Council extends designated street fronts in downtown Edmonds, hears more budget reports

The BD2 zone designated street front map extensions (seen as blue hatch marks) proposed by the Edmonds Planning Board and Economic Development Commission.

The Edmonds City Council Monday night approved a code amendment that extends the city’s BD2 designated street fronts downtown. The change prohibits multifamily-only housing in that area (as noted by the blue lines in the map above) and requires that all buildings there have commercial on the ground floor.

The council business meeting was held Monday because the council traditionally does not meet on Tuesdays when they fall on election days.

The council May 24 approved an interim extension of that zoning in response to a proposal for a 24-unit multifamily-only apartment building in the 600 block of Main Street, located in the BD2 zone. Once the interim standards were adopted, the Edmonds Planning Board and Citizens’ Economic Development Commission also reviewed them, and agreed that the blue line should be permanently extended to all BD2 parcels, to be more consistent with the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

On Oct. 25, the council held a public hearing on the proposed code amendment, but not before staff offered another option for extending the street fronts that were not included in the planning board recommendations. However, the council Monday night unanimously agreed with the planning board-recommended map after approving by majority margins two amendments proposed by Council President Vivian Olson:

– Removing Durbin Street from the proposed extension since it faces the Edmonds Library parking lot.

– Removing the portion of Maple Street on the map due to its steep grade.

In other business, the council received departmental budget presentations from the city’s planning and development and parks, recreation and human services departments.

Among the requests:

From the planning department

– $300,000, which carries into 2024, to fund the city’s 2024 Comprehensive Plan update. Required by the Growth Management Act, the plan creates a 20-year vision and growth strategy for the city. $125,000 of that would be funded by a state grant.

– $250,000 for a facade improvement grant program, with the idea of helping businesses citywide address deferred maintenance and aesthetics. This would be funded through the city’s allocation of federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars.

From the parks department

– $220,000 to conduct an assessment of Shell Creek where it runs through Yost Park, to address erosion concerns and determine possible next steps for boardwalks and bridge repairs and replacement, as well as trail realignment.

– $154,141 to cover increased parks maintenance expenses due to significantly higher park and facility use and inflation-related cost increases of supplies and materials. Parks Director Angie Feser said the plan is to change the duration of seasonal employees from five months to nine months to assist with recruitment and retention. That move will also allow parks to reduce the overall number of seasonal employees from eight to six.

– $1.076 million to cover the one-time and ongoing cost increases associated with two major projects: 1) maintaining the median and landscape beds of trees, shrubs perennials and grass that will be installed as part of the 2 1/4-mile Highway 99 revitalization effort and 2) maintenance of the 8-acre Civic Center Playfield Park, which includes almost 4 acres of grass lawn, 1.6 acres of landscape beds (trees, shrubs and perennials), a playground, restroom, shade structure and other park amenities. Nearly all of this ($1.036 million) would be funded through ARPA dollars.

You can see all proposed city department budget package details here.

Deputy Parks Director Shannon Burley, right, discusses cold-weather shelter options Monday night. At left is Parks Director Angie Feser.

Councilmembers had a range of comments and questions about the departments’ budgets. Two of them centered on the parks department’s human services division and how it is helping people without housing as the weather turns colder. Another focused on Snohomish County’s plan to renovate the America’s Best Value Inn on Highway 99 in Edmonds to serve as transitional housing for those who are homeless.

Regarding cold-weather shelter, Parks Deputy Director Shannon Burley noted that the South Snohomish County Cold Weather Shelter isn’t open yet because volunteers are undergoing training. She also said that while the county is covering the cost of both renovating and operating America’s Best, the county has requested the city’s ideas for the facility. Burley said that city staff have suggested that the county carve out a space in the renovated building to serve as a shelter during extreme cold weather events.

Burley also recommended that councilmembers and citizens who have questions about the transitional housing operation read the county’s memorandum regarding the policies and procedures, posted here.

In other business Monday night, the council’s City Attorney Work Group reported on its effort to analyze the city’s arrangement with Lighthouse Law Group, which is under contract to serve as the city attorney. That Lighthouse contract expires at the end of the year and the council is considering a one-year extension through 2023 while it considers whether to renew for a longer-term contract.

Councilmember Dave Teitzel, left, talks about the efforts of the council’s City Attorney Work Group.

The work group includes Councilmembers Dave Teitzel, Susan Paine and Will Chen. Teitzel said that as part of its efforts, the group obtained the detailed documentation of hours worked by Lighthouse for Edmonds from 2021 and 2022, and verified that the reported hours were correct.

Under the current contract, Lighthouse receives a flat monthly fee from the city and does not bill hourly. As a result, the work group confirmed that the city is “getting a pretty good deal financially,” Teitzel said, since Edmonds pays a generally lower average hourly fee for city attorney services than standard attorney fees.

“Having said that, there’s a lot of work to do to assess the quality of the work we are receiving,” Teitzel said. In early 2023, the work group plans to conduct surveys, interviews with key stakeholders and an assessment of litigation the firm has done on behalf of Edmonds. There are also plans to issue a request for proposals for other law firms to apply for the work. And the work group plans to assess “the benefits and drawbacks of contracting city attorney services vs. hiring in-house.”

“All of our work product is going to be available to the public once we polish it up,” Councilmember Paine said, adding that the work group will simply be presenting the information gathered and won’t be making any recommendations.

Teitzel suggested that Dec. 5 would be a good target date for the work group to present its initial findings to the council.

— By Teresa Wippel

  1. It is important that all concerned citizen’s understand that City Attorneys do not work for you as individual citizens or our elected and appointed officials as individuals. The City Attorney’s client is something called the “Municipal Corporation” which is, as far as I can tell, a legal concept meaning something like for the good of the city which seems pretty vague and subjective to me. Maybe our Council study group can enlighten us a little bit more on exactly what a City Attorney is expected to do, practically speaking, as the representative of the “Municipal Corporation.” For example, our current City Attorney devoted many hours to the task of completing the “missing link” beach walk which pitted our city government against some of our own town citizens in the Courts, where the city prevailed. They did this because our city council and mayor instructed them to do so in our collective name. In short, if you think our City Attorney is always looking out for our particular best interests as individual citizens, think again. How should the “Municipal Corporation” choose it’s City Attorney in a fair way to all? Big, important question that needs answering soon.

    1. Clint,
      Too late for “soon.”. The Current City Attorney had a 3 year contract which ends on December 31 2022. There has been no effort to get any other “bids” for the entire three years. There is no alternative attorney lined to do the work should Lighthouse’s current contract not be renewed. Lighthouse wants a raise as well. This is another “emergency” Council has created for itself. Lighthouse has never, to my knowledge, had to compete for the work as was required by code. The current noise is just that. By Council ignoring its duty to properly request bids, vet them and make a decision in a timely and orderly process has lead to this flurry of catch up, none of which should ever have happened. It truly is a stunning dereliction of duty on the part of the Council on such an important and impactful function of our City. Three years is plenty of time to get it right. 3 months? Not possible.

      1. Yes Diane, I’ve tried to get across the point to some of our Council Persons that our on going relationship with an Attorney Corp. formed with the express purpose of getting and keeping our business without any sort of on going official review process and attempt to give other legal Corp.s or individuals a fair shot at getting our business, simply looks bad, even if it’s supposedly a great deal that shouldn’t be messed with. This hastily and, seemingly, a bit behind the scenes formation of an attorney review Council work group is an attempt to rectify this situation. There isn’t really any good way to fix this governmental short coming now, but I also think we have to appreciate and respect the current council’s attempt to make this process a good and proper one in the future.

  2. Council’s far-sighted decision that the blue line should be permanently extended to all BD2 parcels, as recommended by the Edmonds Planning Board and Citizens’ Economic Development Commission, is a prudent resolution.

  3. Hi Christine,

    I am the program director of the S. Snohomish Cold Weather Shelter. Our volunteer organization would love to be able to serve our neighbors in need as you have suggested. However, we would need more volunteers and additional staff as well as additional funding to accomplish this.

    If you have suggestions of how we could overcome these barriers, I would love to hear from you at s.sno.CWS@gmail.com. Please feel free to reach out any time you would like to participate in our organization.

    Best regards,
    Reina Hibbert

  4. As a past volunteer in this program, I can assure everyone that this is no easy or simple task that these good people have taken on. Volunteers have to work some all night shifts and be prepared for handling unexpected situations such as disease outbreaks and backed up sewers which actually happened at the old Senior Center. The real truth is that this function is beyond what all volunteer and privately funded resources can handle and there needs to be public funding and facilities available as well as the private sector efforts.

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