MUKILTEO — It’s the little parcel that could — and now can’t.
The new “parklet” at the waterfront is a big patch of contention.
The roughly 60-foot-wide smidgen of asphalt at the end of Front Street, steps from the Ivar’s “Keep Clam” sign, is caught in a bureaucratic tussle.
For 63 years, it was the approach ramp for the ferry, used by 2 million vehicles a year on the busy Mukilteo-Clinton route.
Now it can’t hold 12 tables.
They were removed, per city order, on Wednesday from the parklet, as small pocket spaces are dubbed these days.
Until the matter is resolved, it is uncertain if and how the public will be able to use the plot between Ivar’s Mukilteo Landing and Lighthouse Park.
The Port of Everett owns the property, which was vacated when the new ferry terminal was built. The port claims the city of Mukilteo is standing in the way of letting people enjoy the scenic overlook.
“For the life of me I can’t see what the issue is,” Port of Everett CEO Lisa Lefeber said. “All the efforts have been unsuccessful because of obstacles within the city.”
Ivar’s struck a deal with the port to lease and maintain the space, which has a spectacular view. They spent several months hashing out the details.
Bob Donegan, Ivar’s president, envisioned one side with dozens of diners soaking up the sunset over drinks and dinner. He’d put picnic tables on the other side for public use, as well as landscape, and care for the entire parklet. In short, Ivar’s would be the steward of the parklet, which is what the port was seeking.
So earlier this month, Ivar’s placed tables and chairs on the parklet, with a picket fence for separation from the public side.
This replaced outdoor dining Ivar’s had on the Silver Cloud side under an earlier permit during COVID restrictions. Lefeber said she checked with the governor’s office for approval.
“The port and Ivar’s had authorization to operate under the governor’s emergency order,” Lefeber said.
City leaders say their hands are tied while they review city codes.
Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson said the authorization doesn’t apply because the restaurant is at 100% capacity and the city can’t transfer the permit to the parklet side.
“The port might have thought, ‘Oh, we do this all the time, super-easy,’” Gregerson said. “Part of that is that they have an agreement with the city of Everett, but they don’t have that agreement with Mukilteo. It has to go through the city.”
She also cited parking and fire code issues that prohibit the Ivar’s parklet dining setup.
Lefeber disagrees with the decision.
“The city does have administrative discretion. They aren’t using it,” Lefeber said.
Donegan said he secured 13 additional parking spots the city required.
“The fire marshal said the exit gate was two inches too narrow,” he said. “So we literally picked up the fence and moved it two inches so it was wide enough to conform.”
Then he applied for a city permit.
“They estimated it could take up to several months. By then we’re into the rainy season,” he said.
On Monday, he withdrew the permit application and said he’ll try again next year.
He’s trying to “keep clam,” in keeping with the Ivar’s slogan.
“We don’t want to be in the middle of any political battle. We just want to serve customers,” Donegan said. “It’s disappointing.”
Lefeber said the port’s goal is for the spot to be a community asset.
“I want Ivar’s to be able to use and maintain it and the public to be able to go out there,” Lefeber said.
Gregerson agrees it’s a good use for the space, but said Ivar’s needs a shoreline and floodplain permit.
“Everyone was working in good faith to try to work through our code to allow them to add additional tables,” Gregerson said.
“In the end, too many things needed to be put together to expand the restaurant into that outdoor space. It was too difficult to resolve it for this summer. I’m hopeful for next season we can make something happen for Ivar’s.”