Letter to the editor: When it comes to spending, prioritize the Edmonds Marsh

Dave Teitzel recently wrote a column about the City of Edmonds’ current financial difficulties, and the need to do some prioritization. I agree completely, and determining priorities is always hard given that everyone has their pet project.
I got to thinking about Hwy 99 and the Edmonds Marsh and how they fit within Edmonds spending. Hwy 99, while an essential piece of asphalt, is just a means to get from point A to point B. While I appreciate the businesses along it, there have been businesses there since I can remember (1950s). The Edmonds Marsh, meanwhile has diminished considerably in my lifetime.  Into the early 1960s, there was still marsh and cattails north of Dayton Street. Then came Harbor Square and further encroachment.  How long before developers completely obliterate the marsh?
If Edmonds invests in the protection and restoration of the marsh, it will have a jewel of a natural area that will attract thousands of nature lovers and observers every year.  When my grandchild comes to visit, would I rather show him Hwy 99 or the marsh?  Future generations will have the chance to watch salmon return every fall, to watch herons nest and to enjoy every aspect of this natural oasis. If, that is, we choose to invest in marsh protection and restoration now. I would choose investing in the Edmonds Marsh over Hwy 99 10 times out of 10, both for my sake and for all the generations that will follow when I am gone.
Mike Shaw
  1. The marsh project is wonderful and all but highway 99 is an entire city neighborhood! I’m really surprised at this take.

  2. If you believe in science and climate change, as I do the facts are in. By the turn of the century, the marsh will be open Salish Sea. Throwing money at the marsh is just throwing good after bad. There is nothing you can do about it but plan where SR 104 should go.

  3. I don’t think that Edmonds is tasked with choosing between Marsh preservation/enhancement or creating public amenities in the vicinity of Highway 99. Both of these pursuits will certainly require public expenditure, but neither is predicated on the other not happening. Suggesting otherwise proposes a false dichotomy that adds no clarity or value to our discourse around budgetary priorities.

    I hope your grandson will someday enjoy an Edmonds where the features that we claim regionally distinguish our city today – excellent public amenities & safety, a high degree of resident stakeholdership, and exceptional access to nature – are found everywhere, and not confined to the areas with the highest land prices per sq. ft. or homeownership rates.

    In 2017, Council chose to locate the vast majority of Edmonds’ population growth over the next 15 years directly along Highway 99. Our new neighbors here will live amidst the greatest air & noise pollution anywhere in our city. If our other neighborhoods offer any indications as to what successful urban development looks like for Edmonds, Council has more work to do to provide residents of 99 with the green spaces, cultural facilities, and public health investments they’ll need to enjoy an Edmonds kind of future.

    Human health is intertwined with ecological health. It’s a disservice to our interests in both to frame them as mutually exclusive.

    1. So correct in many aspects. Mackey – but the City has failed to have code, design standards or addressing the specific recommendations as stated in the Hwy 99 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)! We had to repeal ordinance #4079 as many issues you bring forth (form based code, design standards, noise and air pollution or even development agreements) did not occur. Council requested an updated EIS last year with budgetary dollars; but it didn’t happen and we have to wait until 2025 for this needed environment impact statement update for Hwy 99.

      So do we purchase an “off-market” $37mm “as-is” property and throw more money at developers without sufficient code or budgetary planning documents that are tied to our capital infrastructure budgets? That’s a HUGE risk!

      Did I mention our general fund that pays our workforce will be less than $1mm at FYE? Do we sacrifice this utopia at that ungodly price now?

      This is not dress rehearsal for a play about City Government – this is reality.

      The environment has long taken the back seat to development and transportation dollars and Chinook recovery is needed for Orca recovery. The Federal and State legislators are focused on these environmental and climate protection adaptive measures and therefore it’s difficult to compare this near-shore estuary recovery to spending $37mm to buy property without sufficient code or money.

      1. I think you might be misconstruing my statement as in support of any kind of additional FY24 expenditure on either of those priorities right now. We can also make operational/organizational progress on both of these things without money, and my point is just that making the situation into a false dichotomy is polarizing and unhelpful. Criticizing (in good faith) all proposals, and taking the time to explore the viability of any concept project, will always be an important part of the process.

  4. Highway 99 is asphalt, true. It’s also a neighborhood where my family and other families live, a couple blocks east of 99. The houses on our street were built in the mid-50s and have been in Edmonds for decades. We’d like there to be clean safe places in our neighborhood, not just parking lots, dealerships, and pollution.

    1. Kim, if you are a couple blocks east of 99 then you are VERY close to Ballinger. So, parks, lake, trails with no trucks, racing cars and commercial businesses. That is NOT going to come about with the pipe dream of Landmark unless it can magically be MOVED . You can never change its location. Oh and considering the grossly inflated price maybe they’ll take Monopoly money because thats all there is. I am midway between the City and Burlington prop. I have to drive to ANY park I want to go to, so what! I do not want to be taxed to death for a white elephant that i would STILL have to drive to. Face it, that is COMMERCIAL PROPERTY and nothing is going to change that because of its location, it is what it is.

  5. The letter makes the case for the Marsh and the Council should take it to heart. The first comment states that the Marsh is “wonderful” but highway 99 is an “entire neighborhood.” But this is too narrow a perspective. Earlier this year in comments to the Ciy for the update of the comprehensive plan, citizens answered a question about what they like most about living in Edmonds. THe number one (1) answer was “access to the waterfront.” The Marsh is the centerpiece of the Edmond’s Waterfront and a neighborhood accessed by people from far and wide.

    Considering future genrations the need to protect and preserve our access to the Marsh and all the natural resources of Puget Sound from our waterfront is of paramount importance. Let it not be said that we inherited this wonderful legacy but ignored it and denied future generations its solitude, wildlife and magic.

  6. I would say that almost all 99% of the homes built in my 5 corners neighborhood which is also just blocks W of 99 were also built in the 1950’s. I know I have owned my home for over 30 years and all the homes on my street and behind and N and South with the exception of maybe 10 or 12 townhomes and one on 212th that is a multi condo were built in the 1950’s. We too have just those few short blocks W only have car lots and grocery stores and yeah there is a health club and a card store there but I think some of those are N of 196th which is Lynnwood. You all have Shoreline on your edge. So, we all want more, and I get that totally. But to spend 37 million just for a land purchase at the furthermost section of Sno County is not access for everyone in Edmonds and the 37 mil is just for the land. Hang on and hope for other ideas and eventually I think we will all get more as frankly the Bowl is stuffed. I hope you don’t feel persecuted. I did here for a long time. I am not in support of the Landmark purchase but I do support other ideas to get your community more.

  7. It is a shame that there seems to be emerging an “us versus them” mentality in Edmonds, contributed to by many things, including a false choice of choosing between investing in the marsh or the Landmark development. Another thing that contributes to that mentality is the perception that the Hwy 99 neighborhood will bear the brunt of accommodating the next 20 years of housing so that other neighborhoods can retain their “small town” feel. The interior streets off of Hwy 99 also have a small town feel, including the 1950s neighborhood mentioned above as well as the Lake Ballinger neighborhood that is one of Edmonds’ original historic neighborhoods, many houses dating back to the early 1900s. The Hwy 99 neighborhood also includes the hospital and international districts. After many years of neglect and disproportionate contribution to city revenues, the Hwy 99 neighborhood deserves better than being treated as “us versus them”.

    1. Hi Susan, I also live in the Highway 99 area. There is not ‘an impression’ that this area was designated to have most of the new housing units. That is a fact as documented in the planned action ordinance passed by Council in 2017 and the related zoning changes in the Highway 99 area. But that was then and this is now (apologizes for the poor grammar.) The City administration made the argument this year that the supplemental EIS the council directed them to do for the Highway 99 area would not be done in 2023. Instead, the Comprehensive Plan 2024 update should have a different premise and growth would occur in additional neighborhoods. (House bill 1110 mandates some of that growth, anyway. See planning board and City Council meeting minutes on this topic.) There are meetings happening this week at the library to get residents input on where the additional growth (and subsequent zoning changes) should happen. Attend them if you are available. The schedule was published in a MEN article and is also available on the City’s webpage for Comp Plan work

      1. Hi Theresa: Thanks for your comments. I am aware of the rescission of the 2017 law and the new EIS requirement. I am also aware of the upcoming meetings. In fact, the Hwy 99 meeting was added after I questioned in a MEN comment whether a meeting would be scheduled for our neighborhood. The power point presented to the council recently (related to the comp plan) still includes 75 foot tall buiildings along Hwy 99. I attended a neighborhood planning meeting about a year and a half ago and many of the gargantuan buildings were in the works then, perhaps slowed down now not only by the EIS requirement but also by the interest rates. I do plan to attend the meeting on December 7th. Maybe I’ll see you there. It’s very important that Edmonds residents engage in this important planning.

  8. I keep hearing about all these wonderful “wants”. What I don’t hear is how much are you willing to pay for them (regardless of what they are). Are you willing to increase your Edmonds property tax by 10%? 20%? 50%? 100%? Because that’s what it’s going to take, more tax revenue. I never hear anyone putting it into concrete terms that we can all relate too.

    Believe it or not, our City Council is about to adopt a 2024 budget which leaves us in a far worse financial situation than we are currently. They are talking about leaving us just above bankruptcy levels. And that is using ARPA money to bail out our General Fund in 2024. So, the coffers are dry, there’s no more money. Further they’re considering eliminating Fire and EMS services from the city budget and having us pay for these services via separate regional fire authority tax in future years. Same service at a higher rate to us all. There is plenty of blame to go around on how we got here, from the administration to the City Council. Pay careful attention to the next two weeks of City Council meetings.

    So how much more do you want to pay for all your wants?

    1. Thanks Jim for the reality check. There are many residents concerned about the current financial condition our city is in and they are reaching out to Council with ideas and comments.

      Yes, plenty of blame to go around…but now, what are we going to do to help dig the city out of this financial mess? Edmonds will get through this, the question is how. Our Council has some tough decisions to make before the end of the year regarding setting the 2024 budget. As residents we are part of this process. Please participate in it. Send emails, make phone calls, show up at the Council meetings.

  9. It is a mistake to dichotomize hwy 99 and Marsh restoration. Restoring the Edmonds Marsh to a functioning estuary is not a neighborhood project. It has far reaching impacts for salmon, orca and Puget Sound and will benefit everyone.

  10. Mike Shaw asks “How long before developers completely obliterate the marsh?”
    We should preserve the Edmonds Marsh over throwing money at a fantasy.

    There’s no such thing as the last good deal, and in any case, Robert Siew’s property is NOT a good deal: it’s sloped, three acres of trees will be destroyed, access, parking, and traffic are problems with no solutions. The cost goes way beyond $37 million for property. Think what it will be like for the neighbors to live with the construction for the next several years. Multiply that annoying street repair in front of your home a thousand times.

    Better deals exist for development of public amenities for South Edmonds residents. Options along 99 include the motel district known for prostitution and drug use, the empty 7-11 (CM Chen), and partnering with the Fire district in use of the Value Village property (Carl Zapora).

  11. I think the marsh is important but I would say our priorities should be getting our fiscal house in order. As to what is more important our environment or finding ways to fit 25%/13000 more people into the city I would choose the environment. Every new building every new person will have a negative affect on our local environment. If the climate change group is to be believed urban areas are unsubstantial between sea level rise food and energy and employment insecurity may have us all wishing we lived on a farm somewhere.

  12. Spot on Marjie,
    The Edmonds Marsh is necessary for bird migration. It should not be pitted against a development project. They are two different things. The Marsh must be protected for many reasons.

  13. This is small town conversations at it’s best. we are so small, and we have so many sound thinkers ( and a few not-so-sound thinkers) that the big levers to pull to take action on the Edmonds budget problem are known to those who are following the issues. i am part of a tiny group of about 10 people west of Hwy 99 who achieved 4 things in 2023 related to property development and traffic safety. So I believe that a larger group can influence the Council’s budget this month, and provide input to Rosen, and claim our spot at the top of the org chart. please be active and ‘claim’ it. no city staff person will hand it to you on the proverbial silver platter.
    don’t forget to vote by Monday in the neighbors-run Survey on whether the Landmark 99 project should move forward to the next stage.

    thank you

  14. Jim O asked above about our willingness to raise taxes? Here are some data points to give you an idea of where our existing taxes go. The data is for a $1m home. Total taxes for that $1m home are $6870 and here is the distribution.
    City of Edmonds. For Fire Service $680. To the General Fund $280
    Schools $2620, State $2230, Half the State Budget goes to Schools
    Snohomish Co $480, Reg Transit $160, Hospital $50, Port $70 and Sno-Isle Library $310.
    Yes, the GF has other sources of revenue like sales taxes but from our property tax something like $.28/1000 and generates just over $4m. A $1m home paying $70 would raise about $1m.
    So, if we need $5m/yr. A 1m home would pay an added $350.

    One of the contributing factors to the current budget issues is we have not looked at and evaluated our revenue streams to and compared them to our expense growth. I know this will generate all the comments about overspending, hiring, etc. But the fact of the matter is when the legislature limited revenue growth to $1% back in 2001, we managed for a while but the old “wants and needs stuff” grew more than 1%.

    Council will work hard to get the 2024 budget to work but then comes the tough stuff. Revenue/Taxes?

    1. Darrol,

      Your breakdown of tax allocations makes Joe Scordino’s comment even more compelling. https://myedmondsnews.com/2023/11/what-to-cut-what-to-keep-budget-choices-dominate-special-thursday-council-meeting/#comment-509458

      From Joe’s comment:
      “Professional services expenditures went from $20.7M in 2022, to $29.6M in 2023 to a proposed $33.7M in 2024 (a $4M INCREASE!!).”

      If Council cuts the entire $4M Professional Services budget allocated for 2024, new mayor Mike Rosen, will be able to work with his staff to evaluate Professional Services for 2024, and beyond. A side benefit to this action is that Council can stop debating budget requests such as Meadowdale preschool, and not revisit using the remaining $250,000 ARPA funds to further shore up the General Fund.

      Perhaps a bond measure to propose additional property tax increases will ultimately be needed. Perhaps not. But whatever the results, removing that $4M as Joe says “gets message to City staff to stop unnecessary consultant costs.”

    2. I think it’s awesome that you want to talk about numbers. According to the Snohomish County Assessor my levy rate is 8.351400 per thousand. So, $1m home taxes should be $8351.40. Not sure where your numbers came from, but I use assess value, not market value.

  15. I tried to copy and paste the survey link so my husband could fill it out but it just threw me back to you have already completed survey? I tried. I don’t know what else to do. He doesn’t use xfinity or any social media? Oh well I did the survey. I tried. If ya know what I could do he would fill it out he said. He would vote against the purchase of Landmark.

  16. Deb,

    I think your husband has to click on the link posted by Theresa, above, himself. Unless you have the same email address, that should work since he hasn’t taken the survey yet, and you have.

    This confirms that no one can take the survey more than once. Important feature.

  17. When a property’s assessed valuation goes up let’s say 3% that is the same as the city raising taxes. In recent years our assessed valuations have risen quite quickly resulting in record revenue without raising taxes, but yet even all that revenue hasn’t been enough to quash the appetite of our city leaders they even spent our reserves. Now they have raised taxes to cover for their incompetence but that still isn’t enough to suffice. And the latest idea that isn’t bad about taking from professional services still doesn’t address the root cause of our cities bloated bureaucracy so you can guarantee they will be looking for ways to raise our taxes even further. Don’t these people work for us? Cause it sure seems they haven’t shown any restraint in growth of spending. 33 million in 2012 120 plus million today.. and the potholes still aren’t filled.

  18. Property taxes for the city as a whole are limited to 1%, regardless of how much total property values have changed. An individual’s taxes will go up if their assessment was more than the average increase for the city as a whole, and they will go down if their assessment was less than the average.

  19. I should add for clarification that my earlier comment applies only to non-voter approved city property taxes.

  20. Thanks Joan, I tried up there it just says NO haha that you have already completed the survey. No we don’t have the same Email Address and he does use this computer after I have logged into it to sometimes research something etc. He has a phone and a gmail account and I have Xfinity on this computer. I use a laptop. He uses a smart phone. We are a mess haha. I have looked thru every article back to Nov 11th to try to find another survey link that he could put his email into but I am wondering if this computer of mine just doesn’t like Dan ha. I am kidding of course It would be irrational to expect feelings from an inanimate object! I looked all the way back at articles here past November 11th and tried to find another survey link but nope. I don’t know my little fingers are tired so is my brain. But I am gonna try a little more before I give up on having Dans opinion noted. I did fill out the survey myself. Thank again. You are great.

    1. The survey software detects the ip address of your computer to determine if you have completed the survey before. Have him try using his phone. Should detect a different ip address

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