Council discusses commission appointment guidelines, OKs Harris Ford expansion project

Josh Binda discusses approval of Arra Rael for the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission.

The Lynnwood City Council at its Monday business meeting held a lengthy discussion about board and commission position guidelines.

After confirming Planning Commission candidate Matt Cail and Board of Ethics applicant Rick Michels, the council launched into a discussion about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion candidate Arra Rael.

While the councilmembers said they had no problems confirming Rael as a person, they were uncertain if they were able to since she lives outside the Lynnwood city limits. The board guidelines say that one member is allowed to be chosen from unincorporated Lynnwood. However, there is already one such a member on the board.

Councilmembers disagreed about whether this should deter them from confirming Rael for the position.

“This is not what [this council needs] to be doing,” Councilmember Shirley Sutton said. “You have people coming forward [who live outside the limits]; we need to honor that. If they care to be part of our system, then that is fine.”

Councilmember Jim Smith said candidates should only be chosen from within city limits, because decisions should be made strictly by official Lynnwood residents. He also voiced his frustration with other guidelines, stating that multiple other council-recommended candidates were not considered based on trivial details.

“What I remember is this council being told, ‘We need all of you out there getting more people to apply for these commissions,’” Smith said. “But then we do it, and we get slapped in the face.”

As the former chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission, Councilmember Josh Binda, said that the commission has never before had a problem with two or fewer citizens from outside city limits being accepted to the board.

“If that’s [Smith’s] issue, that has to be ruled off the table because clearly, in this situation, that’s not a problem,” Binda said. “For this commission, that’s allowed. So if [Smith] has other issues, that can easily be stated, but other than that, [Rael] is qualified.”

Councilmember Patrick Decker moved to postpone Rael’s confirmation until the council’s May 23 business meeting. The motion passed 5-2, with Councilmembers Binda and George Hurst voting no.

The Planned Action Ordinance update will move City Center plans from Alt. B to Alt. C – Amended.

In other business, the council held a public hearing regarding the City Center Planned Action Ordinance update. 

Lynnwood’s Planned Action Ordinance Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) updates happen roughly every 10 years, but the current one hasn’t been updated since 2004. Development & Business Services Director David Kleitsch said the city needs to approve the latest update before it further outgrows its limitations.

During the public hearing, councilmembers were allowed to ask clarifying questions and community members were permitted to comment on the updates.

Community member Ted Hikel voiced his anger at the new city center planning updates.

“If you just pass this [Planned Action Ordinance], everything will be great,” he said sarcastically. “There will be no problems in the city. We won’t need any more policemen. We can still operate on the 2008 level of our police department, which is when we lost all those guys in the downturn of the economy. If you believe that, you don’t belong in those seats. What happens when 6,000 apartment units in the city center isn’t enough?”

Hikel went on to say there are a number of things the city should be focusing on fixing or upgrading before it turns its attention toward growing Lynnwood’s population even more.

“‘Although police staffing can be evaluated on the city’s residential population…’ But that’s not the case here,” he continued. “We’ll just wait until we have a problem with the police department and then we’ll think about hiring those guys who we have to send down to training for nine months and then they’ll get back. You’ve got to be forward thinking. How many units in the City of Lynnwood do we need before somebody says ‘Stop?’”

Councilmember Shannon Sessions agreed that Lynnwood doesn’t currently have the resources to invite another 6,000 housing units to the city. 

“Hikel is right,” she said. “You’re going to be asking us for this again in another four or five years.”

Councilmember Smith agreed, saying the City of Lynnwood is not looking toward the future if the council approves this update.

Another public hearing was held regarding Lynnwood’s Harris Ford Dealership expansion project. Due to improper public hearing announcements for the last hearing, a second hearing was held Monday night on the matter.

For the Harris Ford project to occur, the company will need to purchase a small portion of 64th Avenue West from the city. If the city agrees, Harris Ford is planning to use some of its existing property to add a dedicated right-turn lane on 200th Street Southwest to mitigate traffic issues.

Hikel again registered to speak on the matter, stating he did not think the council should be selling the street for half of its appraised value.

“The idea about half price is: when you cut the street down the middle, the property owner on this side [of the street] gets half, and the property owner on that side gets half of the bill,” Hikel said. “But this is a case where both sides [of the street] are owned by the same people. Put them together, and there really shouldn’t be a discount for that.”

Councilmember Decker said that even though the city is selling the road for half its appraised value, Lynnwood is most likely getting a great deal from it.

“Could more money be negotiated here?” Decker asked. “Potentially. But I think that, based on what we were told, the city obtained this property by laying a street grid. We probably paid far less for it, if we paid anything for it, than we are seeing its value at this point.” 

Councilmember Sessions made a motion to approve the Harris Ford expansion project. The motion passed unanimously.

A public hearing will be held at the May 23 business meeting regarding the street vacation of 64th Avenue West for the expansion project to take place.

In addition, the council unanimously voted to allocate $2.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to Lynnwood’s Public Works Department for road repairs and upgrades.

Councilmember Sessions also moved to allocate $10,000 in ARPA money to the Heroes Café in Lynnwood. While the organization had originally only asked for $5,000, most councilmembers agreed they wanted to allocate more to show council support.

However, Councilmember Smith proposed an amendment changing the allocation to the original $5,000. Smith said he was concerned that if the council gives the café twice the amount of money they asked for, other departments and organizations would quickly ask for the same.

Smith’s amendment passed 4-3, with Hurst, Binda and Sessions voting no. The original motion passed unanimously.

The council also unanimously voted to approve a proclamation for Cinco de Mayo as well as to hold a virtual joint board and commission meeting on April 27.

–By Lauren Reichenbach

  1. When I read between the lines of the article about the 4/23/22 council meeting as well as watched the video from that meeting, I was in disbelief that the council chose not to vote on the appointment of Arra Rael to the Diversity, EquityB, and Inclusion (DEI) commission. Why on earth would they miss out on having an actual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion professional as a volunteer on the DEI Commission. Some councilmembers (particularly Smith and Sessions) seemed to go out of their way to disqualify her. The shallow point that Councilmembers latched onto was that Arra resides in unincorporated Lynnwood and not within the city limits. However, Councilmember Josh Binda, pointed out that the commission has never before had a problem with two or fewer citizens from outside city limits being accepted to the commission. Why now? Was it because she identifies as Asian, or because she identifies as lesbian, or because she speaks the truth about DEI? I want to believe that the council was acting unintentionally, that their personal prejudice and stereotypes overshadowed their reasoning – which is a text book exampl of implicit bias.
    As Executive Director of a non-profit human services organization that has embedded mental health therapists in every Lynnwood school as well as has an office in Lynnwood (over 25 staff), I am ashamed to be affiliated with a city that so blatantly discounts and oppresses people. It is time for the council to obtain some guidance on how to lead and build up a diverse community.
    Thank you

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