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Contract Rezone is Not a Project Proposal

by on 09/01/2009

Fellow Edmonds Citizens, Faye May, George Murray, and I met last week with Kernen Lien of the planning department. We met to discuss the contract rezone application by the owners of the Antique Mall property, ESC associates. ESC associates is proposing that the City raise the height limits on their property to 60 feet on the southern end and 75 feet on the northern end—increases of two to two and a-half times the current height limit of 25 plus 5 feet.

I was surprised to learn that it is not a project proposal, but merely a request to raise the height limit on the property. In other words, all the fancy pictures submitted with the application are meaningless sketches that show only what a developer could do if the contract rezone is approved. It’s not a project proposal, it’s merely an advertisement, like a billboard aimed at the planning department.

ESC Associates is not presenting a proposal to develop their property. They are simply requesting heights that would allow development to include two stories of parking and up to six additional stories. ESC is asking the planning department to approve a raise in height-limits based on a billboard: “Tall condos coming to your Edmonds waterfront—someday.”

I would like the planning department to answer the following questions:

How is this not merely a request by the property owners to increase the height limit just to inflate the value of their property?

How is this proposal any different than their attempt to accomplish the same thing, previously, when LMN Architects and four other consultants were hired to work with the City, the Port, and another property owner, on proposals to develop buildings four to ten stories tall? By the way, all those designs were given a thumbs down by the citizens of Edmonds. (For those of you unfamiliar with the history, this is what happened two summers ago to the Waterfront Group of 33.)

Why would there be any serious consideration given by City staff to this request to increase height limits on the property when there are many excellent code-compliant proposals by Edmonds citizens that have yet to be given careful consideration?

How does this request not require a major change in the Edmonds Comprehensive Plan, which describes this key piece of property as located in the heart of the “Waterfront Activity Center”?

This is about a piece of property that could play a pivotal role in the future economic health of our city. The comment period on this contract rezone application began last Friday, August 28th. I encourage all citizens who have any interest in the future of Edmonds to become involved in this process now, by asking questions about and commenting on this contract rezone application.

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