Love EdmondsVague fears of development have prevented real economic growth for too long and led to our current crisis
A few people who write to the Beacon say they love Edmonds. They love its small town charm, gorgeous views, beaches, parks, ferries, and flowers. And that, so they say, is why we need to oppose development, whether that's a mixed use building on the location of the post office or the Harbor Square Master Plan.
Otherwise, they say, we'll be like (gasp) Ballard... or worse.
I also love Edmonds. I was raised here. But Edmonds is facing a crisis.
A few of us want Edmonds to stay exactly the same way it is, but that approach will eventually ruin Edmonds.
The things we love about Edmonds (beaches, parks, ferries, flowers) cost money, and we're not making enough money to fund it.
We can only cut budgets so much without sacrificing the things we really care about, and we can't raise taxes in a bad economy. Staying on our current course will eventually bankrupt the city or sacrifice too much.
We can't afford Edmonds staying exactly the way it is.
That's why I think most of us in Edmonds welcome changes that will preserve what we love about our city. The only way to save the Edmonds we love is to embrace changes that increase tax revenues without raising taxes. We need to encourage local developers who pay for our flowers and ferries and the rest by generating new jobs, housing, and tax revenue.
We need to attract more development, more businesses, more jobs, and more tax-paying citizens, which means more money for our city and local businesses.
We need more development because we need more money to afford the Edmonds we love.
Of course we cannot give development a blank check. We need to think about long-term impacts on our environment and views.
Yet unreasonable suspicion towards development hurts rather than helps the Edmonds we love.
Our city needs a long-term strategy of reasonable economic development (within limits) that puts our people, not our fears, first.
Sometimes members of our city council have used the boogeyman of height limits to frighten Edmonds residents and council members into opposing development, even when that development is within the height limits!
I recall with a heavy heart the story of a person who wanted to invest $500,000 of his own money into the downtown last year but was denied by the city council. He hoped to build a mixed use building (affordable housing and business) on the location of the Edmonds Post Office.
The problem? It was 30 feet high. Although 30 feet was within the height limit for that location and the proposed building would not have killed anyone's view, that didn't please a certain member of the city council.
When the city council considered allowing construction, this council member gave a powerpoint presentation that claimed - without addressing the details of the construction plan - that the building would uglify the city and turn us into Ballard.
The council, cowed by this presentation, rejected half a million dollars of private investment into downtown Edmonds that would have resulted in more downtown residents, more space for local business, and likely more tax revenues.
In that case, the fear of development in the name of "height limits" rejected the reasonable kind of development our city needs to sustain city budgets.
Some members of the council now oppose the Harbor Square Master Plan for the same reason: it's too high, they say.
Of course nobody wants a skyscraper killing the view, but the Master Plan is no skyscraper.
Before we oppose development, we need to ask a few questions. Does the plan ruin anyone's view? Whose view, exactly? How, exactly, will the proposed plan hurt or help local businesses? Above all, will this new development provide money to sustain the Edmonds we love?
Vague fears of development have prevented real economic growth for too long and led to our current crisis. It is time that we stop letting the fear of change prevent us from making the changes we need to preserve the Edmonds we love.
The biggest threat to Edmonds is not economic development. The biggest threat to Edmonds is resistance to reasonable development.
Let's not forget that small town charm sometimes comes from big changes. Instead of looking anxiously at Ballard, let's look hopefully at Leavenworth. Leavenworth was on the verge of bankruptcy in the 1960s, but the town came together to embrace its Bavarian look, and the town in now a great success story.
Are we too timid, too fearful to embrace changes that will make our town both charming and economically successful? No!
I believe most of the people of Edmonds are not afraid of change that is better for all of us.
A few want Edmonds to stay exactly the same, and fewer still have exploited the fear of change to reject reasonable development.
But I believe most of us who love Edmonds realize that we need to embrace some changes to afford the city we love.