Council preserves parcel of urban forest

By Laura Daniali | Mar 20, 2014

The Edmonds City Council will forgo the sale of a city parcel of land after an outpour of public opposition to the potential loss of the forested area.

The property, about two-thirds of an acre, is near the intersection of 184th Street S.W. and 80th Avenue W. in Edmonds’ Seaview neighborhood.

Three privately owned parcels of land, totaling 4.69 acres and bordering the city property, are for sale.

The owner of those parcels and other potential buyers have approached the city about selling the city-owned property, which has been associated for the past 17 years with a plat and Planned Residential Development (PRD) known as Angler’s Crossing.

The PRD associated with the plat expired in January 2012.  Without the PRD, the plat cannot move forward.

A standing-room-only crowd attended the public hearing Tuesday to continue discussion that began during a February council meeting.

Numerous residents from the Seaview neighborhood and other parts of Edmonds spoke against the potential sale.

For many, the natural wooded landscape was of sentimental value. They said it was the reason they chose to live in the area, noting the beauty the landscape provides.

Also addressed Tuesday were drainage issues and the effects of construction on the neighborhood’s infrastructure.

Although the city would benefit financially from the sale, the council was unanimous in its decision to keep the property. Councilmembers seemed to agree it has value beyond the potential monetary gain.

“This is an easy decision,” Councilmember Joan Bloom said. “It’s a decision about keeping property that could potentially have, or does have, other value to us.”

Some councilmembers received emails and other feedback from residents and members of Washington Conservation Voters, Sierra Club and Sno-King Watershed Council.

Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas was divided over the money the sale would bring to the city and the potential environmental impact of development.

She said she did not want to make a decision that would “wreck our environment for our future.”

Residents argued that the property provides a wildlife corridor and creates “canopy connectivity” between Seaview Park and Southwest County Park, which allows birds and wildlife to move between the parks.

Councilmember Kristiana Johnson said the city purchased the property in the 1960s for a sewer and stormwater drainage system.

“In my opinion, there really is very little difference in whether we sell it or we don’t sell it in terms of how it will be developed,” Johnson said.

“I don’t feel compelled to sell it at this time, and I will just say that it’s not in the public’s interest; however, you must be aware that we do not control all that land.”

Edmonds resident Dick Van Hollebeke said there was a widespread misconception about what would actually be sold and how it would be used.

At a previous council meeting, Van Hollebeke said residents cannot ignore the property owner’s right to develop his property, simply to retain the woods for their own benefit.

Retaining the city’s land would not prevent development of the other three parcels. If development proceeds without the city property, there is the potential for 25 homes to be built.

Addition of the city property would allow the building of two additional homes.

The property is a ravine with about a 75-foot drop and, in all likelihood, would not be developed. It would simply add to the square footage of the overall development, and serve as open space.

Councilmember Strom Peterson suggested several options for the city to retain some control over use of the land in the event of a sale.

Peterson would like the city to be an “integral part” of the development. He said if the city owned all the land, it would be an easy decision not to sell it; however, he said the property owner’s rights cannot be ignored.

“I am certainly concerned about the environmental issues with something like this, but we need to make sure that we can be in as much of the driver’s seat as possible,” he said.

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