Edmonds Council candidates air views on city issues – Part 3: Fraley-Monillas vs. Wambolt

Oct 17, 2013

For the final week, the Beacon is publishing City Council candidates’ responses to a series of questions on how they would work on some of the major issues facing the City of Edmonds.

Today, we’re running the responses from incumbent Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and challenger Ron Wambolt, who are running for Position #3.

Last week, we ran the responses from incumbent Kristiana Johnson and challenger Randy Hayden, who are running for Position #1.

The first week, we ran responses from the two candidates who are running for Position #2, incumbent Strom Peterson and challenger Alvin Rutledge.

All of the candidates’ responses may be read at edmondsbeacon.com.

Ballots were scheduled to be mailed today.

Our questions:

1) The issue of height limits, as one person put it, is "the third rail" in Edmonds politics. As we saw with the recent Harbor Square redevelopment discussions, it's a difficult issue. Please explain your position on building heights, and why.

2) As you know, the city finance director recently reported that revenues are up. At the same time, the city has made major cuts in expenditures. With the likelihood that the city will have an improved revenue stream in 2014, and whether or not you are already on the council, what would be your budget priorities for the coming year?

3) Since the nation's economic and political future could remain cloudy indefinitely, what is your long-term vision for helping move Edmonds forward boldly but safely?

Adrienne Fraley-Monillas

1) Edmonds residents have consistently reminded me that they have no interests in a "Kirkland style" development along the waterfront area, and I will consistently honor these wishes by voting against increased building heights.

When I was first elected to the council I promised to fight against increased building heights in the downtown, and I have kept that promise.  My position on this issue is clear.  The charm of downtown Edmonds is an attraction for our shops and restaurants, it is a destination for our tourism, it is part of the fabric of our community, and it should be protected.

High-rise condominiums may benefit a few special interests, but it is not in the interests of working families.  I am concerned that if we begin raising building heights in the Port, or Business District, it will be difficult to stop there.  The city could be tied up in expensive litigation if we want to prevent builders from moving further along the waterfront, onto 5th Ave, 9th Ave, Olympic Dr and so forth.

What we need is sensible development that takes all of Edmonds into account.  Neighborhoods such as Perrinville, Firdale, Ballinger, Five Corners, Westgate and Highway 99 are often overlooked.  We have a golden opportunity to redevelop a Highway-99 community primed for growth.  With the Medical district along highway 99 constantly expanding there is no reason for us to be fixated on altering our downtown waterfront.

2) The City needs to begin the Budgeting by Priorities process, as was promised in the prior proposed budget.  We have worked very hard on the council to stabilize costs these past 4 years.

Now we need to build a budgeting system that insures funding for vital services, and places additional funding in areas that have been prioritized by the citizens.  As the only sitting councilmember with firsthand experience in Budgeting by Priorities, I can play a critical role in transitioning to this new system.

Budgeting by Priorities will require the City to work differently from past budgeting practices.  In the past the City would begin with the previous year's budget, adjust for inflation, and then add in new initiatives.

Budgeting by Priorities is a bottom-up approach. Vital services, including police, fire, road maintenance, water, sewer, will be paid for first.  Additional revenue will be reconsidered through the prism of what services citizens value most.

Of course this new system will require continued citizen involvement.  We have spent the last two years conducting extensive citizen input, and last year we completed a Strategic Plan based on citizen priorities.  It's time to put this new budgeting system to work.

3) We must push forward with a common sense approach that creates a sensible development plan that considers the whole of Edmonds.  Communities in the outer areas of Edmonds are often overlooked because special interests favor high-rise waterfront area condominiums.

What we should do is move quickly to capture the proposed extension of light rail into Snohomish County, eventually linking neighborhoods in the outer areas to a sophisticated transit system.

Our section of Highway 99 is the perfect place to begin this transit oriented development.  The Medical District along Highway 99 has been steadily expanding, bringing in hundreds of good paying jobs.  Swedish Medical Center alone has proposed a $65 million emergency room, and critical care center.

Unfortunately, outdated zoning laws make it difficult to take full advantage of this economic growth.  I propose that we open this area up to a community style development, which would include mixed housing, shopping centers, and green space.

Accommodating these new employees with adequate housing will provide valuable revenue streams in the form of property and sales taxes.  It will allow our city to secure the secondary spending caused by this growth.

Highway 99 business currently brings in about five times the tax revenue as the rest of Edmonds’ businesses combined.  If we fail to create a community setting that accompanies growth in the Medical District, we will lose this opportunity to surrounding cities.  Cities that are already making investments along the highway.

Ron Wambolt

1) Building height is a downtown issue. In the area of Hwy 99 we already have zones that allow heights of 60 and 75 feet.

I support the 30-foot height limit for the BD1 zone; the zone that includes Main St. 3rd to 6th, and 5th Ave. from Bell to Maple. The zone is populated by one- and two-story buildings. An increase in height for the zone would allow a third story. I could not support that because it would change the character of our downtown.

I urge City Council to approve the Planning Board's proposal to allow Development Agreements for projects in the other four BD zones. Those agreements, with restrictions, would allow up to 5 feet of additional height, or 35 feet.

Because of the way heights are measured, averaging the four corners of the lot, many buildings on sloping lots are currently 35 feet or higher at the street front. I do not support allowing the additional 5 feet for buildings on sloping lots that are already able to achieve 35 feet or more.

Approval of an agreement hinges on meeting at least two of three criteria: (1) attaining at least a LEED Gold or equivalent level of green building certification; (2) the development incorporates one or more uses designed to further the city's economic development goals (such as a hotel, post office, farmers market, or space for artists; (3) the development includes enhanced public space and amenities. Approval of development agreements require public hearings at both the Planning Board and City Council, with final approval by the council.

Making the development agreement available could be the catalyst needed to spark some redevelopment in the BD zones, where there have been no projects, except for two banks, since 2005.

2) The financial outlook for the city indicates that the 2014 budget will be balanced; that's a result of budget cuts that were made in prior years, coupled with expecting revenues to continue being a little better than budgeted.

One of the small reasons why revenues are above projections is the new agreement to provide back-up police services to the Town of Woodway at a fee that's 400 percent of the old agreement. And this is entirely incremental revenue, because Chief Campaan has said his department's costs are no different with or without the agreement.

However, the overall situation is apparently not sufficiently rosy to allow for the restoration of items that have been cut. I would generally maintain the current level of departmental funding, with increases only for inflation.

If, after that, there should be any money left over in the General Fund, I would use it to restore police services because neighborhood crime is increasing. In 2013 three police officer positions were cut; that followed the earlier elimination of the school resource officer position and the DARE program.

I also feel that more funding must be found for street improvements. To help that situation I would support shifting more of the funds generated by the real estate excise tax from parks construction to streets.

3) Our city clearly needs more money to restore its infrastructure - Police services have been cut in each of the past several years, there has been no money available from the General Fund for street improvements for an even longer period of time, and there has been inadequate funding for parks maintenance.

Our property owners do not have the ability, or the desire, to pay higher property taxes to meet those needs; the tax base must be expanded. Our city needs more development that will generate sales tax during the construction phase, more property tax on an ongoing basis, as well as more real estate excise tax each time the property is resold.

I favor mixed use buildings having retail and residential. The residential will help provide customers for the retail, as well as contribute to meeting the Growth Management Act requirement that we grow our population another 5,000 by 2025 - not an easy task considering that our population has been slightly declining. Apartments should be a priority as there is considerable demonstrated demand for them.

Much work continues on plans for Westgate, Five Corners, and Perrinville. Those areas are obviously ripe for redevelopment, but because the properties in each of those areas have multiple owners, it seems like nothing is likely to get started in the near term.

Our city needs more revenue sooner rather than later. So where are the likely locations for those new buildings that could become reality relatively quickly? Here are just some candidates:

The current post office building will be demolished soon after a mixed-use building is completed on the site's parking lot; that building has had its first review by the ADB.

The site of the demolished post office will be ideal for a boutique hotel. The developer is keenly interested in that idea; the availability of a development agreement would go a long way toward making that happen.

The owner of Firdale Village would like to sell the property to a developer. In 2009 when I was a councilmember I worked with another councilmember to gain approval of new mixed use zoning for the property. Apparently those zoning conditions are too restrictive since nothing has happened there. I would work with the property owner and City Council to get this project moving.

The property immediately to the west of the Edmonds Safeway has been ready for mixed use development for several years. It seems like it has been under discussion the eight years that I have been a member of the Hwy 99 Task Force. It's time for us to get a proposal to City Council.

The site at the southeast corner of 220th and Hwy 99 was set to have a $160 million development when the economy crashed. In 2006, I voted for the CG and CG 2 height limits of 60 feet and 75 feet respectively that help make that project possible. The Hwy 99 Task Force is staying on top of this situation to get the project moving ASAP.


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