Lynnwood City Council meets new city attorney, discusses updated City Center plan

The city council talks with new attorney Lisa Marshall, bottom right.

The Lynnwood City Council at its Tuesday night meeting was introduced to the proposed new city attorney, Kenyon Disend.

Lynnwood’s current attorney services contract with Inslee Best will expire at the end of March, and the firm recently informed city officials they were not interested in continuing the contract.

Clerk Karen Fitzthum said the city interviewed two firms and Kenyon Disend was unanimously selected. 

“We set out a [specific] group of criteria,” Fitzthum said. “It wasn’t just a low bid, as the old joke goes about government contracting.”

Attorney Lisa Marshall introduced the firm to the council and explained how it would assist and protect Lynnwood. 

Councilmember Shannon Sessions asked Marshall how much the firm was going to be willing to fight for the city. Sessions said she knew there is potential for risk-filled cases to occur at any point.

“I am not at all uncomfortable with some risk,” Marshall said. “If I know what the likely consequences are of any particular course of action, I will make sure you are aware of them. Then whatever you decide, I am there with you.”

Marshall said it was her goal to keep everyone on the same page as far as risks and outcomes went. The firm’s mission is to have the city’s back, but also make city officials aware of all possible consequences so that Lynnwood’s leaders can make informed decisions.

Each councilmember who spoke seemed pleased with Marshall and the new firm in general.

“It’s so wonderful to meet other women who are very strong and who are very dedicated, not only to their communities and families, but to their purpose, and I sense that with you,” Councilmember Shirley Sutton said.

In other business, the council also received an environmental update on the Lynnwood City Center project.

The project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was adopted in 2004. According to city staff, it does not reflect changes in development regulations and market conditions, and limits future development capacity, which is inconsistent with the city’s Community Vision.

“[The EIS] was written in a time that was before the light rail,” City Center Program Manager Karl Almgren said. “As we’ve changed in time, some of the conditions around us have changed. But the most important aspect is it’s not really allowing us to achieve our vision.”

Updates to the EIS have been happening roughly every 10 years, and Development & Business Services Director David Kleitsch said the city desperately needs to approve the latest update before it outgrows its limitations.

“Not much has been built in the City Center [since the last update] and we’re already out of allowable space under the Planned Action ordinance,” Kleitsch said.

Under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), a Planned Action ordinance allows for an environmental review of a specific geographic location before any permits have been filed. Planned Action projects are also allowed to use a streamlined permit process.

The most important aspect of the update will be changing the EIS from Alternative B to Alternative C. This will revise the development scenario of City Center to increase overall 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.

The EIS update will move City Center plans from Alt. B to Alt. C – Amended

The update will also include items such as road improvements to mitigate increased City Center traffic, building aesthetic standards, prohibited building uses and Sound Transit route improvements.

Councilmembers had conflicting opinions about the update. Councilmember Jim Smith said that doubling the residential area in City Center will not be advantageous to current Lynnwood residents.

“Most people I talk to think we have too many apartments as is,” Smith said. “It increases our traffic; it increases crime. We don’t have any [plan] that’s addressing the additional traffic. We don’t have any [plan] that’s addressing the additional crime. I don’t see it as helping the people of Lynnwood. I see it as helping Seattle. Seattle has messed things up so much that now people are coming out here. We’re building all of these residential units for the people of Seattle. I don’t think the current residents of Lynnwood deserve to have that.” 

Councilmember Josh Binda said he only sees the update as a positive for Lynnwood, but he did not elaborate why.

Councilmember Patrick Decker said he wasn’t sure whether he completely agreed with the amount of expansion the update called for.

“Even though I’m not sure we need this much capacity, I think it’s wise to have plans in place in case we don’t have any choice on the matter,” he said.

Councilmember Sessions voiced her concern with the visual renderings that were offered.

“Where’s the green space? Where’s the fun stuff?” she asked. “How are we to trust … that this project is actually going to be vibrant and [is going to have] those things that we’ve wanted for 25 years now?”

Almgren responded that the visual rendering of the future City Center did not show the green areas that were planned because it would deter contractors from wanting to develop the land.

“[The green spaces are] absolutely still a part of [the plan],” he said. “The reason why it wasn’t depicted is just because it can be a very negative to show green space on somebody’s property when they anticipate on developing it. We wanted to focus on a development, building aspect, recognizing that this doesn’t develop all of City Center. It just develops what we see in the next planning horizon.”

The Alternative C Amendment of the EIS is still being developed and will be introduced to the city council once it is completed.

Lynnwood Planning Commission candidate Naz Lashgari introduces herself to the council.

The city council also met with Lynnwood Planning Commission candidate Naz Lashgari. Lashgari recently served as the chair of Lynnwood’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission, where she played an active role in the City of Lynnwood’s “All Are Welcome” campaign. In November, she ran for Lynnwood City Council, losing to appointed incumbent Patrick Decker.

“I hope that I can be helpful and serve my community by bringing the lens of equity to the conversation and to the planning commission and be of any assistance that I could be,” Lashgari said. 

Lashgari said she hopes to use her commitment and interest in equity to become the voice of not only current Lynnwood residents, but builders, contractors and anyone else involved within the city limits.

The council is set to approve Lashgari’s position at next week’s meeting.

— by Lauren Reichenbach

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