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