In October 2022, the Edmonds City Council was inundated with concerns from residents worried about the impact of development on their Highway 99-area neighborhood. In response, Councilmembers voted to conduct a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the area. But during its Wednesday night business meeting, councilmembers considered a proposal from city staff not to do that supplemental EIS after all — but to instead perform a citywide EIS as part of Edmonds’ required 2024 Comprehensive Plan update.
Councilmember Diane Buckshnis noted that the council specifically agreed to conduct the supplemental EIS in response to requests from Gateway residents, who wanted to know what impacts future growth could have on a range of issues, from infrastructure to the environment.
Lindsey Amtmann, a consultant with Herrera Environmental — one of the firms that will be working on the city’s Comprehensive Plan update — responded that “doing two EISs, either concurrently or sequentially, will take far longer than doing one EIS that looks at the city as a whole.”
One EIS is also “a prudent expenditure of public dollars,” she added. “One EIS is going to get you a lot more bang for your buck than two…and it would have the same public involvement level, the same types of outreach.”
If residents have particular concerns, it’s possible those could be addressed during the public outreach process as part of the Comprehensive Plan update, she added.
Edmonds Planning Manager David Levitan explained the preference for one EIS this way: A citywide Comprehensive Plan EIS would give city planners — and the council — a more holistic view of the growth and planning for all neighborhoods. For example, if there is the concern that too much growth is concentrated into Highway 99 neighborhoods, a citywide EIS could look at reducing the number of housing units assumed in that area and ensure they are distributed more equitably.
Councilmember Jenna Nand suggested the council hold a public hearing on the idea of just one EIS process, to ensure those Gateway residents whose concerns prompted approval of the supplemental EIS in the first place could have their say.
The discussion at Wednesday’s special meeting — held a day later than usual due to the July 4 holiday — was part of a broader report from Levitan and Planning and Development Director Susan McLaughlin on staff’s work to hire a consultant to manage the 2024 Comprehensive Plan update.
McLaughlin started by providing an overview of the city’s work last summer to develop a draft vision statement following months of work by staff and residents as part of the Reimagining Neighborhoods and Streets: Creating Community Spaces Together effort. The goal was to collect comments, opinions and wish lists from a cross section of Edmonds citizens that will shape Edmonds’ 2024 Comprehensive Plan update. That vision statement serves as the framework for updating the plan, she added.
Explaining the significance of the 2024 update, Levitan noted: “We haven’t done a full Comp Plan EIS since 1995. That’s because over the last several planning cycles, the city hasn’t had to increase its zoned capacity to meet its population growth targets, as required by state law. We’ve always just been able to do an addendum.
“That’s not the case now,” he added. “We do have this massive increase in zoned capacity that we are going to need to accommodate. We’re going to need to change land-use designations, or at least zoning designations to meet those growth targets.”
The city issued a request for proposals for a consultant to manage the Comprehensive Plan process — a council-approved allocation in the city’s 2023 budget. Four responses were received, and after interviews staff selected Seattle-based Via Architects, which wil be working with two subconsultants — Herrera Environmental and Stepherson and Associates. The latter consultant has extensive experience in public outreach, which is a key component of the city’s effort to reach underserved communities.
One of those efforts will include involving “Community Champions,” those who have not traditionally been involved in government activities. The plan is to compensate those participants in some way, but McLaughlin said the specifics of that hadn’t yet been determined.
The consultants’ draft scope of work will be shared with the Edmonds Planning Board next week. There will also be several other touch points between the consultant and the council and city boards and commissions as the process moves forward, Levitan said.
In other business Wednesday, the council:
– Removed from the agenda a proposal to use up to $8 million of the City of Edmonds’ 2023 allotment of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to pay for South County Fire services. Council President Pro Tem Vivian Olson noted that Administrative Services Director Dave Turley requested that the item be pulled, and “there were reservations from some councilmembers as well.” Councilmember Buckshnis suggested the proposal be sent to the planning board for review.
– Heard a wrap-up report from lobbyist Debora Munguia regarding the 2023 session of the Washington State Legislature. Bills that were introduced last session but didn’t pass will be introduced again in 2024, including housing bills related to transit-oriented development, lot-splitting and minimal parking requirements. She advised city officials to start contacting lawmakers now to express their opinions on any legislation of interest for the 2024 session.
– Approved the schematic design for the Edmonds Boys and Girls Club’s new building planned for Civic Center Playfield. The 16,000-square-foot LEED Silver building will be three times bigger than the current facility, which will be razed for the new structure. The motion proposed by Councilmember Olson and approved by the council noted that there are some discrepancies between the Boys and Girls Club design and the park’s design guidelines. The idea is that those can be reviewed as the building moves further along in the city approval process, Olson said.
– Approved by a 4-2 vote (Councilmembers Will Chen and Susan Paine opposed and Council President Neil Tibbott absent) — a letter from the city council to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) informing them of the council’s desire to meet with Gov. Jay Inslee, WSDOT officials and salmon recovery councils to explore the option of the state retaining ownership of the Unocal property next to the Edmonds Marsh.
The council on May 23 approved a Memorandum of Understading (MOU) with WSDOT regarding potential purchase of the Unocal property. The letter okayed Wednesday night requests another meeting to discuss a separate alternative — in which the state would retain ownership of the property and work in partnership with the City of Edmonds to achieve mutual objectives for restoration and maintenance.
— By Teresa Wippel