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