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Nichols plans some ‘Big Tops’ at Freeland boatyard

Nichols Brothers Boat Builders is asking Island County for a little leeway on its development rules.

The Freeland firm filed for a variance from the county’s building height restrictions on Oct. 14.

The current limit is 40 feet, but Nichols Brothers wants to erect eight “Big Top”-type shelters for its boat-building operations that go higher.

Two of the tents are 52 feet high, and six top out at 53 feet.

In the company’s request for a variance, Nichols Brothers said the structures would protect workers from the elements, protect air quality during sandblasting and overspray operations, and help reduce light and noise pollution.

The new structures would also provide a semi-controlled work environment, which would especially help Nichols when crews work at the temperature required for aluminum.

They would also be portable, and could be moved around the yard based on the boat projects under way. At times, they might be placed end-to-end.

Initial plans call for placing the structures near the electric shop and north of the warehouse and pipefitting area at the boatyard on South Cameron Road.

The company makes a strong economic pitch in its variance request to the county, noting that the project would offer greater operating flexibility and also “bring the yard up to current technological industry standards with our neighbors in mind.”

The project would increase productivity at the Freeland firm, the company says, because fewer weather-related shutdowns would be needed.

The fabric-covered shelters would be purchased from Big Top Manufacturing, a company based in Perry, Fla.

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