improved our home, created env. friendly gardens and it was our life.

  9. I’m curious why the student representative to the Edmonds City Council attends Shorewood High School rather than one of the high schools in Edmonds.

    1. I don’t believe it’s a requirement that student council representatives attend an Edmonds school — just that they live in Edmonds. The previous student rep attended Lakeside.

    2. Nancy, might not be aware of this, but students who live in Edmonds and go to school outside the district are still considered residents and citizens of our town. Yes their voices are included too.

    3. Hi Nancy, under the qualifications section of chapter 10.03 of the ECDC titled, “Student Representatives on City Boards and Commissions,” it is stated that student reps must live in Edmonds but need not attend school in Edmonds.

      I am proud to have lived here for 18 years and have attended Edmonds College as a Running Start student.

  10. Oh, I don’t think it’s a requirement for the student rep to attend a school in the Edmonds School District. I just think it would be good practice. Why?

    Schools are a critical part of every community. A student rep who attends an Edmonds school would be in a great position to help suggest and forge school – community partnerships. We have students who are passionate about the environment, about social justice issues, about building homes and getting food for the needy, about science, art, technology, music, business, medicine, and so much more. A student rep who attends a school outside the city would have at best, limited knowledge of in-city student groups or the connections needed to build productive linkages.

    In addition, I would expect the role of a student rep on the Council to include representing a wider student voice and perspective than just their own. However, someone who attends a school outside the city would not be bringing a broader perspective from other Edmonds students. At best, they might represent students who live near them, which tends to miss the diversity of thought that exists across a public high school.

    So, I’m curious why the Council continues to appoint students who attend schools outside the city to serve on the Council. Are these students who are selected personally connected to someone on the Council? How open is the process of selection? Why has the Council had the same rep for two years in a row? Based on our experience of having multiple students each year serve on the Edmonds School Board as student advisors, there are definitely students in our district willing to give up two evenings a month in order to influence adult decision-making that affects their lives and the future of their community.

    1. Dr, Katims, thanks for your input. Several years ago Edmonds set out to have student representation on boards and commissions and council. Having been a part of several of these over the years it has always been difficult to get students to apply for these positions. So supply is often an issue. Some students make really fine contributions to these entities and my experience is that we listen carefully to their input for they will be our future leaders and taxpayers.

      Dr. Katims, the school board has various occasions to gather input from various stakeholders for Dist 15. Often the ESD has students, teachers and parents proividing input but also Very often if one is only a resident Taxpayer in the district our input is not asked for or in some cases even accepted.

      Since 2000 after volunteering to work on the Powerful Partners program I served as a math tutor at a K-8 school, served on a couple of levy committees, the long range enrollment task force and the bond issue for new schools.

      The ESD can do a more complete job in providing ways for just the average taxpaying citizen to participate in district affairs to in using the ideas you expressed above, (not sure how to do the grammer part of what follows to not plagerize Dr. Ks comments but here goes. Taxpayers are willing to volunteer their time and energy …”in order to influence ‘ school board and staff’ (removed… adult decision-making) that affects their lives and the future of their community.” We taxpayers may even have some ideas that can help provide more, better, and more cost effective education.

      So lets get those ESD students to apply and make their voices heard. It will he good for our community.

      Help give taxpayers a voice on school issues as well.

    2. Dr. Katims,
      The student reps are hand selected, one representative stated his conservative views and was resoundingly silenced and condemned for it. Personally, his views I thought were a bit much, but I was stunned by how the then Council condemned his statement and his ideas. He spoke his mind, which is the whole point of having a student rep on Council whether or not you agree. Since then reps have been only those who agree with liberals, and can get praised for lobbying for a new voting structure, as Mr. Roberts has done.
      It would be nice to have someone from a school in the Edmonds district, who also lives in Edmonds. Or not to have one at all, frankly.

  11. Thanks to our Council for moving the ball forward on code mods to allow volunteer Board members and Commissioners the option to meet on-line. Our volunteers work very hard to help create civil discourse, dialogue and recommendations for the public, city staff and elected officials, and deserve to be protected as we all continue to be impacted by COVID.

    Kevin Harris
    Vice-Chair, Edmonds Economic Development Commission

  12. Thanks to everyone who weighed in on my comment/ questions. I appreciate everyone’s input.

    Brook, please know that none of my comments were in any way personally directed to you. I am sure you’ve done a fine job representing students on the Council.

    Rather, I made my comments from a systemic perspective. I was curious about the process used for selection. I’m not sure what “hand picked” means, but I do understand that it is sometimes difficult to get enough qualified applications from students. Those of us on the School Board and the district leadership staff would be happy to help recruit students from our schools to apply if the Council reaches out to us at the time that applications for student rep are open each year.

    Darrol, thank you for all the volunteer time and energy you’ve given to the district! The work you’ve done with students and on district committees is invaluable to our students, schools, and community. The School Board welcomes and values input from all the community, and certainly including “average tax-paying citizens.” Every School Board meeting has a time set aside for public comments that may be delivered in person at the meeting, virtually at the meeting over Zoom, and/or in writing which will be attached to the meeting agenda available on the public BoardDocs website. In addition anyone can email the Board members at at any time; we read and appreciate every message we receive.

  13. We’ve had student representatives on City Council since at least the mid 80’s. The requirement is that they live in Edmonds and are a student.

  14. Edmonds City Code does not authorize the appointment of a Student Representative to City Council. Our City Code does not establish the qualifications, the appointment process, or the term of appointment.

    Edmonds City Code does authorize the appointment of a high school or college student to participate as a nonvoting member of the City’s boards and commissions. This is found in Chapter 10.03 ECC. The qualifications, the appointment process, and the term of appointment are codified.

    This is yet another example of the poor condition of our entire City Code. I encourage City Council to address this prior to the next appointment of a Student Representative to City Council.

  15. Well hum, I thought it was fine but maybe with all of the hard work the kids from schools in Edmonds will have a turn this time. I thought Brook was nice and I am glad this will help him as he moves onward with college etc. I wonder is attending in WA state. Doesn’t matter just curious. So yes It was fine but now maybe a public school young person I should say not kids. Sorry young people. Language when used so long is too difficult to change but I am getting the hang of it. Good job Edmonds City Council and nice plaque and Thank you for Brook. Deb

  16. Hi Deborah,

    It is more than fine; it is great to provide an opportunity for students to participate. The point I am making is that our city’s laws authorize Student Representatives for our Boards and Commissions but fail to do so for a Student Representative on City Council. I only mentioned it because of Councilmember Susan Paine’s comment that the requirement is that they live in Edmonds and are a student. I can’t find that requirement stated anywhere in City Code.

    When City Council adopts the related city law, some of the things to consider include:
    1. Can the Student Representative to City Council be either a high school or college student, or a high school student only?
    2. Qualifications.
    3. The details of the appointment process.
    4. The term of appointment. Is it a one-year term or something less than a year?

    Chapter 10.03 ECC should serve as a good example of how to codify having a Student Representative to City Council.

    Our City Code contains many errors and inconsistencies.

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