Commission Meeting Minutes 11-25-19

Commission Meeting Minutes 11-25-19


November 25, 2019

Steve Johnston, President (by phone)
Jim Orvis, Vice President
Angela Harris, Secretary
Bruce Faires
David Preston
Bob McChesney, Executive Director
Marla Kempf, Deputy Director
Tina Drennan, Finance Manager

Bradford Cattle, Port Attorney


Vice President Orvis called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.


All those in attendance participated in the Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag.






There were no public comments.


Commissioner Orvis reviewed the rules and procedures for the public hearing and invited Mr. McChesney to present the resolution.

Mr. McChesney advised that this is a public hearing on a proposed amendment to the Port’s Comprehensive Scheme of Harbor Improvements. The amendment has been available on the Port’s website since Monday, November 18th, and formal notification of the hearing has been made in the appropriate publications and locations. He explained that the public has an opportunity to make comments on any elements of the amendment, and public comments should be taken under consideration by the Commission before taking final action later in the meeting.

Mr. McChesney reviewed that, in June 2012, the Commission approved an amendment to the Port’s Comprehensive Scheme of Harbor Improvements that included redeveloping the Harbor Square Business Park. However, local conditions no longer favor the redevelopment, and the Commission has requested that the document be amended to formalize existing reality. He referred to Resolution No. 19-08, which withdraws the Harbor Square Redevelopment Plan from the Comprehensive Scheme of Harbor Improvements and replaces it with a plan to continue to own, operate, maintain and manage the Harbor Square Facilities in their current configuration. After the public hearing, staff will be recommending approval of the resolution. He read the resolution into the record as follows:

WHEREAS, the Port of Edmonds owns a development which is commonly known as Harbor Square Business Park; and

WHEREAS, on June 25, 2012, the Port Commission approved an amendment to the Port’s Comprehensive Scheme of Harbor Improvements that included redeveloping the Harbor Square Business Park; and

WHEREAS, local conditions no longer favor the redevelopment concept; and

WHEREAS, the Port Commission has requested that the Comprehensive Scheme of Harbor Improvements be amended to formalize existing reality; and

WHEREAS, on November 25, 2019, the Port Commission of the Port of Edmonds held a public hearing to receive public comment on the proposed amendment to the Comprehensive Scheme of Harbor Improvements;

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED by the Port Commission of the Port of Edmonds that the Port of Edmonds:

1. Withdraws its Harbor Square Redevelopment Plan from the Comprehensive Scheme of Harbor Improvements,
2. Replaces it with a Harbor Square Master Plan to continue to own, operate, maintain, and manage Harbor Square facilities in their current configuration as permitted by the Contract Rezone dated April 30, 1980 to the highest professional standards to achieve the highest financial return consistent with market conditions and responsible environmental stewardship.

Commissioner Faires observed that the phrase “responsible environmental stewardship” was added to the resolution after it was posted on the website.

Commissioner Orvis opened the public hearing.

Mike Shaw, Edmonds, congratulated the Port on Resolution No. 19-08. It is time for the Harbor Square Master Plan was amended. That being said, he felt that the last phrase “responsible environmental stewardship” should not have been added this late in the game. He observed that environmental responsibility is part of the Port’s Mission Statement. If it was truly part of the Commission’s belief, it would reflect in everything they write down and do. When he sees the words added late, it makes him think that references to environmental responsibility in the Mission Statement are just an act of “political correctness.” He said he expects better of the Commission. The Port can lead the way in what Edmonds chooses to be and where it is going. When it comes time to examine and rewrite documents in the future, he hopes that environmental responsibility is forefront in the Commission’s mind along with fiscal responsibility.

Joe Scordino, Edmonds, observed that the resolution would replace the old Harbor Square Business Park Plan with the Harbor Square Master Plan. He asked if the latter is a new document. Since the Harbor Square property includes the Edmonds Marsh and the Port owns part of the Edmonds Marsh, whatever is done with Harbor Square will have an impact on the marsh. As they look at changing the master plan, they ought to be including specific plans related to the marsh. There is currently an effort to restore the Edmonds Marsh, which will take considerable funding and effort by the community. It would be nice if the Port were an active player in that effort. It is a known fact that the reason the marsh drains through a pipe to Puget Sound is because of the marina and the marina belongs to the Port. The marsh was changed when the marina was constructed. The master plan should include a statement indicating what the Port plans to do to mitigate the problem it created. Although the problem was created in the 1960s, they should still be looking at how to make things better.

Mr. Scordino observed that the Port of Seattle has contributed $800,000 to a project to restore Miller Creek and create new salmon habitat. It is clear that the Port of Seattle is acknowledging an opportunity to help improve the environment, and it would be nice for the Port of Edmonds to take a similar approach, particularly on property it partially owns (the Edmonds Marsh). He suggested that the resolution should include some language that says something like, “conserve and restore the Edmonds Marsh and improve tourism.” Restoring the marsh would be a boost to wildlife, bringing in more birdwatchers and others. If the restoration is done right, it will include trails and other public amenities so people can enjoy another natural area.

Denise Miller, Edmonds, agreed with the environmental questions and recommendations raised by Mr. Scordino and Mr. Shaw. However, she has been attending Port meetings as a representative of a local environmental group, Edmonds Neighborhood Action Coalition, and has learned a lot. She commended the Port. The old Harbor Square Master Plan has been truly hated and feared and didn’t seem to make sense. She is glad it is being taken out of the Comprehensive Scheme of Harbor Improvements. She agreed with the comments related to marsh restoration, but she also knows where the Port is headed. Again, she has listened to Commission discussions over the past several years and knows that many of the Commissioners are very involved with projects related to the environment and the marsh. They have also been involved in discussions with the Interfaith Climate Committee regarding opportunities for solar power. She appreciates the Port’s plans to upgrade the promenade for the community’s benefit. She summarized that they are moving in the right direction. She is pleased with the changes the Port has made, and she has represented that to her constituency. The Port has been very receptive to many of the ideas brought forward. It is a relief to the community that the Port no longer plans to infringe further on the marsh.

Commissioner Orvis closed the public hearing.

Commissioner Faires said he understands and appreciates the public comments. The environment, in its entirety, is part of the Port’s Mission Statement and is important to the Port. Although the Commission may not have been as alert to environmental issues as it could have been in years past, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been important. Over the past few years, the Port has enacted an environmental policy and accomplished other goals relative to the environment. To contradict Mr. Scordino, he pointed out that, except for about 10 feet on the north end, the Port does not own the marsh. It must be emphasized that the majority of the marsh is owned by the City of Edmonds, and the City must take the lead on marsh restoration. The Port has done what it can relative to mitigating environmental concerns.

Commissioner Faires explained that the Port’s primary objective is the economic well-being of the Edmonds community, but that doesn’t mean that other things aren’t important. Environmental concerns are important, but the Port’s primary focus is on economic development activities. He expressed his belief that redevelopment of Harbor Square was in the best economic interest of the residents of Edmonds. However, the Port doesn’t have land-use authority over Harbor Square, the City does. The City decided to deny the Harbor Square Business Park Master Plan in 2012, and there is no reason to think that the community would accept it now. The change is being made to obviate the plan for redevelopment of Harbor Square. As stated in the resolution, Harbor Square would be maintained and operated in its current configuration. This is consistent with the direction the Port received from the City.

Commissioner Harris said she appreciates hearing from the public about the environmental statement. It should have been included in the initial draft of the resolution. However, opportunities for conserving and restoring the marsh will require a separate discussion in the future, and she is not sure what decisions the Commission would be able to make at this time. While she supports including a statement about environmental stewardship in the resolution, more work is needed before the Commission can make a statement specific to the marsh.

Mr. McChesney explained that the purpose of the resolution is to clean up the community’s interest and expectation about Harbor Square and express the Port’s policy intent to manage it in the best way it can, financially and environmentally. The resolution is not intended to be a To-Do List, which will require a higher level of discussion and analysis.

Commissioner Johnston agreed with Mr. McChesney’s observation and said he supports the proposed change to the Port’s Comprehensive Scheme of Harbor Improvements contained in the resolution. He recalled that when he was appointed to the Commission several years ago, he was eager to serve because, as a long-time environmental professional, he recognized the Port as a leading supporter of environmental issues, policies and practices. The Port has a very solid reputation, and has for years, in environmental practice. It is a major part of the Port’s mission, and it is reflected in many, if not all, of the Commission’s decisions. He observed that Harbor Square is a phenomenal public asset, spinning off revenues and net income that allows the Port to put money back into a number of improvements to the square, itself, as well as other parts of the Port. The resolution solidifies the future of Harbor Square.

Commissioner Orvis said he fully supports the resolution, as well. He said he regrets that the words “responsible environmental stewardship” were not included in the original resolution. On the other hand, actions speak louder than words. Since he has been on the Commission, a lot of money, time and energy has been put towards improving the environment of the Port’s facilities and of the community.

Commissioner Preston said he also supports the resolution. However, going forward, he invited the public to continue to provide their input. He asked that they be okay with being a little frustrated that stuff doesn’t happen as fast as they desire or that the language the Commission uses isn’t the same language they would use. He shared that he has been frustrated with the process at times, too.




Mr. McChesney reviewed that, at the end of each year, the Commission elects its officers for the upcoming year. The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) requires that they elect a President and a Secretary to serve as officers for the upcoming year. The Port of Edmonds also elects a Vice President, who acts as President in the absence of the elected President. He advised that the Election of Officers for 2020 will take placed at the December 9th meeting.


Mr. McChesney reported on his attendance at the Sound Transit Interagency Group meetings, where issues such as parking and access improvements in Edmonds and Mukilteo have been discussed. It appears that the list of improvements that will eventually be formalized doesn’t include any meaningful parking enhancements in Edmonds. While there will be some remote parking opportunities, the improvements primarily include synchronizing transit with the train schedule, bicycle routes, and shelters at the station. Sound Transit’s objective is to increase ridership, and that doesn’t necessarily mean more cars. From the Port’s point of view, parking is becoming more of a problem every year, and they were hoping there would be some investment on the part of Sound Transit to help to resolve the parking problems. He noted that the Sound Transit parking lot is already full by the time the 7:45 a.m. train arrives, and people trying to catch the last train have nowhere to park. They end up parking on Port property, creating a management challenge for staff.

Mr. McChesney advised that Sound Transit has $40 million to spend shared between Mukilteo and Edmonds, but they haven’t yet figured out what the actual allocation will be. They did a reasonably good job with community outreach, but he is discouraged that there wasn’t more direct investment in the parking issue. They looked at the Port’s gravel lot and property at Harbor Square, but neither were for sale. They also considered getting more parking at Salish Crossing or in the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) lot, but these solutions are unlikely, as well. There are some opportunities for remote lots and shuttles, but it remains to be seen how practical this option will be. A key component will be working with Community Transit to make sure the busses are synchronized with the train schedule.


Commissioner Faires reported that he attended the Edmonds Economic Development Commission (EDC) meeting on November 20th where he was able to advise them that the Port is in the very preliminary planning stages of enhancing and improving the public amenities along the promenade. He announced that the consultant had presented a report to the Commission, and the next step is for the Commission to prioritize the projects for implementation. He pointed out that, as of 2020, the Port will have paid off the mortgage on the buildings at Harbor Square, and some of the tax revenue would be available for public amenities. He said it is important for the community to understand that the Port Commission will be soliciting public input as it makes decisions for implementation. The idea is to make the waterfront a more welcoming place for the community to enjoy.

Commissioner Faires said that a report was made at the EDC meeting regarding the City’s Strategic Action Plan. He specifically referred to Action Item 1.B.3, which calls for the review and approval of a long-term master plan and agreement for the Port of Edmonds Harbor Square Property that enhances the waterfront environment and public access and promotes mixed-use development. This action item is now listed as moot, consistent with the action taken earlier in the meeting relative to improvements at Harbor Square. He also referred to Action Item 1.A.10, which calls for amending the mixed-use development standards to allow higher mixed-use density in the downtown waterfront area. As he noted earlier, the Commission doesn’t have land-use authority, but the EDC is looking at the downtown and waterfront (including the Port) as an economic engine. They are talking about what can be changed or improved to better balance the future for the entire community. He summarized that the EDC and Edmonds City Council are reviewing the Strategic Action Plan, specifically those items.

Commissioner Preston reviewed that on October 29, 2018, Jack Bevin was present to talk about the idea of hanging baskets at the Port. Dean Nichols was also present at that meeting suggesting that the promenade could be made to look better.

Commissioner Preston commented that the parking problem in downtown Edmonds is an opinion. Based on a recent study, one-third of the respondents said there was no problem, one-third said there was a problem, and another one-third were neutral. He said he foresees that more people will find other ways to access downtown, such as Uber. The City of Edmonds will be implementing a computerized meter system in the downtown next year, which will double its enforcement capacity and timeliness. Commissioner Faires commented that most people are becoming comfortable with the longitudinal stripes that delineate the parking spaces, and there has been some improvement.

Commissioner Harris reported that she met with both Ms. Williams and Commissioner Johnston to talk about the Public Access Plan and prepare a proposal for implementation. She plans to present the proposal at the next Commission meeting, starting with a proposal for Phase 1 implementation. The idea is that the Commission would have a more in-depth conversation about the plan’s implementation at their retreat in early 2020.

Commissioner Harris said she is hoping to meet with the Environmental Representative from the Washington Public Port Association (WPPA) next week.

Commissioner Johnston reported that on November 20th he participated as a judge for the Engineering Excellence Awards that are sponsored by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Washington. There were a number of environmental-oriented projects, and they are seeing a clear trend away from remediation and/or cleanup of industrial properties. A number of environmental projects were related to salmon recovery, such as innovative culvert designs, stream and riparian habitat enhancements, stream sediment removal, etc. The results will be announced at the Engineering Excellence Awards Banquet in January, which he plans to attend.

Commissioner Johnston reported that he attended the WPPA Annual Meeting on November 21st and 22nd, which was very robust. The following issues were discussed:

• There is still no resolution of how to factor in greenhouse gas issues in Washington State, which leaves the door open for a perpetual study that is becoming more and more of a problem. Hopefully, with the WPPA’s help, the legislature can get closer to setting up some real rational approaches to gauging the impacts of greenhouse gases as they impact state projects.
• There is concern that recommendations from the recent Ruckelshaus Center Study may lead to a proposal that local and regional governments review and approve port capital facilities and economic development plans and policies. It was discussed that cities have enough problems assessing their own plans and policies, and assessing port plans and policies, which are decidedly different, could create issues. Pressure is also being placed on industrial lands and uses related to urban infill housing according to the Ruckelshaus Center Study.
• Model Toxic Control Act (MTCA) funding, which is allocated for the cleanup of former industrial and commercial properties, has been protected for the near term. It is anticipated there will be more MTCA funding down the road, which is good news.
• Ports are now authorized to use more contracting mechanisms, including design/build job order contracting.
• At least one legislator will recommend bundling all local elections into the even years. There was concern that this would place too many items on the ballot and voters would lose interest.

Commissioner Johnston reported that he met with Commissioner Harris on November 22nd to talk about the next steps for implementing the Public Access Plan. She had a lot of great ideas to present at the committee meeting and to the Commission as a whole.

Commissioner Orvis reported that he attended the WPPA Legislative Committee Meeting where they put together the legislative package for the general meeting. Some takeaways included:

• There is low expectation for the legislature’s short session.
• The economy has been generally good, but the future is uncertain.
• The McCleary Act sucked funding and energy dry. The legislature has no enthusiasm for much of anything after the last session.
• Initiative 976 has gotten a lot of publicity and will take some work to implement.
• Transportation funding is a high priority, especially with passage of Initiative 976.
• Currently, the Department of Ecology (DOE) makes up the rules related to greenhouse gas emission requirement as they go along. The proposed methanol plant at Kalama just received notice that, after answering all of the questions on the last application, there is now a new set of open-ended questions. Some people are celebrating that the plant is not being constructed, but they needed to understand that the situation is an act of lawlessness. The DOE has no rules; all they have to do is wear people down. While the environmental community is benefiting now, the situation could just as easily be turned around with a State Bureau making up rules for something the environmental community doesn’t like and letting it draw out year after year until they give up. Regardless of which side you are on, everyone should be a little concerned about this situation.
• The prevailing wage disaster is still going on, and is just starting to reach Central Washington. School districts and cities are just now finding out that their projects are extraordinarily more costly than they were originally projected to be.

Commissioner Orvis reported that he participated on the New Commissioners’ Panel at the WPPA Annual Meeting, with Commissioners from the Ports of Shelton and Benton. There were 22 new Commissioners in attendance out of 28 who were elected in the last election. He also attended the Marina Committee Meeting, where Paul Sorenson predicted significant growth in the number of vessels sold in the 24 to 37-foot categories. Large boats are not selling as well, and small boat sales will stay about the same. Boat sales in California are down 37%, in general. Most Washington marinas are 30 to 50 years old, costs are rising, they didn’t charge enough for slips, they didn’t raise their rates because of push back, and they didn’t maintain their marinas. These marinas are now falling apart and failing, but that is not the case at the Port of Edmonds.

Commissioner Orvis said he also attended the Environmental Committee meeting where there was an excellent briefing on spill response. He was surprised on how effective the State’s spill response organization has become and how quick it can respond. It is doing a very good job. He said it used to be that MTCA taxes were paid on hazardous materials based on the value of the shipment, but it is now based on bulk regardless of the value of the cargo. “Social good” is now included as one of the qualifiers for MTCA funding. The $800 million that the Port of Seattle will spend is for mitigation on the cruise terminal and others. Some of the other money being spent further south is mitigation for the airport. The Port of Everett will pay substantial mitigation for work on their commercial terminal, which is visible from Interstate 5.

Commissioner Orvis said he attended the Airport Roundtable, too. The legislature has given the Airport Committee until January 2021 to identify six potential locations for a new airport. By September 2021, the Airport Committee must identify a site to have another airport the size of SeaTac built by 2040. The odds right now are that the airport will be south of Tacoma, but no one knows for sure.

Commissioner Orvis advised that the legislature is looking for a replacement for the gas tax, and it most likely will be a mileage tax. Lastly, he recalled ports were initiated in order to preserve the public’s access to the water, meaning the public’s access to the water for economic development, freight and trade. He summarized that the WPPA Annual Meeting was robust and well-planned with excellent presenters.


The Commission meeting was adjourned at 7:48 p.m.

Respecfully Submitted by Jim Orvis,  for Angela Harris Port Commission Secretary