Preferential non-enforcement | Guest View

By Charlie Pancerzewski | Apr 23, 2014

Mukilteo elected officials continue to discuss the need to reduce traffic congestion and to build costly parking at both street level and in garages on our waterfront.

Yet, they stay silent about recent city actions that allowed Diamond Knot to double its size without providing one parking space.

The building leased by Diamond Knot has been “non-conforming” for many years because it provides no customer parking.

When Woody’s ceased business, Diamond Knot leased that space and applied to double its size and put tables on the Lighthouse Park sidewalk to serve their customers through a large roll-up door.

RCW17.56.10 requires “every building hereafter… subject to change in use from a lower intensity to a higher intensity shall be provided with parking spaces.”

Diamond Knot’s permit application shows substantial increased employees and customers from the expansion. This increased intensity of use in a non-conforming building clearly meets the RCW requirement to provide parking. The city file has no indication this RCW was considered.

Mukilteo requires a fee to mitigate increased peak traffic from business expansion. City staff incorrectly concluded Woody’s peak traffic was double the peak traffic that Diamond Knot’s expanded business would create.

Anyone remembering Woody’s would not agree. As a result of this incorrect decision, the $1,850 fee for each increased peak traffic vehicle was deemed to not apply.

When the state gave Lighthouse Park to the city, it imposed restrictions on future use, such as use by a private business. The City Council meeting agenda for June 3, 2013 scheduled approval of the city attorney’s prepared easement permitting Diamond Knot to construct a stoop, aka porch, on the Lighthouse Park sidewalk.

A stoop is required by code because the building floor is higher than the sidewalk at the door opening. The stoop would help prevent someone from stumbling and falling.

The building permit was issued without Diamond Knot having legal authority to construct the stoop on the park sidewalk.

Mayor Jennifer Gregerson recently wrote to me saying the building official did not know where the property line was and did not realize the stoop had been built on city park property (its sidewalk).

Diamond Knot’s drawings show the Lighthouse Park sidewalk having tables to serve food and drink to customers. When Washington State Parks found out about the proposed use by a private business, the easement was pulled from the aforementioned council agenda.

Former City Administrator Joe Hannan then wrote to State Parks saying, “Our intent would be to enhance the public’s use of the park by having food and wine/beer available.”

No alcohol is permitted in Mukilteo parks and no change to that long-time city policy has been considered by the council. Use of the park sidewalk to meet the building code was not mentioned to State Parks.

State Parks recently discussed the existing illegal stoop and the proposed easement with the city. State Parks is waiting for a response.

Gregerson’s recent letter to me said the city has a lot of issues to deal with and it may be six months before they can get back to this and provide the council with recommendations.

She also said the matter may not ever come before the council, as she does not anticipate pursuing the proposed easement. She did not write how failure to meet the code would be enforced or what would happen to the existing stoop and the proposed sidewalk food, beer and wine tables.

Diamond Knot customers all park on the street or in Lighthouse Park. The city is proposing to spend a large amount of taxpayer funds to build more parking on the former Tank Farm property to ease the need for waterfront parking.

Taxpayer money should not be spent to provide parking when officials fail to enforce our parking code for a business that has zero customer parking.

The city needs to go back and revise the building permit to meet code or cancel it.

Diamond Knot knew it needed to use the Lighthouse Park sidewalk for its building permit to meet code. It was a gamble to proceed without it, and the company knows it does not have the easement to make that use legal.

I brought this matter to several councilmembers when I learned of it last June. During the past three months, I have provided the entire council with all emails between the mayor, the city administrator and myself about this matter.

Those emails covered additional details that I do not have space to include here.

The city attorney has been involved in the proposed easement since early 2013 and knows it has not been granted. She also has been involved in communications with State Parks. The property landlord appears not to have been involved.

If left in its present state, waterfront traffic and parking congestion will increase and remain for as long as the above building exists. Taxpayer money will continue to be spent to ease the problem, a subsidy to a business that should not have been granted a building permit to double its size without meeting the codes that everyone else is expected to follow.

Ironically, Sherry Jennings, director of marketing for Diamond Knot recently was quoted in a Herald article saying, “Parking along the waterfront could definitely improve. Right now parking is horrid.”

Gregerson was quoted as saying she “would like the state and possibly the city to contribute funding for that [a parking garage].”

After all these months, the mayor and councilmembers remain silent about non-enforcement of our codes and park violations.

Charlie Pancerzewski served twice on the Mukilteo City Council from 1972-1973 and again from 1998-1999. He attends council meetings when he is not tending to his olive grove in New Zealand.

Read a rebuttal to this Op-Ed by Interim City Administrator Rex Caldwell here.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Lynn McKinney | Apr 24, 2014 03:01

Great work Charlie, and very good points.   

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