The Lynnwood City Council at its Monday, May 9, business meeting debated the amount of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money it would allot to the city’s Recreation Benefit Fund.
The fund assists children under 18 and adults over 62 with 75% of the costs for swimming lessons, summer camps and recreational sports or activities.
This item has been tabled for the last few meetings, and Councilmember Josh Binda proposed an amendment to his previous motion regarding the funds. While the original motion would allocate $25,000 to the city’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department to go toward scholarships, Binda proposed an amendment that would give $50,000 instead.
While the original amount would cover roughly 150 scholarships, Binda was hoping to double that to help more Lynnwood residents
Many councilmembers voiced their concerns about allocating twice what the department was asking for. Councilmember Jim Smith said if the council gave more than what was requested to one department, nothing would stop other departments from doubling their requests as well.
The vote on the amendment was split 3-3, with Councilmembers Smith, Patrick Decker and Altamirano-Crosby voting no and Councilmember Shirley Sutton absent. Because of this, Mayor Christine Frizzell decided to nullify the amendment and keep the original $25,000 motion on the table.
Councilmembers still voiced concerns with the original motion. Many said they would want to see how much each individual class costs before deciding how much the council should allocate to the fund.
Council President Hurst said that looking at each class is going overboard for the goal the council is trying to achieve.
“You’re asking a lot when all we want to do is help the residents of Lynnwood,” Hurst said. “I trust the rec center, who has had a scholarship fund for a long time, [to do right with the funds].”
Councilmember Decker said that once the money is designated for the Recreation Benefit Fund, it will go directly into the city’s general fund, which is not what ARPA money is supposed to be used for.
“I think the rec center and staff want to spend all this money correctly,” Decker said. “But I think there are ways that we can get more for our dollars while ensuring that ARPA funds don’t go to our city general fund.”
Binda said he didn’t understand why councilmembers couldn’t agree on the matter without asking so many clarifying questions for a program that has already been developed.
“Please let’s focus on the residents of Lynnwood and how this is going to be beneficial towards them,” Binda said. “This program that has already been in existence, who has funding already – why are all these questions and concerns coming up at this point?”
The motion tied 3-3, with members Smith, Decker, and Julietta Altamirano-Crosby voting no. Due to the split vote, Mayor Frizzell was able to weigh in, tipping the vote to 4-3.
During the council meeting’s public comments section, two Lynnwood residents shared their opposing views regarding the proposed Lynnwood City Center expansion project.
The project is set to increase overall City Center capacity from 9.1 million square feet to 12.3 million square feet. Office square footage will increase from 4 million to 4.25 million, and residential square footage will increase from 3,000 to 6,000. Retail square footage is set to remain the same.
One female speaker asked why the city would be using so many resources to build housing units for residents who probably don’t care about the future of the City of Lynnwood.
“The residents at City Center are not necessarily going to be long-term residents invested in Lynnwood’s future,” she said. “My understanding is these units are catering to city commuters, who are most likely going to live there for a few years before they meet their significant other, get a dog, realize the place is too small and then move.”
The speaker asked the council to focus on making Lynnwood more than just excess apartments and roadways for commuters. Adding more green space and focusing on hosting more community events were what she felt should be a top priority for the city.
On the opposing side, another commenter said 6,000 new housing units is nothing but beneficial for the city. She said that these changes will be made over the next 20 years, not instantly.
“This is not for us,” she said. “This is not for me. I’m not moving into these units. This is for the next generation.”
The speaker also noted that many city planners and contractors were promoting the expansion of Lynnwood’s City Center.
“What do we pay our experts for if we’re not going to listen to the data and listen to their analyses?”
While neither councilmembers nor the mayor gave direct responses to either public commenter, Councilmember Sessions thanked both speakers and added that the city “has to find a happy medium” regarding expansion projects like these.
In other business, a public hearing was held regarding miscellaneous development code amendments. Nearly every year, the Community Planning Division staff proposes a list of suggested clarifications for the city’s development code. This year, staff suggested updates to Title 1, 19 and 21 of the Lynnwood Municipal Code (LMC).
Before the public hearing began, Councilmember Smith made a motion to postpone the public hearing due to the possibility the meeting would run past 9 p.m.
Hurst said councilmembers need to stop watching the clock and focus on getting things done for the city instead.
“I’m actually tired of this 9 o’clock nonsense,” he said. “We are public servants. If we can’t go beyond 9 o’clock in a meeting, then shame on us. Let’s do it tonight and just get stuff done.”
The motion failed with Smith being the only member to vote yes to the postponement.
During the public hearing, no public speakers came forward and councilmembers did not ask any further questions regarding the code amendments.
In addition, the council learned that Senior Planning Manager Ashley Winchell is leaving the city to take another job with the City of Bothell. Councilmembers thanked Winchell for her work and wished her well, saying that the next person in her position will have very big shoes to fill.
The council meeting ended with an executive session that was closed to the public.
–By Lauren Reichenbach
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