Council OKs repeal of Hwy 99 planned action ordinance, hears about proposal for red-light cameras

Councilmember Diane Buckshnis

The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night voted 5-2 to repeal the city’s Highway 99 Planned Action Ordinance. The ordinance, passed by the council in 2017, was meant to streamline environmental reviews for developers but councilmembers voting for the repeal agreed it made sense to roll it back and possibly revisit an updated version later.

Under the 2017 ordinance, development in the Highway 99 subarea could proceed without further environmental review under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) if the project met mitigation requirements.

“This repeal is basically moving the SEPA process back into the hands of the developer,” said Councilmember Diane Buckshnis, who sponsored the effort. Instead of having a streamlined process, developers will have to follow the same process as other developments citywide, she said.

When councilmembers conducted a five-year review of the ordinance in 2022, it prompted a closer look at the planned action process, which had been generating concerns among Highway 99 residents about future development. One of the outcomes of that council review was a 4-3 vote in October 2022 to conduct a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to the Planned Action Ordinance. Then in May 2023, the council OK’d permanent design standards for Highway 99 area development.

However, in July 2023, councilmembers approved a city staff proposal not to do that supplemental EIS for Highway 99 after all — but to instead perform a citywide EIS as part of Edmonds’ required 2024 Comprehensive Plan update.

With the repeal, Highway 99 residents can “rest assured that we will allow the developments that come forth to do a normal EIS procedure,”  Buckshnis said. When the citywide EIS is complete, “future councils can decide whether they want to bring back this planned action ordinance,” she added.

Answering a question from Councilmember Susan Paine about the repeal proposal, Edmonds Planning and Development Director Susan McLaughlin said it’s true that the Planned Action Ordinance provides certainty for the developer because the environmental analysis has already been done. “What it does for the city,” McLaughlin said, “is it also provides us the cumulative analysis for understanding the impacts that will happen with the development if we see it at that magnitude over time.”

Council President Neil Tibbott asked City Attorney Jeff Taraday if there were any deficiencies in the ordinance that could be addressed with the repeal. Taraday pointed to the inability of the city under the current ordinance to require additional mitigation measures — including possible fees that could generate revenues to offset impacts from projects.

Voting for the repeal were Councilmembers Buckshnis, Tibbott, Vivian Olson, Dave Teitzel and Jenna Nand. Opposed were Councilmembers Paine and Will Chen.

In other business during the Tuesday meeting, councilmembers heard additional presentations from staff regarding 2024 budget requests, known as decision packages.

Development Director McLaughlin had two: $149,623 for a Climate Action Plan manager to make progress on the city’s 2023 Climate Action Plan goals, and $10,000 for projects undertaken by city boards and commissions.

The proposal for a Climate Action Plan manager drew considerable discussion. While councilmembers agreed the idea was worthy of consideration, there were worries about approving a new position when the city is facing budget challenges for 2024.

Tibbott asked what the climate manager would be doing on a day-to-day basis and whether the budget request could be deferred to 2025. McLaughlin replied that the job would be a combination of community education/outreach and administrative tasks. Regarding waiting a year for the position, she stressed that many community members have been asking for more aggressive actions to meet the city’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.

Councilmember Olson said she supported the position but asked if the department could find cuts elsewhere to afford it. McLaughlin replied that the department’s operation is already lean. Both Olson and Buckshnis mentioned the possibility of using state grant money to fund the position, at least temporarily.

Councilmember Jenna Nand suggested a couple of options: To share the position with nearby cities, both to save money and expand the reach, and to reduce the salary by turning the job into a more junior-level opportunity.

After McLaughlin’s presentation, Edmonds Police Chief Michelle Bennett offered her one budget proposal: $180,000 for red-light cameras at six unsafe intersections. These are Highway 99 and 220th Street Southwest, 220th and 76th Avenue West, 220th and 9th Avenue South, 212th Street Southwest and 76th, Highway 104 and Dayton Street and Highway 104 and 100th Avenue West.


City officials believe they can recoup the costs of the cameras through citations issued to offending drivers. The City of Lynnwood’s red-light cameras generate $3.5 million annually, Bennett told the council. She also noted that 80% of Lynnwood’s red-light camera violators “live outside their city — so these are people passing through. I think the same would probably be said for Edmonds.”

Councilmember Teitzel asked about staffing for the effort, which wasn’t included in the proposal. Bennett replied that the city would eventually need staffing after the cameras were installed and operating. “That would be something we would ask for later,” she said. Answering a follow-up question from Paine, Bennett noted that Edmonds Municipal Court may also need additional staff to process those who contest their violations.

Councilmember Nand said that many residents have a “very negative perception” of Lynnwood due to their red-light cameras, and drivers avoid traveling through the city as a result. “If people start getting these tickets, I think it’s going to discourage tourism activity to our city,” Nand said.

Bennett stressed that the goal of the cameras was to reduce accidents and improve safety. She also said that getting such a ticket doesn’t impact your insurance rates because it isn’t a moving violation. The police chief admitted that she received a ticket for violating a red-light camera. “I tell you what, when I drive through Lynnwood, I stop at every (light) if it is a faint pink,” she added.

The last item on the council agenda generated some tense moments after Council Finance Committee Chair Will Chen began discussing the city’s August 2023 financial report. While such reports are usually reserved for the council’s finance committee, Chen and Tibbott said they wanted the entire council to discuss the city’s budget challenges.

Councilmembers had agreed earlier in the meeting to move the report from the “received for filing” section — essentially meaning no discussion — to the council’s main agenda.

After Chen began asking questions about the city’s investment accounts and then moved on to other parts of the report, two councilmembers raised concerns. First, Councilmember Buckshnis reiterated her belief that the discussion should occur in the finance committee, and should be scheduled for when Administrative Services Director Dave Turley — who was absent — could attend. Then, Councilmember Paine — who is the other member of the finance committee — said she was “upset and irritated” that Chen and Tibbott didn’t consult with her first before bringing the matter to the full council.

Tibbott moved to postpone the finance discussion indefinitely, with the idea of scheduling a special meeting later. The motion passed and the council meeting was adjourned.

— By Teresa Wippel

  1. Concerning the repeal of the ordinance, Director McLaughlin effectively argued the developers and special interests should be at the top of the hierarchy pyramid of the city. Five City Council members disagreed, aware that place should be for the local citizens.

  2. Council should consider a red light camera at the pedestrian crossing of Highway 104 from City Park. I used it twice last Sunday, and both times a car blasted through after the light was fully red and I had the walk signal.

    1. Good idea Marty and also on Olympic View Drive (both ways). I had a car pass me (not the first time) right after the corner and was clocked at 47 on the speed reader. This main arterial to Perrinville and Lynnwood is a death trap for walkers or occasional biker.

      1. Diane, haven’t you heard the news? That problem is going to be solved by a Nelson Administration planned 20 mile safety walking and pedestrian trail loop that will provide easy and climate friendly access to all our major attractions and public transit stops. We are almost there already. All we need is the “scratch” to pay for it all. We have that covered too; because we are going to hire a Climate Action Administrator and a Grant Writer to “get ‘er done” as Larry the Cable Guy would say. Nothing but big ideas and a glorious future from these deep thinkers.

  3. I’m shocked that Council Member Nand would sacrifice safety for tourism. Really?? It is becoming more dangerous in Edmonds for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians on our roads due to people running Red lights and Stop signs. Every time I go out, whether it’s to drive or walk somewhere, at least 2 or more people run the stop signs in town. I was walking to the market Saturday, getting ready to cross the street at the fountain, and a person in an SUV, did not stop, slow down, or yield to pedestrians or other cars in the roundabout. At least 50% of cars fail to stop at the 4-way red lights at 5th and Walnut. Rarely does anyone stop at the 4-way Stop at 6th and Walnut. It goes on and on throughout town with these disrespectful drivers. I’m all for ticketing these errant people. It wouldn’t take long for the word to get around that you respect the rules of the road when you are in Edmonds. I’m all for safety Council Member Nand!

    1. Dawn, Jenna is in favor of any other traffic safety mechanism to address speeding on Edmonds roads, from emphasis patrols to reducing speed limits to traffic calming devices. She was concerned about using red light cameras as a form of revenue for the city to the tune of millions of dollars a year. Four out of those six cameras will be targeted at the Highway 99 community.

  4. Everyone should be interested in knowing that our revenue from fines and violations will go from around $300,000/yr. to a projected number of around $4,000,000/yr.; if we allow the installation of photo enforcement cameras. Personally, I don’t care because I tend to obey the traffic laws; but getting such a ticket does play havoc with one’s blood pressure. Voice of experience; I got one in Seattle for $260 in a private school zone with no kids around and very little traffic on Greenwood Ave. when I had no idea I was speeding during a lapse of normal good judgement. This plan will not go well here because, unlike Greenwood Ave., we are tourist central whether we like it or not and tourists and merchants won’t like it.

  5. Gerald – Council approved a traffic safety camera location on 212th by the high school on February 21, 2023. Council did so via Resolution 1514. Four other locations in school zones were also approved back in February.

    I don’t know why installation is taking so long but I read somewhere the speed zone cameras should be installed in January, 2024.

    Red-Light Cameras at intersections are a separate matter. Red-Light Cameras at intersections aren’t yet allowed in Edmonds. Council has not adopted an Ordinance allowing Red-Light Cameras at intersections so it is puzzling why this is being discussed as part of a budget request.

    1. Deb, I understand what you’re saying about paying to park. But..having lived on the Eastside for 10 years and working in downtown Seattle, I am so happy to have free parking in Edmonds. I think it’s one of the great perks about our town. I don’t want Edmonds to be another Seattle, Bellevue, or Kirkland.

  6. Robert, I am all in favor of a police officer or traffic enforcement officer standing on the corner near the fountain, giving out warnings or tickets to people that don’t respect the Stop signs. I wouldn’t take long for people to get the message to slow down and stop. The only problem is, I have been told, we are short on police personnel to do that. It’s only a matter of time before a serious accident with fatalities occurs. I don’t look at traffic violation tickets as a form of revenue for the city, I view then as a lesson learned. Obey the rules of the road and keep drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists safe. I’d like to see small flashing red lights at the fountain intersection. It might help drivers realize it’s a Stop street, not a yield and proceed on through street.

  7. Marty Jones and Councilmember Buckshnis. I live in Sherwood Forest and have lived there since 2006. The intersection of HWY 104 and 226th Street near the Shell Station is extremely dangerous with ferry traffic running the red light west bound. When crossing that intersection on 226th going south bound toward Sherwood, I stop and make sure traffic is not running the red light to my left before proceeding, as its common. It’s actually saved my life. I would support red light cameras in Edmonds, as compared to 10 years ago when council elected to not install them, drivers are more aggressive and distracted. Red light cameras (and applicable warning signs) would be a way to improve safety in this and other intersections.

  8. Ken, I’m not sure, nor can I prove it, but I think it might be a case of just following the money (revenue) and trying to kill two birds with one stone by a kind of broke city government.

  9. There’s an additional e in the word developments – [With the repeal, Highway 99 residents can “rest assured that we will allow the developmeents that come forth to do a normal EIS procedure,” Buckshnis said.]
    There’s got to be a better alternative to red light cameras. Maybe have officers do traffic patrols at the problematic locations? Or, lower the speed limit on 76th, 212th and 220th. The speed limit is already low enough on Hwy 104 at City Park.

  10. Every street mentioned including HWY 99 has constant speeding constant ignoring of stop signs. I am surprised when I see a full stop. Now some the nicer drivers do the roll thru but Stop and Look nah!I really don’t think if we get them here that anyone tourist or visitors or diners or shoppers will stop coming to Edmonds in any location if they need to stop at a stoplight or a stop sign etc. If they are really here to enjoy our community and patronize our Arts and Merchants, they will simply cool it. I think the added revenue is a plus for all Tax paying citizens here as well as a deterrent to speed demons. We can have all the bumps, the signs that say the speed is this or that but that won’t stop those who want to speed and have little respect for our community and its many walkers and drivers etc. I received a ticket too going thru a red light. I entered on yellow and it turned red real fast, but I paid the fine. IT did not upset me. It was here at 220th and HWY 99. I can assure you I don’t go thru on yellow much anymore and I see people enter on yellow and red all of the time.

  11. Emphasis patrols? our Police Department in case no one has noticed are very busy and doing a great job. So, they don’t have time and we need them elsewhere. Another thing is we need to charge for parking in the Bowl especially. Why the citizens of Edmonds think that we don’t need this revenue is beyond me. I shopped in Seattle almost exclusively for years and I paid garages and I paid and fed meters all day long. It was a privilege at that time for the wonderful shopping experience. Now I don’t go to Seattle to shop! The reason is obvious. So those coming here to shop and dine at $$$$ restaurants have the money to pay for parking. Why do we want to give away everything free for those WHO CAN afford to pay for the privilege and fun and experience Edmonds and its waterfront and Art centers have to offer. Come on give the free to those who cannot afford to pay. And those of us who can afford to pay should want to pay to help our city and those who live here. I would gladly pay for parking here and as I said so will the visitors. WE need revenue that is clear. Remember less taxes, more left to support charities and other orgs here.

  12. What is a Climate Manager role. Councilmember Nand brings up a good solution, are there exusting Snohomish County resources or Regional resources? The climate action plan contains steps that should and can be built into existing roles and responsibilities. There is not one single item in that plan that can be accelerated or acheived by adding an oversight or administrative role unless that person is going to be bolting those bike racks every block to the unrepaired sidewalks and is an expert in fabricating charging stations. The executive summary is here

    Each of the tasks does not need a new independent champion. They are pretty clearly targeted and able to fit compactly into existing City Administrative roles. Spending cash on this position makes a role that is additional oversight of projects that are handled, managed, paid for by other City Departments. It creates another level of government that can be monitored and governed by Department heads as they propose their Cap Ex for future projects. 140k is an expensive lamplighter for other City leaders to remind them of a widely published document with tactical projects and goals.

    Spend the money installing TCD’S or Safety devices or novel concept, do not spend it all…

  13. Deb, I don’t have quite the really sweet faith in humanity that you have; but I think there is some truth to what you are saying. I’ve had many people offer me money when I tell them they are welcome to park on the corner street lot where I live during the art festival. I never take any money, except one guy, that I let park his immaculate ’62 Corvette in my driveway, left a note and $20.00 bill wedged in my storm door.

    1. Ah Thats nice. See there is another person who knows the value of you and is a good human being himself. I think we humans are salvageable. I guess sometimes we forget and don’t realize what getting something for nothing can do in the end, in many ways. We will all including me get it together here in our Edmonds. Together we are unstoppable. Have a great weekend Clinton. I am making my famous ha Fettucine and Meatballs tomorrow and then we have leftover meatballs for Meatball subs on Friday and maybe Saturday. I love to cook. Started at about 10 years old. Whew that is 61 years of cooking. My husband says he doesn’t like to go out to eat because mine is always better haha. I don’t know if after 50 years with him if I should keep buying this line?? XO

  14. Hi Clint. I suspect this surprise budget request for Red-Light Cameras at intersections is related to a need for revenue. If so, I wish city officials would be open and transparent about that.

    In 2009, Edmonds City Council was told by Bill Crosky of American Traffic Solutions that “cities did not install red light cameras for the money as revenue from the program would decline over time”. Crosky assured the Council that “no city would get rich off photo enforcement”.

    Less than 2 years later, in 2011, the Everett Herald reported:

    Over time, the camera revenue became a bigger and bigger portion of the city’s general fund. Most cities in Snohomish County draw 1 percent to 4 percent of revenue from traffic enforcement. About 16 percent of Lynnwood’s spending in 2010 was covered by traffic tickets, most of which came from cameras.

    If Red-Light Cameras improve safety, why did Lynnwood’s related revenue grow dramatically?

    A June 27, 2023 article in the Kent Reporter reported the following:

    The number of collisions at the six Kent intersections with red-light cameras more than doubled in 2022 from 2021.

    In 2022, there were 137 crashes at the intersections compared to 56 in 2021, an increase of 144.6%, according to Kent Police statistics. There were 33,934 red-light infractions in 2022 compared to 32,491 in 2021, a hike of 4.4%.

  15. Mayor Nelson’s proposed budget shows that for 2023 we dramatically overspent. We borrowed from our reserves, and we are below the point that the city needs to declare a financial emergency.

    We all owe a debt of gratitude to Diane Buckshnis for her years of service, and she was the first to call attention at a financial workshop she sponsored. Her discussion of reserves clearly, were early warning signs of trouble.

    By mid-year the data began to show the trajectory of the shortfall. Council sponsored neighborhood public sessions and the finance committee has public meetings and is also sponsoring outreach sessions. The last will be scheduled soon. All council members have attended one or more of these sessions and when discussing the spending of reserves and the need to declare an emergency NO council member offered any explanation different than the above. At the Council Budget retreat early this year the gap was discussed but characterized as a “revenue shortfall”.

    Tuesday the finance committee meeting was cancelled, and a special council session was called in its place. As reported, they were many negative comments by some of the elected about procedures and content. Unfortunately, council was not allowed to ask questions, and some wanted the whole discussion sent back to the finance committee. Doing so will delay increasing public and council knowledge.

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