Lynnwood City Council discusses emergency medical facilities, undergrounding utilities

At its business meeting Oct. 23, the Lynnwood City Council discussed undergrounding utility lines in future projects and how it can manage a type of emergency medical facility that is not currently regulated in the city. 

Off-campus emergency departments are standalone treatment centers that Community Planning Manager Karl Almgren described as “a step up from urgent care,” While the businesses are not attached to a hospital or other medical facility, they are equipped to handle issues such as broken bones, head injuries, rashes and other serious matters. They do not have inpatient beds, so patients requiring inpatient care would be transferred to a place that offers those services. 

Currently, these facilities are not included in Lynnwood’s zoning laws and as such, are not permitted by default. Almgren suggested that council amend city code to address how they are regulated in Lynnwood and recommended zones/areas in the city where they could be placed. 

Benefits of permitting off-campus emergency departments include providing relief for currently overburdened hospital emergency rooms and closer access to emergency medical treatment for those not living near major hospitals.

Councilmember Jim Smith asked Almgren if the council would have control over prices in the facilities, and Almgren replied that it would not. Councilmember Patrick Decker asked what type of medical professionals would work there, to which Almgren answered that, like a traditional hospital, the facilities would employ both doctors and nurses. 

A public hearing and staff/planning commission recommendation for a zoning amendment to address the implementation of off-campus emergency departments is scheduled Nov. 13.

That public hearing will take place on the same day as a public hearing regarding the undergrounding of utilities in Lynnwood’s Regional Growth Center. 

Currently, the city’s community “character goals” dictate that city employees attempt to work with utility companies to underground lines during redevelopment, where feasible. The proposed code amendments would mandate this using the following terms:

  1. Upon development or redevelopment of real property, all overhead wires shall be relocated underground.
  2. In conjunction with a street-widening project that requires reinstallation of service wires, all existing overhead wires shall be relocated underground.
  3. Existing high-capacity transmission lines along I-5 and the Interurban Trail providing critical regional service are exempt from this.

The main purpose of undergrounding power lines would be to improve safety, as overhead wires carrying electrical energy — such as telephone, cable television and electrical service wires — are a source of possible danger. The secondary focus of the amendment would be related to aesthetics, as visible wiring can be considered unattractive.

Council President Shannon Sessions asked about the downside to undergrounding utilities. Almgren answered that it was more expensive, though developers consider other costs to be more significant unless major complications arise during construction. Further, the price can be reduced when combining this with work on other related services.

In other business, Sessions referenced a continuing conversation about the council’s high number of invoices from the city attorney. She asked councilmembers to use the free legal resources available to them when possible. Additionally, she repeated her request that councilmembers not submit duplicate requests for the same information. 

Sessions noted that another source of the increased city attorney billing stemmed from the legal challenges that Lynnwood has faced this year. City Attorney Lisa Marshall reminded councilmembers of her function: She is a representative of the city and departmental heads as city employees and doesn’t represent individuals or elected representatives. 

Maria Roth and Sgt. Lindsay Pool, one of the officers Roth thanked, embrace after her comment.

In other business, public commenter Maria Roth thanked Lynnwood police for their assistance with her child’s mental health struggles over the last several years. She said that in 30 encounters with the police, only two were negative and the officers associated with those incidents no longer worked for the department. Roth stressed that it was important to recognize good officers doing an exceptional job in a time where many high-profile cases of bad police behavior drew national attention. 

The council made proclamations acknowledging Veterans Day and First Responders Day. 

Lynn Sordel announced his plans to retire March 4.

Finally, Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Director Lynn Sordel announced his upcoming retirement on March 4, 2024. Councilmembers expressed their appreciation for Sordel and his work. He said he still intends to be an active contributor in the community after his retirement.

There will be no city council meeting this week as Oct. 30 is the fifth Monday of the month and councilmembers only meet during the first four weeks of any month.

— By Jasmine Contreras-Lewis

  1. 100% yes to putting service lines, especially electrical, underground. Every year we have at least one wind storm that knocks out power. The last time, it was snow.

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