EDMONDS — Restaurants, retail shops and office spaces line the Edmonds waterfront, but no hotels.
That could change.
The Edmonds City Council is considering amending the waterfront’s commercial zoning to allow temporary lodging. Members could vote on the revision at Tuesday’s meeting.
“We know that we don’t have anywhere near the available rooms as some of our neighbors, like Lynnwood,” said Patrick Doherty, the city’s economic development director. “We’d like to capture the greater economic impact that lodging provides in our town. The rest of downtown allows hotels. For some reason, the zoning excludes it from that portion.”
A 2016 citywide study said there’s market support for another hotel in the area, with most interest around the waterfront.
The preferred size would be about 75 rooms. A waterfront hotel would likely be smaller, Doherty said. Available buildings aren’t big enough to be retrofitted for that many rooms.
Demolishing the current structures would lead to less space because of updated building requirements. If a developer wanted to build a new hotel, they’d have to dedicate 30% of the site to a view corridor. Building height limits are lower, too.
“That’d be a pretty big loss of building area,” Doherty said. “It wouldn’t make any sense for someone to demolish what’s there.”
Currently, there’s one hotel in downtown Edmonds, a Best Western.
The hotel operates at about 80% capacity during summer months, owner Mike Raden said. Last summer, there were two or three days when rooms were fully booked, he said.
There has also been an increase in AirBnB and VRBO units, where people can rent out a spare room or floor, or an entire home or apartment.
Those rentals are having the biggest impact on the hotel industry, Raden said.
Proponents say the change in zoning would bring more business to downtown shops and restaurants, in addition to boosting lodging tax revenue.
Overnight guests in Snohomish County often spend twice as much as day trippers, a 2019 study found.
But some council members are concerned with the amendment’s origins.
The economic development commission started looking into the issue when a waterfront office building went up for sale a few years ago and a prospective buyer asked about transforming it into a hotel.
Recently, the commission went to the city’s planning board and asked members to recommend the amendment to the city council.
Council members Diane Buckshnis and Kristiana Johnson have both said the citizen commission overstepped by asking the planning board to recommend the zoning change, instead of going to the council.
“That’s just plain wrong,” Buckshnis said. “When the tree board went directly to the planning board, it was a disaster.”
Buckshnis is also concerned that the city is “piecemealing an already extremely outdated code,” she said.
“No one’s going to buy the building right now, so let’s take the time and do this pragmatically, go back to the drawing board and look at the entire area,” Buckshnis said. “If in fact there is a hotel group (anxious) to go down there, we’ll consider it then.”
According to the city code, the commission is encouraged to work with other boards and commissions on proposals or recommendations. However, Doherty said, it rarely occurs.