Discussion hints at Harbor Square future

It is more conceptual than the Port Plan and doesn’t “lock in a single development scheme
By Pat Ratliff | Mar 21, 2013

If discussions Tuesday night are any indication of what might happen in Harbor Square’s future, then look for a plan with affordable housing and helping clean up the Edmonds Marsh, as well as taking care of the persistent flooding problems in that area of town.

Those ideas and more were addressed as councilmembers began discussing their own “Harbor Square Master Plan - City Council Discussion Draft.”

The council is using its own plan rather than making changes to the Port of Edmonds' Harbor Square Master Plan.

According to the document, the new plan is a sub-area plan amending the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

It is more conceptual than the Port Plan and doesn’t “lock in a single development scheme.” It tries to reflect as many comments as possible.

It also leaves room for further revisions.

The discussion took off with one of the “hot button” issues of the plan – housing.

“How could we have affordable housing in a plan like this?” Council President Lora Petso asked.

Councilmember Strom Peterson felt there were two ways to ensure that affordable housing was included.

“We can limit the size of the housing units, or we can specify x-percent of the units have to be sold for undermarket housing,” he said. “We in the council DO have the ability to provide affordable housing.”

Other housing topics included more hotels in the area, live/work spaces and whether there should be any housing at all in the plan.

Height/size limits were also on the table.

Councilmember Petso felt that the bulk of buildings needed to be limited and saw no instance of that in the plan.

Councilmember Diane Buckshnis, who is in favor of Incentive Zoning (giving something up to gain something), disagreed.

“I don’t think we should just shut the door and say, ‘This is it,’” she said.

Buckshnis said she’d be making changes for a marsh buffering zone to bring the plan to industry standards.

Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas said she’d be willing to look at Incentive Zoning when discussing bulk.

And Councilmember Petso felt the council needed to make sure flooding issues in the area are addressed.

“We need to make sure flooding issues are taken care of before we allow anything there, especially residential,” she said.

The discussion almost fell through from the beginning, possibly emphasizing the variety of views on the council.

Buckshnis started the discussion with a motion to work with the new sub-area plan, which city staff had prepared, using citizen and council comments as a basis.

Petso said she would not vote for that motion, and wanted discussion before making motions.

Councilmember Frank Yamamoto wanted to pass the motion to begin discussions.

“There’s nothing earth shattering in here,” he said. “Everything in the new plan is ‘per’ council comments and ‘per’ citizen comments.”

But Fraley-Monillas disagreed.

“Some of these ideas ARE new,” she said. “We first saw them only two days ago.

“I’m not comfortable proceeding like these comments have all been said before.”

Peterson noted the motion wasn’t to pass a new plan.

“The motion is just to use the new city document as a starting point.”

Buckshnis agreed.

“I just wanted to send a clear message to the citizens that we are no longer using the Port plan,” she said.

Council voted and approved the motion to use the new plan by a 4-3 margin, with councilmembers Petso, Bloom and Fraley-Monillas voting against the measure.

Councilmember Kristiana Johnson then moved to hold discussions while “postponing motions until all discussion is finished.” She felt that method would allow the discussions to move forward without continually stopping for motions.

“I’m encouraging a more topic-based discussion,” she said.

That motion passed 7-0.

Much more discussion will take place before any decisions are made.

The wide spectrum of citizen opinions on the matter highlights the need for the public to join in the discussion and let your city officials know how you feel.

To see the documents on the city plan, go to http://agenda.ci.edmonds.wa.us/docs/2013/CCOUNCIL/20130319_789/5603_Harbor%20Sq%20Master%20Plan_Councildraft1.pdf.

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