They weren’t happy about it but Edmonds City Council members unanimously rezoned the property of thousands of homeowners in action Tuesday, April 19.
In two separate but related moves, the council established two new zoning designations, RS-10 and RS-MP, and then applied the zones to broad areas of the city. City officials said they had little choice in adopting the zones and despite their sweeping nature, said they expect few actual changes to occur.
“Is the why of this the (state Growth Management Act)?” Council member Michael Plunkett asked during deliberations.
“Yes,” replied the city’s development director, Duane Bowman.
The Growth Management Act (GMA), adopted by the Legislature in 1991, is an attempt to slow suburban and rural sprawl, directing that additional population growth should go to cities. Cities are then directed to accommodate that growth by allowing higher densities, but can choose where that growth will occur.
In Edmonds, senior planner Steve Bullock told the council, the city has large areas of RS-12 zoning, which allows for a minimum lot size of 12,000 square feet.
“Under the GMA, you can’t have zoning that doesn’t support the density requirements,” Bullock said. He added that under the current interpretation of the GMA, 12,000 square foot lots are only allowed in areas with special environmental features, such as steep slopes. The new RS-10 zone allows a maximum lot size of 10,000 square feet, which is allowed under the GMA, he said.
“As we looked closer at the neighborhood we call Seaview, we find a large area of RS-12 with no environmental features,” Bullock said. “The Growth Management Hearings Board would tell us we need to look at those.”
The edges of the neighborhood, mostly to the north and west, begin to slope toward Puget Sound and do qualify to remain RS-12, Bullock said.
The other area that will be rezoned is an area south of Pine Street, between Eighth Avenue S. and 98th Avenue W. to 220th Street SW.
Bowman later clarified that the change would have no effect on existing homes on lots of more than 10,000 square feet. He said the neighborhoods affected are generally already developed and any changes would be difficult.
The new RS-MP zone, MP for master plan, will be applied along a stretch of Edmonds Way, northwest of Sherwood Elementary School. In that area, now zoned RS-12, officials pointed out the lots are long and skinny with frontage on Edmonds Way. The MP designation will allow for redevelopment with lots down to 8,000 square feet but any proposal would have to plan for safe access to Edmonds Way.
Council members made it clear they weren’t pleased in being forced to make the changes and looked for ways to get out the move.
“The Growth Management Hearings Board has said there could be reasons other than environmental (for keeping existing zoning),” Council member Deanna Dawson asked city attorney Scott Snyder.
Snyder said the hearings board in other rulings has alluded to other reasons but said it was “The ‘I’m thinking of a reason but you haven’t guessed it yet’” approach. Snyder also said officials in Woodinville, Bellevue and Issaquah are have appealed rulings in those cities in court. Snyder said the council could change the zoning back at some time in the future if the current court cases change the law.