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Mukilteo rejects more parking for commuters

Island commuters looking for overnight parking in Mukilteo will have to keep looking.

A plan to build a 300-car lot off Mukilteo Speedway less than half a mile from the ferry landing has been scratched after the Mukilteo City Council this week declined to rezone the three-acre property.

“I didn’t call it off, the city did it for me,” said Mukilteo developer Duane Parrish, who proposed the lot. “It’s not going to work, so I’m moving on.”

Parrish wanted to build an overnight-parking facility to be used primarily by Whidbey residents who keep vehicles on both sides of the water to avoid ferry lines.

He said he had lined up about 60 reservations from islanders, had done all the preliminary work and had asked the city to rezone the property, currently zoned residential.

“It was starting to get more interest, but interest is one thing and support is another,” Parrish said.

On Monday, the city council unanimously declined to rezone, after 28 speakers protested the plan because of increased pedestrian traffic, lights and other factors.

“It was all about neighborhood impact, basically,” Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine said Thursday. “They didn’t want three acres of parking in a residential area.”

Only a handful of Whidbey residents attended the council meeting, including Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson, according to islander Ivan Solkey, who was there.

“There are two schools of thought at work here,” Solkey said in his report on the meeting e-mailed to fellow commuters.

“Mukilteo’s is, it’s not our problem; we’ve put up with the ferry long enough, and the islanders’ is, you shouldn’t have built your city around the highway and an airport.”

Marine said the city will keep searching for a solution.

“We’re continuing to look at other locations further up the Speedway,” Marine added. “Maybe at Paine Field or at some existing businesses.”

He said talks continue with the Mukilteo School District about parking on school property at the top of the hill during the summer.

“But they still don’t think it would be worth it for just a couple of months,” Marine said. “In the end, we probably would want more of a permanent solution.”

He said he has talked with Community Transit about building a badly needed park-and-ride lot in the city that could be used at night by island commuters.

“But none of the transit agencies have money to build lots these days,” Marine said.

Island commuters have been watching warily as more and more overnight parking spaces in Mukilteo have disappeared.

Residents who use the two-vehicle strategy do so to cut down on the length of their commutes, which can add hours to their workday. Some residents indicated this past spring that they may be forced to move from the island.

The demolition of the old Buzz Inn to make room for 12 additional ferry holding lanes in downtown Mukilteo wiped out about 18 overnight parking spaces.

Two overnight Diamond parking lots near the Mukilteo Lighthouse that are being leased by island owners of about 170 vehicles will be taken over by the city this spring. The city is developing the surrounding park and will reserve the remaining parking spaces for visitors.

An additional 100 leased overnight Diamond parking spaces at the Rosehill Community Center disappeared this past summer to make way for a new building.

Meanwhile, Mukilteo doesn’t permit overnight parking on downtown streets.

“We’re still trying to accommodate the commuters,” the Mukilteo mayor said. “But our first responsibility is to our citizens. We heard that loud and clear.”

Marine said Whidbey residents would probably feel the same way as Mukilteo residents if a 300-car lighted parking lot were proposed next to their beach neighborhoods.

“I understand both sides,” the mayor said. “I’m not giving up hope. We’re still turning over rocks.”

Solkey said in his e-mail that it’s the state’s responsibility to find a place for Whidbey commuters to park in the Mukilteo area. He urged commuters to press their state legislators for action.

“Soon there will be NO overnight parking in Mukilteo,” he wrote. “No skipping the long ferry lines in the summer, no telling your guests to just walk across, no buying just-walk-on tickets. It won’t help to do and say nothing.”

Parrish remains pessimistic about finding a solution.

“I don’t see anything happening,” Parrish said. “It’s going to get ugly this summer, I’ll tell you that.”

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