Commentary: Reasons for continuing exploration of Landmark project

I want to thank the residents who reached out to me via My Edmonds News, city email and phone, and other media to understand why I support the continuation of exploring the Landmark project. As a fiscal conservative, I was the councilmember who most aggressively and constructively challenged the mayor and staff with financial reporting, investment strategies, and was the first person to publicly voice my concern about the fiscal emergency that our city is facing. Although I was very skeptical about the Landmark project at the beginning, the long-term benefits of this project to the entire city of Edmonds deserve careful examination. Here are some of the reasons I support the continuing exploration of the Landmark project.

First, let’s look around Edmonds. Where in our city can we accommodate the demand for affordable housing and growth? Clearly it is not downtown, at least not in the foreseeable future. It is an understatement to say many of our residents are passionate about protecting and maintaining downtown as a gem of the Puget Sound and the small-town feel. This is evident during the vision statement process. The opportunity lies in SR 99 and other parts of our city. The Landmark project may not be the ultimate answer, but no doubt it presents an opportunity to take pressure off downtown and reduce the crime rate in the Hwy 99 corridor.

Second, it is true that our city’s general fund is experiencing a shortfall; however, other funding sources have been identified to cover the costs of continuing the exploration of Landmark project in 2024 and will not impact general fund.

I can assure you that I will not support the city going alone in acquiring the 10-acre Landmark site. I am hopeful that the council and the community will have the information needed to make an informed decision within the next 15-month window.

Councilmember Will Chen

— By Will Chen

Will Chen holds Position 2 on the Edmonds City Council.

  1. “Affordable housing and growth” is not possible in the city of Edmonds. The reason for this is the community is a desirable place to live.
    1. In regards to home ownership – changing and allowing dense development only benefits builders and developers. They will buy a property for 1 million and turn around and sell three homes on the same property for 1.2+ million each.
    2. In regards to apartment buildings – changing and allowing more to be built will only benefit the developers building them. No developer is going to build an apartment building and charge low rent in Edmonds.
    3. In regards to public housing – just look at the building next to Harbor Freight on 99. The county purchased that property with federal money to provide transitional housing. It has been sitting there because it is not safe to live in and once you allow people to live in it for free it will once again not be safe to live in.

    Our city council should be protecting single family dwellings in Edmonds. That is what will keep the older generation in their homes and allow the younger generation and opportunity to purchase in Edmonds.

    The density building is killing communities. Look no further then Lynnwood. It’s turning into Gotham city.

    I want a small town Edmonds life.

  2. Thank you Mr. Chen for your honest and open communication to the Edmonds community concerning the your [position on the Landmark Project. You are exactly the guardian Edmonds needs to reach an informed and rational solution to this potential acquisition.

  3. What other funding sources? What arrangements and promises have been made in order to get this cash infusion? Transparency calls for these sources to be provided to the public as there are always strings attached. There is no free lunch.

    1. Mr. Neuman, the funding source was briefly described to City Council in the last two meetings in which this project was discussed. We’re only talking about $300k to hire consultants to manage the RFP process and do community outreach. There is no infusion of funds. It is sales tax receipts earmarked for the land purchase and/or construction and operation of affordable housing. The State of Wash changed their sales tax law a few years ago to earmark a little bit of tax for affordable housing.

  4. I don’t understand why try to proceed with this project on such an over-priced 10 acre parcel of land in such a high crime area. Why not investigate purchasing and the development of housing at Firdale Village?

  5. I am concerned that the City is proposing to use Edmonds fund 141 dollars for continued exploration of the Landmark 99 project. That money comes from taxes raised as a result of RCW 82.14.530(please take the time to read it). It specifically states that the majority of the funds can be used for affordable housing and the rest for mental health services.
    So far the proposal has no mention of affordable housing and mental health services. I believe this is an illegal use of the funds and that a subsequent state audit will confirm that belief. If so, the funds spent will have to be reclassified as general fund expenses.

  6. Let’s take care of our streets and sidewalks first. They are in terrible shape. Have helped several people who has fallen on our street. Safety first.

  7. Thank you Will for making a choice that allows more time for the city employees and citizens to make an informed decision. We are lucky to have you serving on our city council.

    1. A reasonable approach is to allow the citizens to vote on such a large expenditure. Not just discuss it in a forum or respond to a slanted survey that doesn’t allow for a negative answer. The city employees will always look out for themselves and always suggest work that they can do regardless if its good for the citizens. Hopefully our new mayor will take this approach soon.

      1. Yes, I think that a vote would be the end of it.

        This project is overwhelmed with many difficult problems invoking both money and city personnel resources that will only ballon. And the city does not have enough of either to start with.

  8. If a decision is made to proceed, the costs don’t end, but continue to expand and grow. What will it cost the city in either consultants or staff time to pursue the development and management of this project ongoing? Do we have staff with the skills to manage this type of project? And do they have the time? What work won’t get done while they are focused on this project? And with our budget this year (and remember this budget emergency isn’t just a one-year shortfall), how will it be managed if we have to reduce staff because of budget shortfalls. The analysis of this project is just the first step for ongoing financial needs. I think anticipating grants and private partners are going to bear the costs of this project is unrealistic. And what other opportunities and benefits for the Highway 99 area will be missed by focusing all of our resources on this project?

  9. Councilmember Chen:

    I believe that you will agree that, like everyone, accountants don’t always have good judgement. Edmonds affordable housing is clearly an oxymoron. Housing is relatively more expensive in our city. To make it sufficiently affordable for more would surely require subsidies from taxpayers. Something not likely to happen.

    Two years ago one of my grandsons wanted to buy a home and quickly determined that he needed to move out of this general area to make that happen. So he moved to Renton. Your flawed judgement in this matter is going to cost Edmonds taxpayers a minimum of $100,000. Please change your mind before its too late.

  10. Council member Chen, I am reminding you of your comment from the Dais this year that affordable housing needs to be spread around the city. You and others working on the citizen volunteer housing commission made that very clear. The only affordable housing project under construction right now in Edmonds IS 6 BLOCKS AWAY from the proposed Landmark 99 project site. Both you and I have canvassed the highway 99 neighbors during political campaigns. Both you and I know that these blocks around the state highway, between the city limits, already contain some of the lowest priced housing in Edmonds. Both you and I know that the City has had an interlocal agreement with HASCO for a couple years to buy land and build affordable housing for the residents of Edmonds. In the anemic response to the city’s RFEI, only two large builders expressed interest in developing the Landmark site. HASCO also expressed interest. The 4th respondent was not disclosed, maybe it was our public health agency – Verdant. This is not the time to point to the opportunity to build some affordable housing units at the Landmark site. This is the time to get a reasonable budget for 2024 for the general fund. If you want to spend $300 k on consultants for the Landmark 99 project, find that money.

  11. Lousy location. Waste of valuable staff time. Unrealistic financing. Questionable public amenities. Economically unfeasible. Collateral damage to adjacent neighborhoods. Does not address crime. Environmentally debatable. Council member Chen, no matter how hard you try, “it’s impossible to make chicken salad out of chicken poop.”

  12. If this wasn’t real, serious and costly it would be very entertaining to watch this play out as it would rival any episode from “The Office”. The “Dunder Mifflin” wing of the City Council has taken charge ignoring all reality. …….. We found some money so we can waste it. …… We can’t reduce our post Covid bloated city staff but we have plenty of staff hours to devote to this boondoggle ….. “our children are watching us” so we can bankrupt the city but be civil doing so…….. No city in the country has solved the housing affordability issue but we can……… our incompetent financial staff missed the deficit by over 3 million dollars in a few month time frame only to admit post election the real financial mess we are in and yet using this same incompetence to work the Landmark boondoggle…. etc etc etc Elections have consequences and we will see just how over the next few years. My best wishes to the new Mayor and the few adults left on the City Council. Your efforts to bring sanity do not go un-noticed.

  13. CM Chen,

    It’s highly disturbing that the funds that have been “identified” are actually the entire $300,000 accrued since 2019 from the Affordable Housing Sales Tax Credit which should be made available to HASCO for its intended purposes. Yet, you are proposing to spend those funds on “Landmark Placeholder” as proposed by Director Tatum, on your agenda for discussion tonight:

    New Decision Package- Landmark Placeholder-(HB 1406) Fund 141.
    (12-11 Council packet, p. 7)

    If you approve this budget amendment, the $300,000 will be used for Professional Services to further vet the project, not for it’s intended use as described in RCW 82.14.530 Sales and use tax for housing and related services:

    Bob Chaffee commented that the RCW above “specifically states that the majority of the funds can be used for affordable housing and the rest for mental health services.”

    How can you justify the expenditure of $300,000, meant “for housing and related services,” on this Landmark Placeholder?

    1. Ms. Bloom,
      Allow me to correct your record, the Decision Package Title Landmark 99 Placeholder for $300,000 Affordable Housing Sales Tax Credit Fund 141 was proposed by staff, not by City Council. I voted to REMOVE this decision Package on 12/11/2023 special meeting and now it has been removed.
      Thank you for your service and engagement.
      Will Chen

      1. Councilmember Chen – What will result from Council’s removal of $290,000 designated for Landmark 99 project work in 2024 from the city’s 2024-29 Capital Facilities Plan/Capital Improvement Program (CFP/CIP)?
        As Council took this action AFTER voting to remove the Landmark 99 Placeholder Decision Package, why would staff reintroduce the Landmark 99 budget item in early 2024?
        Councilmember Chris Eck’s Main Motion was:
        “I motion that we remove this Decision Package.” Mayor Pro Tem Tibbott attempted to add to the Main Motion, but I don’t think that is something the person presiding over the meeting can do.
        Councilmember Eck’s Main Motion was seconded, and it appeared to pass unanimously.
        What impact will the removal of Landmark 99 project work in 2024 from the city’s 2024-29 CFP/CIP have on the $75,000 Strom Peterson presented to Council from the Snohomish County Council during the November 28, 2023 Council Meeting? Can Snohomish County provide us this money for something that is not in our CFP/CIP?
        Last night’s Council Meeting was one of the most confusing meetings I’ve ever witnessed. I imagine citizens could watch it multiple times and still not really understand what all took place last night.

      2. CM Chen,

        You said in your Commentary “other funding sources have been identified to cover the costs of continuing the exploration of Landmark project in 2024 and will not impact general fund.” I assumed you were referring to “Decision Package Title Landmark 99 Placeholder for $300,000 Affordable Housing Sales Tax Credit Fund 141” as the “identified” funds you referred to. I am aware that DP was proposed by staff, specifically Director Tatum, not Council.

        Were you referring above to different “funding sources” that “have been identified” to continue Landmark exploration? If so, please let us know what those identified funding sources are.

        Thank you for voting to remove the DP Landmark Placeholder on 12-11-23. And thank you for the many hours you and your fellow Councilmembers continue to spend on the 2024 budget.

  14. My vision is for a unique, boutique hotel be built on this site with supporting businesses (retail, restaurant). To thrive, this location needs to provide jobs for citizens and supplying vendors / promote visitors to the Edmonds region (weddings, family events) / and should be tax paying (a quality hotel). A secure, attractive business location that provides jobs is SMART … not non-profits or ugly density housing that could be ghetto slums in 20 years. A permanent police annex can be immediately located at the former dental office on 238th & Hwy 99 and crime issues dealt with in 2024 on a smarter, broader problem-solving spectrum. Urban planning people can intelligently deal with the neighborhood improvements … that’s what they do! I view this as AFFIRMATIVE INVESTMENT in an extended, thriving Edmonds community.

  15. I just came back home to Edmonds from our other place in Tucson to find that our gas furnace got blown out by something getting sucked into the air intake pipe; so I decided to just keep warm by going out and shopping for a new truck. You see, I subscribe to the Will Chen School of accounting and finance where you solve an immediate emergency by going off on an expensive and unrelated tangent.

    After Dec. 31st. the 100,000K goes by by whether we buy the property or not. Funds meant for low income housing and mental health needs are going to be diverted to use as consultant fees for this project to make the budget look somewhat good. Talk about putting lipstick on a pig. Mr. Chen, you really need to get real on this one; before you loose all your credibility and lots of all of our money.

  16. I urge citizens to write to and ask them to deny New Decision Package- Landmark Placeholder-(HB 1406) Fund 141, on their agenda this evening. If Council denies this NDP, these “identified” funds can not be put towards professional services to vet “Landmark 99.”

    It appears Bob Chaffee, in his comment above, is correct in stating that RCW 82.14.530 “specifically states that the majority of the funds can be used for affordable housing and the rest for mental health services.” Use of the $300,000, intended “for housing and related services,” is an inappropriate use of these funds.

    RCW 82.14.530 Sales and use tax for housing and related services: contains the following:
    “a minimum of sixty percent of the moneys collected under this section must be used for the following purposes:
    (i) Constructing or acquiring affordable housing, which may include emergency, transitional, and supportive housing and new units of affordable housing within an existing structure, and facilities providing housing-related services, or acquiring land for these purposes;”
    “(c) The remainder of the moneys collected under this section must be used for the operation, delivery, or evaluation of behavioral health treatment programs and services or housing-related services.”

    Council is voting on this New Decision Package tonight, so it is not too late to write an email to

  17. Thank you, Councilmember Chen, for the public comments. My family and I appreciate your support for continued exploration of the Highway 99 project. A very happy holiday season to you and your family.

  18. We know the neighborhood surrounding Burlington Coat Factory and the Antique Pavilion need attention. No doubt. But there are better solutions than a huge, ugly, expensive development.

  19. All good public policy decisions must start with these questions:
    1. Can we get agreement on what’s the problem we are trying to solve?
    2. What are the different viable alternatives to solving this problem?
    3. What are the cost and benefits, both tangible and intangible, for each of these alternatives?
    4. How do we measure success?
    5. How do we monitor and improve the decision?

    With such a split vote on the Council and within the Community it is obvious that these questions have not been asked or answered, especially #1. Please do you due diligence as a legislative body and move to reconsider if that is an option and then go through a true public policy process. If a motion to reconsider by one of the council members who voted for it is not possible, draft a motion that would provide the Council with the ability to not pursue it’s option to purchase this property. Wanting to leave a legacy is admirable. But unless you have answered these 5 questions – AND gotten agreement by a much higher majority of community and council you really should not proceed. I doubt that those who voted for it would spend their own money on such a high risk/expensive idea.

  20. First, has anyone considered asking for more time on the option without forfiting the earnest money? That we have a new Mayor who may want to put his spin on the concept seems a logical reason to ask and receive an extension.

    Rather than focusing on this large property, has anyone considered attacking the problems of this neighborhood on smaller” bite sized” plan. For as longer than I can remember the motels in this area have been a problem. Initially I suggest Council change zoning to prohibt new hotels in the area. Concurrently, come up with needed public services for the area. Then as funding allow, condem an individual motel and develop the needed public service. Continue condeming these motels until we run out of additional needed public services or $.

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