Looking ahead | Mayor's Corner

By Dave Earling, mayor of Edmonds | Nov 19, 2015

No, I'm not referring to looking ahead to 2016 or even 2017, I mean looking ahead five, 10, 15 years or longer.

I know that opening sentence will make some of us very nervous. Be that as it may, we need to acknowledge that Puget Sound is one of the "hot spots" – well-educated, creative, technologically powerful and highly industrialized – of the United States.

All of these ingredients lead to growth. Our economy is returning to near 2008 recession levels. Our housing values are also near the highs of the same time period.

In our region we see the roads, highways and freeways are once again well over capacity. Our regional unemployment rate is at pre-recession levels, which means the job market has grown dramatically.

We "house" major corporations such as Microsoft, Boeing, Starbucks, Weyerhaeuser, Amazon, Nordstrom, PACAR, Costco, Expedia and the list goes on.

Major universities such as the University of Washington of Seattle, Bothell and Tacoma are here. And now, Washington State University in Everett joins the crowd. Seattle University, Seattle Pacific, Pacific Lutheran University and University of Puget Sound are thriving. Community colleges in the region are second to none and growing.

The region is also seen as having one of the most important technology corridors in the U.S. Small businesses are springing up in Pierce, King and Snohomish County. The dynamics are continuous.

We learn from the Puget Sound Regional Council that our region will continue to be a national "hot spot.”

Currently, Snohomish County is the fastest growing county in the state. Our current county population is about 760,000 and predicted to grow another 400,000 by 2035.

We also learn in another 30 years, our four County regions – Snohomish, King, Pierce and Kitsap – will add another 1.6 million people and add another 1.1 million jobs. Nervous yet?

So what does all of this mind-numbing information mean to Edmonds?

Well, if there is fairly good news, it is that by 2035 Edmonds is projected to add only about another 5,500 people of the 400,000 mentioned above; this to our current population of a little over 40,000.

To some that may seem like a large number, others not so much. Truth is, we do not have a great deal of vacant land so we may have to be somewhat creative to accommodate the increase.

Some of the zoning flexibility we have given to Westgate and Highway 99 may well encourage mixed-use (retail and housing) development that will absorb some of the projected increase.

We may find it useful to look at 5 Corners and other areas to make similar changes.

We will have to put a real focus on maintaining and improving our infrastructure. With the increase in congestion, the importance of growing our transit system, including completion of the light rail project to Everett, becomes paramount.

In addition, we need to improve our east-west corridors so people can move to and from station locations and better access the freeways.

We will not be able to withdraw from the region, tempting as it may seem to some. The good news is we have the opportunity to plan now.

We want to continue to have strong neighborhoods, maintain the integrity of downtown, promote careful mixed-use in the neighborhoods mentioned above, such as Westgate and Highway 99, and finally keep the quality of life in Edmonds we all know and cherish.

Challenging? Yes. Doable? Also, yes.



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