No more parking lots on the waterfront! l Our View

By Paul Archipley | Dec 05, 2018

I recently enjoyed a short vacation in Newport Beach, California, where my wife and I rented an apartment on the Balboa Peninsula, a block from the ocean. Walking to the beach one day, I noticed one of the homes on the boardwalk was for sale.

Curious, I looked into it, discovering it was nearly 6,000 square feet, had lots of bedrooms and bathrooms – even a maid’s quarters – but no yard. Beachfront homes are packed in tight.

And the asking price? $10.5 million. The market knows the value of land, especially when it’s adjacent to a body of water.

That’s why former Mayor Emory Cole was spot on when he wrote a Guest View column a few weeks ago alerting readers that the powers that be were thinking about building yet another parking lot on 2 acres of waterfront property next to the future ferry landing.

For years, the city has failed to fight for its citizens over access to and use of the old tank farm site on Mukilteo’s northern shoreline. When the state decided it needed to expand its ferry service, plenty of citizens – but few city officials – argued against it.

Too often, local officials caved, rationalizing that the city had little leverage over who got to determine usage of surplused U.S. government land. Cole explained the processes and challenges in his excellent column (“Keep waterfront land in Mukilteo’s hands,” Oct. 24, 2018).

Still, even a weak hand can be in the game. For example, we have some zoning power. Maybe we could invoke eminent domain. We should be looking at all the options, inside and outside the box.

Before the state decided to take up a big chunk of the 20-acre site for an expanded ferry landing, citizens had proposed ideas such as working with the Tulalip Tribes – owner of the 2 acres that may soon be paved over – to develop a cultural center focusing on the area’s rich Native American history. There were suggestions for a longhouse, an interpretive center and other recreational amenities.

Instead, we’re getting a huge holding area, ie; parking lot, and a ferry slip (with plans for a second slip down the road), so that the state can move traffic on State Route 525, at virtually no benefit to Mukilteo residents.

And the purpose of the new proposal? Yet more parking for commuters and visitors heading to and from Whidbey Island. Lucky Mukilteans get a narrow boardwalk between the water and the parking lots.

All this on waterfront property that would be worth many millions in the hands of a developer, but is priceless to anyone who cares about beauty, environment, quality of life and other benefits that are being trashed by short-sighted elected leaders who are failing to represent their constituents’ interests. Alternately, Cole proposed some excellent ideas to develop a recreational and cultural oasis that all of us could enjoy.

At last week’s City Council meeting, discussion focused on traffic concerns after the parking lot is built, when councilmembers should have been shouting to the stars that we don’t want to be Whidbey Island’s doormat. Two lousy acres out of 20, and we can’t even get that for this community’s benefit? What a shame.

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