April 20, 2024 1:35 pm

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Mukilteo to hold Sign Code Public Hearing and revisits Hawthorne Hall

MUKILTEO—The City of Mukilteo, at its 6 p.m., Business Meeting on Tuesday, January 16, will hold two public hearings, one on the City’s controversial sign code changes and the other to amend the zoning code to allow Food trucks in business and residential areas. The council will also discuss/vote on the reconsideration of the previously passed motion that authorized the sale of Hawthorne Hall and adopt a resolution to dissolve the Rosehill Community Board.

This meeting will be held both in-person and can watch the live streaming of Council Meetings at www.mukilteowa.govFacebook Live or Zoom.

Below are the key council agenda items. To view the full agenda, click here.

Mukilteo Sign Code Ordinance Amendment Public Hearing

The Mukilteo City Council will hold a Public Hearing on a proposed Sign Code Ordinance Number 1488 and may vote adopt said ordinance after the hearing. The original hearing was to take place on December 11, 2023, but not enough councilmembers showed up to the meeting for it to take place.

According to supporting documents in the agenda, City staff worked with the City Attorney to refine temporary sign regulations to be consistent with both state court ruling in Collier v. City of Tacoma in 1993 and Supreme Court ruling in Reed v. Town of Gilbert in 2015. The proposed changes and draft regulations were discussed at the September 11, 2023, City Council Work Session and at the September 21, 2023, and October 19, 2023, Planning Commission meetings.

According to the City the proposed Sign Code Ordinance intends to:

  • Remove content-based regulations
  • Eliminate the Master Signage Plan process
  • Introduce a way to track and manage temporary signs
  • Consolidate sign regulations from other sections of Title 17 into Chapter 17.80
  • Simplify language and structure to make regulations easier to read and administer

Supporting documents: AB 2023-152AB 2023-152 Exhibit 1, and AB 2023-152 Exhibit 2.

The Lynnwood Times dug deeper into the proposed ordinance and case law to really understand what the City’s Planning Commission is proposing as the City apparently has been in noncompliance with the Reed decision for over eight years. 

The ordinance removes all definitions of sign content types (e.g. content-based signs such as political, real estate, event, noncommercial, construction, etc.) to be replaced by physical sign characteristics then imposing uniform content-neutral regulations of time, placement, and size against so called “Temporary Signs.”

The ordinance does NOT expressly state if it applies only to public property as does the current ordinance and requires all temporary signage to be registered with the City and any violation is subject to a $25 per sign impound fee. Although the proposed ordinance requires temporary signs to be registered with the City of Mukilteo, it fails to mention if a fee will or will not be imposed, and if the registration is valid for a single or multiple signs. Yet, Section 17.80.060 of the proposed ordinance states, “Applicants have six months to pay fees once they have been notified the permit is ready to issue.”

In reviewing signage laws for various cities throughout Washington State including Seattle, Bellevue, and Everett, registering temporary signs are not required that we can find.

Below are additional proposed changes to the current Mukilteo Municipal Code regarding Temporary Signs:

  • Limited all temporary signs to 3-square-feet (small) from 8-square-feet (medium size). Other cities had four-, six- and eight-square-feet requirements.
  • Prohibits Wooden-stake lawn signs in favor of Wire-stake lawn signs
  • Imposes a 30-day and 60-day limitation on temporary signage that can be renewed. The option to renew makes this portion of the ordinance compliant with the 1993 Collier v. City of Tacoma decision. However, again, the ordinance fails to state if a fee is associated with the renewal of temporary sign permit.
  • Allows banners up to 45-square-feet (9-ftx5-ft) and does not appear to allow feather signs (wind-resistant flag signs)

Members of the business community have shared with the Lynnwood Times that none were included in discussions for feedback on how the proposed changes will impact BIPOC and small businesses, especially new businesses. Members in both the Republican and Democratic parties were neither consulted nor invited to participate in discussions by the Planning Commission of how this may impact political signage, campaigns, and ballot initiatives.

The Supreme Court ruled that content-based law or regulation discriminates against speech based on the substance of what it communicates. However, the Supreme Court allows exceptions. Content-based signage has speech with a targeted message such as “Vote for ABC candidate” or “Support/Reject Initiate XYZ” or “Public invited to Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival on…” or “Need help moving, call….” or “Garage Sale at ….” or “Church Service at …”

On the other hand, content-neutral regulations (e.g. removing content-based regulations as it is stated in the agenda for the Public Hearing) targets the time, place, and manner the speech occurs—e.g. size limits, duration of sign period, animated, etc.— and not its content. A content-neutral law applies to expression without regard to its substance. 

The Supreme Court reiterated the long-standing principle that a content-based regulation is valid only if it serves a compelling state interest and is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest – political signage. Also, Content-based laws face “strict scrutiny” under the law while content-neutral laws are subject to “intermediate scrutiny.”

Courts apply “intermediate scrutiny” to content-neutral regulations and “strict scrutiny” to content-based regulations. The differences between these levels of judicial review are critical, since sign regulations subject to intermediate scrutiny often survive the judicial review process when challenged, but sign regulations subject to strict scrutiny are only rarely upheld.

The United States Supreme Court has held that even in a public forum, the government may impose reasonable restrictions on the time, place, and manner of protected speech, provided the restrictions are content neutral, are narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest, and leave open ample alternative channels of communication.

In Reed v. Town of Gilbert, the 2015 Supreme Court case the Planning Commission is using to justify the change, the Court listed several content-neutral options for regulating signage, including: “size, building materials, lighting, moving parts, and portability. “The Court also recognized that local governments may forbid signs altogether on public property if it is done in “an evenhanded, content-neutral manner.”

Variances are allowed through a process similar to that of zoning variances in the zoning code which, according to 17.13, is an administrative process (no hearing required), determined by the Director of Planning, and has up to 90-days to determine notice of final decision. According to 17.64, the variance is limited to predetermined conditions, and is determined by the permit authority—the City of Mukilteo according to the MMC—and must be accompanied by an application with a fee. The Lynnwood Times is looking into whether the 17.13 administrative process appeal does require a fee as well.

According to the MRSC, appellate courts have upheld that Reed does not extend to the regulation of commercial signs.

Mukilteo Food Truck Ordinance Amendment Public Hearing

Food Truck Fridays. Lynnwood Times | Bo John Brusco.

The Mukilteo City Council will hold a Public Hearing on a proposed Food Truck Code Amendment and may vote adopt said ordinance after the hearing.

Currently, food trucks are not allowed within the city limits of except for special events such as the Lighthouse Festival. Draft Food Truck Ordinance No. 1476 would change the zoning code to:

  • Allow food trucks in the Business Park (BP), Downtown business district (DB), Community business district (CB), Waterfront mixed-use district (WMU), industrial districts (PI, IP, LI, and IH) and public zones (PSP and OS).
  • Allow food trucks in residential zones with a special event permit.
  • Establish rules and regulations for food trucks

Supporting documentation for hearing:

Hawthorne Hall Reconsideration

Staff requests that the City Council discuss and vote on reconsideration of the previously passed motion which authorized the sale of Hawthorne Hall. The following motion is before the Council to reconsider:

“To direct staff to sell Hawthorne Hall with the proceeds received to go into a restricted fund to be used for recreational purposes.”

The Council can choose to vote on this motion, OR;

The original Councilmember who made the motion (Councilmember Moon), as well as the one who seconded the motion (Councilmember Jordal), can move to withdraw the motion.

Hawthorne Hall. SOURCE: City of Mukilteo

If the motion is withdrawn it would create a clean slate for an alternative motion. If the Council chooses to sell the building, staff asks that they pass the resolution (Exhibit 4), which would surplus the property and allow staff to begin the process of selling the property.

If the Council chooses to keep the building, staff asks for direction on how they should plan to move forward with repairs, maintenance, and management of the building as well as what building uses, they should research or prepare to implement.

Supporting documentation for the business item:

Dissolution of Rosehill Community Board

The Council will vote to adopt Resolution No. 2024 -01, to dissolve of the Rosehill Community Board.

The Rosehill Community Board was created by Resolution No. 2015-06 (Exhibit 2) to provide input to the City Council, Mayor, and staff regarding policies and operations at the Rosehill Community Center.

A review of the records finds that the Rosehill Community Board held approximately three meetings within each calendar year in 2015-2018, with each meeting lasting approximately 30- 45 minutes. The last scheduled meeting of the Rosehill Community Board was in February, 2022.

Existing members of the Rosehill Community Board were contacted in 2023 to gauge its viability. Following those conversations and after careful consideration, staff have concluded that the Rosehill Community Board has served its initial purpose.

Supporting documentation for the business item:

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