When you have an Edmonds kind of day, the city and its civic boosters would have you look to Puget Sound and envision mountains, saltwater and sailboats. That is now the direction in which residents and Edmonds Marsh visitors must look in order to avoid the appalling view of developer Triad of Seattle’s intentional clearcut of a more than 70-year-old forest of mixed deciduous trees and varied understory.
Triad, through its Pointe Edwards site manager, knew it was violating the terms of the construction permit. The now denuded slope was an area rich in bird, wildlife and native plant habitat. It was part of a wildlife corridor and a visual buffer for the Edmonds Marsh from the nearly 300 condominiums Triad is building.
The mayor has postponed the May 20 hearing before the hearing examiner until June 17 to give the city time to consider Triad’s proposed settlement. We urge everyone to read the settlement terms at the city’s Web site, www.ci.edmonds.wa.us, and comment at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, which starts at 7 p.m.
Triad’s proposal is inadequate. If it cannot be renegotiated to terms fair to citizens, downslope landowners, the traveling public and wildlife, then it must be rejected and the case should proceed to hearing. Triad’s proposal is deficient in many respects. Here are the major problems we see:
1. A three-year landscape maintenance bond. The forest cannot be replaced in three years, nor can the possibility of slope failure be contained to that time frame. We propose a 20-year, $10 million performance bond to be used to assure that the slope is restored to its pre-disturbed habitat value.
2. No obligation for future owners. A settlement needs to be a recorded obligation that runs with the property. By that we mean future owners must be responsible for carrying out Triad’s legal obligations and perpetual maintenance of the sensitive slope damaged by its disregard of its permit conditions. The risk to the city and its citizens will extend much longer. If the city releases the landowner, present or future, after three years, the city may very well be the party liable to any person injured or for any property damaged by slope failure.
3. No plan for wildlife. Triad has failed to include a plan to address the lost wildlife habitat and exactly what measures will be taken to restore it. Any settlement agreement must include a restoration plan prepared by a wildlife biologist that includes measurable goals.
4. Slope re-vegetation conforming to an arborist’s report and plan. We have examined the plans and they are vague drawings from which one can determine very little. We did not see measurable goals to determine when the restoration is complete. They also lack the legal stamp of a firm specializing in restoration of damaged sensitive slopes (landscape architect, geotechnical engineer and wildlife biologist). Plans must conform to generally accepted design and biological standards.
5. No noxious weed plan. Destruction of the woods has disturbed the soil and exposed it to light. The settlement does not address what the landowner will do to eliminate the inevitable foothold of noxious weeds, including Class A for which Washington requires eradication, as well as Class B, Class B Undesignated and Class C, for which Snohomish County requires control. It is also important that there is a plan to eliminate Himalayan Blackberry, Scotch Broom and other non-native plants that will spread rapidly into the disturbed slope. In order to protect native plants that have been replanted and the adjoining wetlands of Edmonds Marsh, herbicides are not an acceptable part of a noxious weed plan.
6. No plan for steep slope instability. Triad’s illegal clearing has destabilized the steep slope, endangering the future owners and the traveling public below. A fenced native growth protection area should be established at the top of the slope, using a 3-to-1 standard from the toe of the steep slope for slope stability. This may help prevent future sliding and expedite slope restoration.
7. Financial gift to city programs. The mayor solicited a financial gift of $100,000 to the city’s flower program. The enforcement process lacks integrity when there is the appearance of a buy-off. It looks as if Triad is buying a lenient, short-term settlement. This gift does not belong in a settlement and it has no place on the table until the enforcement process has concluded.
8. Interpretive signs. Triad should pay for interpretive signs at Edmonds Marsh and Marina Beach explaining that it damaged the sensitive slope, describing the corrective action undertaken, and where concerned citizens can learn more at a Web site maintained by the city.
It is now up to the City Council to put the brakes on this proposal and send the parties back to negotiate a responsible settlement. If Triad is unwilling to come up with a serious proposal that incorporates the essential items outlined above, then the case should proceed to enforcement.
Carol Riddell and Susie Schaefer both live in Edmonds and represent Pilchuck Audubon.