Waterfront plan nothing to celebrate

By Emory Cole, Former Mukilteo Mayor | Jul 03, 2012
Emory Cole

This Op-Ed is in response to Paul Archipley’s article published Wednesday, June 27, in the Beacon titled “Officials optimistic ferry project is on track” and to Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine’s Herald Op-Ed on Sunday, June 24, titled “Mukilteo’s waterfront has a shining future” (http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20120624/OPINION03/706249983/0/SEARCH).

Mayor Joe Marine’s published “vision” of a “shining future for Mukilteo’s waterfront” is, simply put, a travesty for Mukilteo residents. The only “vision” the current city administration has is the one driven by the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The mayor might have looked at a map before stating “Mukilteo wants and deserves to reclaim our 4.8 miles of beautiful waterfront.” Mukilteo does border Puget Sound along 4.8 miles of waterfront, but that area is mostly comprised of steep banks that rise above Burlington Northern railroad tracks.

The only potential “access” is the approximate 1 mile between the south end of Lighthouse Park and the Port of Everett/Boeing Rail Barge Transfer Facility (RBTF) to the east.

To understand the flaws of Marine’s “plan,” one only has to look at item No. 7 where he states: “Providing 20 percent in open space at the redeveloped area on the tank farm site.”

Do the math. The tank farm site is comprised of approximately 20 acres of developable property. Twenty percent of 20 acres equals 4 acres of land. The rest of the land (80 percent) will be consumed by the proposed new ferry terminal, Sounder Transit commuter rail station, and the existing NOAA facilities.

The mayor also states in his vision: “existing businesses will be enhanced and shops and restaurants will locate on the waterfront” and “relocating the boat launch to the tank farm site, if feasible.”

If one combines the 4 acres between the new transportation facilities and the RBTF with the existing ferry vehicle holding area that might be available for future mixed use development and public access, Mukilteo will be left with little to “celebrate.”

The thought of accommodating the mayor’s proposed facilities leads to only one conclusion about his “plan,” which has been common sense among most of our farming communities for decades – “You can’t put 10 pounds of dung in a five-pound bag!”

The mayor’s “pledge” is likely being celebrated on Whidbey Island and by state transportation planners, but I don’t understand how Mukilteo residents can possibly get excited about losing its most valuable remaining undeveloped asset.

The fact remains that ferry ridership is down and continues to decrease as fares increase. The existing facility has functioned well for many decades and, with some modifications, can function for many more decades at substantially lower cost to the taxpayers while preserving the waterfront for the benefit of Mukilteo.

I challenge the mayor and City Council to consider the “no build” option if the proposed funding does not materialize for the current “plan.” It is always appropriate to have a good “backup plan.”

Preserving the waterfront for the benefit of Mukilteo will give us all something to celebrate for decades to come.

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