City Council approves development agreement amendments without affordable housing mandates

Lynnwood City Councilmembers listen as Councilmember George Hurst (second right) proposes an amendment to the proposed development agreement ordinance at the council’s Aug. 12 business meeting.

By a 6-1 margin, the Lynnwood City Council voted at its Aug. 12 business meeting to adopt an ordinance amending municipal codes regarding future development in the city’s regional growth center.

Under the ordinance, the measure will provide more flexibility for future development agreements in the City Center district — which covers 48th Avenue West to 33rd Avenue West and 194th Street Southwest to Interstate 5 — and the city’s regional growth center, which includes the Alderwood Mall area and portions of the City Center district.

Voting against the ordinance was Councilmember George Hurst, who previously proposed an amendment to the ordinance that would have required developers to include affordable housing units. The amendment resulted in a three-week voting delay while the council reviewed additional information from city staff on the impacts of Hurst’s proposal.

On July 29, the council received a report on housing and housing affordability from the Alliance for Housing Affordability and city staff. And on Aug. 5, staff advised against including mandates for affordable housing in the ordinance. Among the concerns, Lynnwood City Center Project Manager Karl Almgren said, was that such a mandate would dissuade developers from wanting to build in Lynnwood.

During the Aug. 12 meeting, Hurst restated his concern regarding the wording of the proposed code amendments that read developers “may” include affordable housing, if they choose.

“The city has had over 15 years of planning for the growth of City Center,” he said. “And after 15 years, all we have is there ‘may’ be affordable housing.”

However, Hurst’s proposal to mandate affordable housing in the city code was rejected in a 6-0 vote, with Hurst abstaining.

Following the decision, Hurst made an additional motion to include definitions for affordable, low-income and moderate-income housing in the city code by using the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) definitions for the terms. According to Hurst’s proposal, the city would also use the area median income (AMI) determined by the Housing Authority of Snohomish County (HASCO) to establish how the city defines affordable housing.

“These are familiar words because they’re right out of RCW,” he said. “The only thing that’s been added is it’s being determined by the Housing Authority of Snohomish County, because they’ll be determining the AMI in our area.”

The motion was met with objections from other councilmembers. Council President Ben Goodwin pointed out that adding definitions based on the RCW could have unintended consequences of their own. For instance, he said if the federal, state or county AMI changed, the city would be using an outdated AMI that is part of the city code.

“The way things are currently, we don’t know if that may change,” he said. 

Though he agreed that the city needed to establish definitions regarding affordable housing, Goodwin said the council should seek additional input from city staff and housing professionals and experts before such an amendment is proposed.

“I think having that information would better help an amendment like this,” he said.

Following a city staff recommendation, Hurst changed his amendment to read that the terms for affordable housing in development agreements would be determined on a case-by-case basis. That amendment was also rejected by a 4-3 vote, with Councilmembers Goodwin, Christine Frizzell, Shannon Sessions and Ruth Ross voting against.

That left the council to vote on Hurst’s original amendment to include the definitions from the RCW regarding affordable, low-income and moderate-income housing. That motion was defeated by a 5-2 margin, with Councilmembers Ross, Cotton, Sessions, Frizzell and Goodwin voting against.

“I think it’s sad that this council can’t even bring themselves to agree with (city) staff on a definition based on RCW for affordable housing,” Hurst said. “So, I cannot vote for an ordinance that does not define what affordable housing is.”

In other action, the council unanimously approved the adoption of an ordinance approving amendments to the city’s 2019-20 biennium budget. Councilmember Ian Cotton explained to those attending the meeting that when the city budget is prepared, city staff estimates the required cost of running the city and make amendments later.

“Some of it also includes changes to the actual work the city had to accomplish through that time frame,” he said. “These amendments capture that.”

The budget amendments also include the appointment of a public affairs and communications specialist for the Lynnwood Police Department. According to the ordinance, the position will serve as a media spokesperson for the police department and coordinate activities related to media and community communications.

In other business, the council voted to approve the appointment of Alderwood Mall’s Senior General Manager Jerry Irwin as the retail representative to the Tourism Advisory Committee. The council also confirmed the reappointment of Loren Simmonds to the Civil Services Commission.

–Story and photos by Cody Sexton

  1. follow the money. i would have voted differently in the primary if this voted had taken place before aug 6. shameful

  2. Thank you George for trying to get the 4 members of the do nothing Council to actually do something. The council has been aware of our housing crisis since last summer.

  3. Good on the council for using common sense. Requiring mandates on businesses such as this is a fools errand proposed out of ‘feel good’ politics that cause more harm than good. The same goes for rent controls and mandating minimum wage. Unless you’ve ever been in business, you’re likely to have no idea of the cause and effect government can have on a businesses survival.

    1. Henry Ford stated he would pay his employees better than other businessmen because he wanted them to be able to buy his vehicles. Smart man.
      My family members who own and have owned successfully businesses said that they believed in minimum wages because they would know what pathetic wages their competitors were paying; they always paid far more. They said they were successful because they treated their employees with respect and part of that was paying a decent, livable wage. Only fools who didn’t want to truly grow their business would pay slave wages. You would like to have businesses like that in Lynnwood. The type of business people you want to attract are not the kind I want in Lynnwood. You want the bottom feeders who are in the race to the bottom and destroying our country.
      Laws and mandates were put into effect to stop some of the worst atrocities perpetrated by the business people you so admire.

  4. Now is the time to put mandates on new housing Development in Lynnwood. Otherwise, developers will come in make their profit and leave the citizens of Lynnwood in a lurch. This is what happened in the Rainier Valley when the link went thru. Many locals were priced out of their homes taking the flavor of Rainier Valley with them. Developers can be instrumental in helping put some affordable housing in Lynnwood before it is to late. 20% affordable housing in development projects is reasonable. Rainier Valley showed us that the Developers were eager to build along the line. Housing prices already on their way up in anticipation of the link. The Council has had over a year to “study” this situation. The time to act is now.

    1. Incentives are one thing, mandates are another and no business owners in their right mind would extend themselves on such social engineering. We already have ridiculous mandates on housing projects where a ‘mini-park’ is required in the development rather than properly dividing up the remaining property equally between the home owners. In this situation, almost no one who lives in the community ends up using this ‘park’ because since the owner lives there, they don’t like the feeling they’re on display, thus losing their privacy. You’ll see the ‘park’ used but it’s usually by those passing by.

      Government should not be in the business of telling businesses how to run their business.

      Incentives? Yes. Mandates? NO!

  5. Why wouldn’t we want to do this? Developer Greed?
    Affordable Housing Property Tax Levy
    Counties and cities may impose additional regular property tax levies up to $0.50 per thousand dollars assessed valuation each year for up to ten years to finance affordable housing for very low-income households (defined as 50% or less of the county’s median income) when specifically authorized to do so by a majority of voters of the taxing district (RCW 84.52.105).
    If both the city and county impose a levy, the levy of the last jurisdiction to receive voter approval is reduced so that the combined rate does not exceed $0.50 per thousand dollars AV in any taxing district.
    This tax may not be imposed until the legislative authority declares the existence of an emergency with respect to the availability of housing that is affordable to very low-income households, and the legislative authority adopts an affordable housing finance plan in conformity with state and federal laws regarding affordable housing.
    MRSC-Affordable Housing.

  6. I guess we could just start putting low income families in cages then send them to ICE detention camps. What’s a little torture of children between patriotic Americans!!!!
    Think of all the profits the businesses that are running these concentration camps are making!
    Corporate profits are phenomenal and there are no mandates to not rape and kill children. In fact there are incentives to abuse; just what some business people want.
    Wish this wasn’t true but this is what Americans voted for.

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