MUKILTEO, Wash., August 28, 2021 – The City of Mukilteo is again embroiled in another outdoor dining controversy, but this time it’s Mayor Jennifer Gregerson at the center of it.
With a ten-member Planning & Community Development department, the City is unable to approve the 4-page permit to allow outdoor dining at the parklet for Ivar’s Mukilteo Landing citing it does not have a permit examiner on hand to review and approve the permit.
Parklets are spaces for people to sit and rest while taking in the activities from the street, or in Ivar’s case, the sea.
Mayor Gregerson told the Lynnwood Times that the permit for the parklet on the opposite end of the restaurant adjacent to Silver Cloud was issued because the restaurant was allowed to operate at reduced capacity. But now, the restaurant is operating at 100% indoor capacity and would need new permits for a parklet by the old ferry terminal.
In a city-wide email, Mayor Gregerson elaborated further on the matter.
“I am hopeful that we can work together to make this concept happen for next year,” she wrote in her email. “Last year, with reduced indoor seating, we were able to process a temporary use through our shoreline, land use and floodplain permitting process. This year, the situation is different. With full capacity inside, adding tables outside triggers parking needs. There are some possible paths (leasing parking across the street, for instance), it was still complicated.”
The Lynnwood Times drove around Mukilteo to observe if other restaurants currently have outdoor dining. Red Cork Bistro, often frequented by Mayor Gregerson, was the only establishment within the city limits of Mukilteo with an area for outdoor dining.
Although Tapped Mukilteo has a Mukilteo address, it is not located within the city limits of Mukilteo; it is technically located in unincorporated Snohomish County. The Lynnwood Times is unable to find any outdoor dining permits on the County’s portal for Tapped Mukilteo but is attempting to confirm if a permit from the County is required for outdoor dining.
According to the City of Mukilteo’s online permit portal, Red Cork was issued a permit on December 22, 2020, only 13 days after it applied for an outdoor dining space in front of its restaurant. The permit expired on June 22, 2021, but as you see from the above picture that was taken Saturday, August 28, 2021, it is still in use.
Mukilteo Bureaucracy and Parklet Background
Ivar’s Mukilteo Landing, located on the shores of Possession Sound overlooking the beautiful Puget Sound has been providing dining services for many years. After the relocation of the Mukilteo/Clinton ferry in December of last year, Bob Donegan, president of the local seafood restaurant, began discussions with the City and Port of Everett at the beginning of this year to provide outdoor dining on the vacant parklet adjacent to the restaurant.
After months of discussions with both City and Port of Everett officials, and three design plans later, the Port of Everett, who owns the parklet, authorized Ivar’s to operate outdoor dining on its land. The design implemented was agreed upon by the city of Mukilteo. The City had intentions to acquire the property but that fell through.
After obtaining approval from the governor’s office, the Port of Everett decided to hold onto the parklet having Ivar’s cover the annual expense to maintain it.
On August 5, Ivar’s began its outdoor dining services in the parklet. The Mukilteo Fire Marshall who reports to Mayor Gregerson, on August 6 told Ivar’s in-person at the restaurant, that they will need flood, shoreline and land use permits, and added that the exit gate was two inches to short which Ivar’s management simply picked up and moved to comply with the requirement.
“We work with governments,” Donegan, Ivar’s President, told the Lynnwood Times. “We don’t do things outside the law or in violation of governments. We find if we go to people when we are planning stuff and get their advice before we do a design, then we are more likely to have a quicker turnaround and have more cooperation.”
Within hours the restaurant was able to obtain a lease agreement for the additional 13 parking spaces required by the city. Later it determined that the $3,000 costs of improvement to the parklet fell below the minimum $7,000 which exempted Ivar’s from the public hearing requirement the city was attempting to impose on the restaurant before it could use the space.
However, the Director of the city’s Planning & Community Development department, Dave Osaki, who also reports to Mayor Gregerson, told Donegan that the city is unable to process the 4-page permit because it does not have a permit examiner on hand.
According to the city’s website the department is made up of a Community Development Director, a Planning Manager, a Building Official, a Senior Planner, an Associate Planner, a GIS Coordinator, a GIS Technician, a Permit Service Coordinator and two Permit Assistants. There is a vacancy for an Assistant Planner.
Donegan informed the Lynnwood Times that as of yesterday, Mayor Gregerson has yet to return his call nor replied to his voicemail from Tuesday August 17.
“We have a good relationship,” Donegan told the Lynnwood Times. “I don’t know if she is on vacation. It is not like her to not respond to requests.”
Possible Solutions for Ivar’s
Lisa Lefeber, CEO for Port of Everett, would like the City of Mukilteo to allow the Port to give Ivar’s the authorization to operate in non-traditional areas due to the pandemic. Currently the Port of Everett has similar understandings with other restaurants in Everett such as Anthony’s, Blue Water Distilling, Lombardi’s, Jetty Bar & Grill to name a few.
“Ideally it would be nice if it [outdoor dining for Ivar’s] were allowed today, so the community could enjoy a little bit of waterfront dining before the weather turns,” Lefeber told the Lynnwood Times.
On Monday, Ivar’s withdrew its permit application and was told by the City that it will be refunded the permit fees of more than $1,000. Ivar’s is currently out the landscaping expenses it invested for the property.
Donegan hopes the city can issue an administrative exemption which is within the authority of Mayor Gregerson, issue a conditional temporary approval, or request assistance from a neighboring city for a permit examiner. He shared that this not only affects Ivar’s but everyone who visits the waterfront.
“We can’t legally occupy it and the public can’t legally be there; therefore, it will have to be fenced in,” said Donegan.
On October 28, 2003, a massive wave from a storm hit the waterfront causing damage to the Ivar’s Mukilteo Landing building. The storm also knocked out power throughout Mukilteo and ferry terminal operations were suspended for hours. Donegan told the Lynnwood Times that the city was “so good to work with” as he rebuilt the restaurant.
Because of that working relationship, Donegan describes as “so great,” he decided to build and open Ivar’s Chowder plant across from Mukilteo City Hall.
“Mukilteo was so easy to work with,” said Donegan. “Mukilteo is not easy to work with anymore and we don’t know what changed.”