On June 27, 2023, the Edmonds City Council approved pursuit of the potential purchase of the 10-acre Burlington Coat Factory parcel on Highway 99 — now known as the “Landmark property.” I was the swing vote in the council consideration of this issue that evening and voted in favor due to my perception of the very low financial risk of exploring this purchase. It was explained to council the only requirement to explore the potential purchase was a deposit of $100,000, which was fully refundable if the city declined to pursue the purchase of the property beyond Dec. 31, 2023.
However, it is now clear the expenses and risks associated with the purchase of the Landmark property far exceed those council understood on June 27. In hindsight, I regret my vote and hope the new council determines it is not the right time to pursue purchase of this parcel.
The city is in a council-declared fiscal emergency in 2023 and will continue to be in 2024 without immediate, strong actions. The administration and council have a duty to be responsible stewards of taxpayer funds and need to act to enhance revenues and control expenses to deliver the services our constituents expect. We know our citizens have these clear expectations about services provided by the city: great public safety, more and better sidewalks, streets in good repair, more parks and open space within comfortable walking distance for all residents (this is a particular priority identified in the city’s current Parks/Recreation/Open Space plan), excellent fire/EMS services, responsive government, etc. In other words, they expect us to deliver the basics and do them well. Especially in times of an extremely stressed city budget, we certainly need to get back to the basics. Pursuit of speculative property acquisition and development is well beyond the basics.
While imagining a range of potential uses for the Landmark property can be exciting, the $37 million purchase price (not to mention future development costs) — coupled with the high cost in 2023 and 2024 of pursuing the purchase as well as the significant investment in staff time — is simply not a prudent use of taxpayer resources at this time. Further, it is clear our residents desire more parks and open space well distributed in areas that currently have little of this space — including in the greater Highway 99 area. A large, expensive parcel such as the Landmark property at the very southern border of Edmonds that isn’t within easy walking distance for most southeast Edmonds residents does not satisfy the need for well-distributed parks and open space, and such a large investment in a single parcel will reduce available funding for well-distributed park and open space amenities.
It should also be noted that, should Edmonds decline to pursue purchase of the Landmark site, all new tax and fees revenues associated with standard development of the site will flow to Edmonds, such as: traffic impact fees, park impact fees, real estate excise taxes, sales taxes, etc. These fees and taxes could well run into the millions in new city revenue — revenue that can be used to invest directly in desperately needed new sidewalks, parks/open space and other amenities for southeast Edmonds neighborhoods on both sides of Highway 99.
Especially at this time of extreme financial stress for the city, now is not the time for Edmonds to be engaging in financially risky real estate speculation. I strongly encourage citizens and Edmonds City Council to oppose continued pursuit of the purchase of the Landmark property at this time.
Dave Teitzel is a former Edmonds City Councilmember