Mukilteo mulls changes to Lighthouse Park

MUKILTEO — A strip of land in the city’s popular Lighthouse Park is now a sidewalk.

The question is whether to allow Diamond Knot Craft Brewing to add an outdoor cafe adjacent to its building on that sidewalk.

It might seem like a simple enough question. Yet it raises a number of issues, starting with whether to convert an estimated 1,200 square feet of land in the city’s park for use by a well-known local company through a lease agreement.

Since the city bans alcohol in its parks, its regulations would have to be amended to allow service of alcoholic beverages in that area.

And the city would have to work out an agreement with the state to establish a public space of similar value somewhere else, most likely on the nearby former Air Force tank farm land along the waterfront.

That’s because the state’s Recreation and Conservation Office requires all public property developed with state funds to remain in public use.

The city has the right to convert the land if they see the need to do it, but would have to find a site to replace what’s being lost, said Kyle Guzlas, an outdoor grant manager for the recreation and conservation office.

The City Council has agreed to let more discussions take place. They want the city to have a better idea of how much it would cost to make the change, and exactly what steps would be needed for the pub’s outdoor seating area to be approved.

“I think it’s something that makes sense, for our waterfront to have outdoor sidewalk cafes,” said Mayor Jennifer Gregerson. “It’s a little complicated. It does seem like something that could work after we get all the questions answered.”

The land would remain city property and so it could potentially revert back to city use at some point in the future, she said.

“It does seem like the council is interested in the idea,” Gregerson said. “But I do want to make sure we’re moving forward to something that makes sense for the community.”

If Mukilteo decides to move ahead, it would have to craft an exemption to its ban on alcohol in city parks that wouldn’t allow its use in any other park or anywhere else in Lighthouse Park, Gregerson said.

So far, Steve Schmalz is the only council member who said he objects to the idea. The move would involve converting public park land for use by a private business so they can make a profit, he said. “I fundamentally just don’t support that.”

Schmalz said he’s also concerned that putting an outdoor cafe in the park would add congestion to an area already jammed with traffic and limited parking.

The city needs to address parking and pedestrian safety issues before talking about sidewalk cafes, Schmalz said.

Council member Emily Vanderwielen said she supports the idea of the outdoor cafe. “I highly doubt that another 1,000 people will come down to sit under a (cafe) umbrella,” she said. “I think those already attending Diamond Knot will appreciate sitting out there in the sunshine and smelling the salt air.”

The city also would need to have the land surveyed, appraised, and pay fees for an estimated cost of $20,000, said Marko Liias, the city’s policy analyst. City officials said they will talk with Diamond Knot about their interest in pursuing an agreement on establishing an outdoor cafe.

Diamond Knot would consider negotiating with the city to help pay those costs through a lease agreement, said Sherry Jennings, Diamond Knot’s sales and marketing director.

“At this moment, it’s not about us, it’s about whether the city wants to allow this use adjacent to the building,” Jennings said.

“We would definitely love to have that use,” she said. “It depends on whether it’s feasible for us to do, what costs would be incurred.”

The pub doesn’t know how many tables would fit into the space, since the land survey hasn’t been done, she said. The outdoor seating would be surrounded by a 43-inch-tall fence, as required by the state’s liquor laws, she said.

“I think some people think it would be a windfall for us,”Jennings said. “We would use it three months of the year, at most.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

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