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Mukilteo looks to community engagement for waterfront vision

MUKILTEO, Wash., May 20, 2022The Port of Everett has turned to a series of community engagement strategies asking Mukilteo residents for their vision for the waterfront redevelopment project. One of these outreaches is a community survey available until May 26, asking Mukilteo residents what they want, and do not want, to see from the project over the next ten years or so.

Postcards were sent to thousands of Mukilteo residents with a QR code allowing easy access to the survey, which can also be accessed online. As of May 18 the Port has received 509 responses.

mukilteo waterfront
Photo credit: Kienan Briscoe | Lynnwood Times.

“My vision is to implement the community’s vision,” Lisa Lefeber, CEO for the Port of Everett told the Lynnwood Times, “I want to see the waterfront be accessible and enjoyable, how that looks, that’s what this process will determine.”

Most recently the Port, architecture firm NBBJ, and the City of Mukilteo hosted an open house event on May 5, at Rosehill Community Center, to provide opportunity for feedback and discussion with a larger community. Residents were invited to engage in the decision-making process and post their ideas or concerns, via sticky notes, on bulletin boards.

“Overall, we are very happy to see this level of engagement and public input so far,” Catherine said Soper, Communications & Marketing Director wrote in a statement to the Lynnwood Times. “We had about 250 at the open house and the surveys keep rolling in each day. The vast majority of interactions at the Open House were positive. Attendees were very appreciative of the outreach on this, and overall, just excited to see forward progress for the waterfront.”

Mukilteo City Councilman Jason Moon shared his admiration of the waterfront with The Times.  

“My sons and I love going out to the waterfront and getting ice cream so I’d like to amplify that,” Councilman Jason Moon told the Lynnwood Times. “Amplifying a place where families come to enjoy a natural environment as well as conveniences like food and coffee. The main thing is offering a place that people can enjoy that isn’t overbuilt.”

About the Waterfront redevelopment

The Mukilteo Waterfront is unique in that it has 11 property owners, over 26 acres, 70% of which is still undeveloped. Besides private owners, the major stakeholders include the Port of Everett, the City of Mukilteo, and the State of Washington.

mukilteo waterfront
Photo credit: Mario Lotmore| Lynnwood Times.

A complicated history with governmental use and ownership transfers have delayed development for nearly two decades until 2013 when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) cancelled their plans to build a new $40 million facility on the waterfront, leaving ownership to the Port of Everett.

On January 4, 2016, the City Council adopted the Downtown Waterfront Master Plan. The plan describes a revitalized downtown waterfront which includes local businesses, a looped pedestrian promenade, bike lanes and playful waterfront uses. The goal is for residents and visitors to experience a natural shoreline while celebrating the past, present and future of the Mukilteo waterfront. It incorporates the changes regarding the location of the ferry and ferry loading areas, while also enhancing pedestrian mobility.

mukilteo waterfront
Photo credit: Mario Lotmore| Lynnwood Times.

The Port of Everett hired NBBJ, a Seattle architecture, planning and design firm, to help with this process and visioning planning through 2022, and formed a stakeholder workgroup that represents the varied interests and attractions at the waterfront; this group was intentionally a small group representing the broad interests of the waterfront.

This stakeholders group has already had three workgroup sessions to discuss current waterfront opportunities and constraints, vision for its future, and important principles for which future planning and discussions should be centered and interviewed Mukilteo City Council members to gather feedback, developing a draft vision statement and draft set of guiding principles.

mukilteo waterfront
Photo credit: Kienan Briscoe | Lynnwood Times.

“When you get 21,000 residents trying to craft a vision and guiding principles in one room you don’t get anywhere,” Lisa Lefeber, CEO for the Port of Everett, said. “What we’ve learned is if you gather a group of various stakeholders who essentially are the ones who are responsible for taking in all that feedback and making sure what comes out the other end matches and reflects the comments we receive, it’s more efficient and everyone has an opportunity to have input.”

The Waterfront’s draft vision statement states: The Mukilteo Waterfront is filled with adventure, culture and economic opportunities for the community and region. It is an equitable, and convenient gathering place, which offers a sustainable mix of uses for year-round enjoyment and promotes access to the beach and wonders of the Salish Sea.

Through these conversations it was determined the waterfront needs to be “authentically Mukilteo”, have “thoughtful parking”, pedestrian friendly, environmentally responsible and sustainably minded, celebrate culture, education focused, a transportation hub, have boating and shoreline access, and be a year-round destination.

The next steps are to present vision statement and guiding principles to Mukilteo City Council and the Port Commission this June, once the results of the survey are returned, and begin a planning schedule this upcoming Fall.

Mukilteo Waterfront: Parking controversies

The parking lot at the Mukilteo waterfront remains a fenced off vacant plot of land after the city rejected plans of using it as outdoor dining and parking last year.

mukilteo waterfront
Photo credit: Mario Lotmore| Lynnwood Times.

For the months, the parking lot was used as retail and waterfront parking at almost full capacity but after the owners were informed by David Osaki, Community Development Director, that a city ordinance prohibits parking at this site they fenced it off on September 2, 2021, with a sign that reads “NO PARKING. City of Mukilteo Code Does Not Allow Commercial Parking. Call City of Mukilteo or City Council Members for Details.”

Co-owners of Mukilteo Landing LLC, Bill Tacket and Patrick McCord, who own a portion of the parking lot, were approached by the city of Mukilteo just over ten years ago and asked if they would be willing to sell their property so the City could expand the ferry holding lanes. They entered into an agreement to tear down the Buzz Inn steakhouse in order to expand the lanes, and were told the city would trade the property back after construction of the new ferry terminal. The owners did not know if or when they would receive the property back until a year ago.

“It’s a shame when there is such a need for shoppers, and people who want to enjoy the waterfront, and the parking at Lighthouse Park and Diamond Knot brewery is always full. It’s a shame that the city does not look at a piece of property from the standpoint of what it can be used for even if it’s on an interim basis. Logic and common sense should prevail,” McCord told the Lynnwood Times.

Following the relocation of the Mukilteo/Clinton ferry terminal of December 2020, the Washington State Ferries lease expired on August 31, 2021. Tacket and McCord, anticipating receiving the property back, approached the city to ask about using it for additional waterfront parking. Originally the City informed them of a current city ordinance that prevents the use of commercial parking, expiring in December 2023, and if they wanted to use the space as interim parking while waiting for the ordinance to expire, they could.

mukilteo waterfront
Photo credit: Mario Lotmore| Lynnwood Times.

The zoning code defines commercial parking as “Commercial parking lots means a lot designed for the parking of more than two vehicles, which is within or adjacent to a commercial or industrial district and for which there is an hourly, daily, weekly or monthly charge for the parking of a private vehicle.”

The owners opened the space up for parking but were later notified by the City that because there was no connected commercial business, it could not be permitted for interim commercial parking under current zoning.

“The issue is that the former ferry terminal holding lanes do not meet these requirement to allow it to be converted to an interim commercial parking lot use. Among other items, the primary use (the ferry terminal) was not on the same “parcel” as the ferry terminal holding lanes,” Osaki told the Lynnwood Times.

After feeling discouraged by the city shutting down every idea they had for their property, McCord and Tacket do not have any idea what their next steps are.

“We are basically at a loss. I don’t see the harm in letting the public utilizing this. Obviously parking is going to be hard to come by in years to come down there,” Tacket told the Lynnwood Times.

On August 5, 2021, Ivar’s began its outdoor dining services in the parklet. The Mukilteo Fire Marshall, on August 6, 2021, 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 too short which Ivar’s management simply picked up and moved to comply with the requirement.

When Tacket and McCord of Mukilteo Landing LLC heard of Ivar’s attempt to open outdoor seating they offered their portion of the property to the restaurant 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.

The Port has been closely working with the City and Ivar’s on redeveloping the parklet, revitalizing the former ferry to provide visitors an outdoor dining area and enhance public access to the waterfront. Lisa Lefeber informed the Lynnwood Times it should be open by Memorial Day weekend.

As part of the transfer back to the port, NOAA will be demolishing all of the structures which should provide an opportunity for interim access to the waterfront. The demolition is slated for this Spring.

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