Freeland shipyard floats changes in ‘consolidation’ permit

Nichols Brothers Boat Builders is looking to work one hour later, improve production with added fabrication space, make temporary building height exemptions permanent and construct up to 26-foot-tall sound walls on two borders of the property, according to a permit application submitted to county planners.

Hiller West, a planning manager with Island County Planning and Community Development, confirmed Friday afternoon that the company’s application was recently deemed complete. The determination is the green light for the department, and others such as Public Works and Public Health, to begin reviewing the proposals in detail.

It also sparked a two-week public comment period for environmental impacts. Deadline is 3 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16. West said, however, that it’s a soft deadline and general comments on the proposal will be accepted until Oct. 2.

“In reality, all comments are being accepted until the end of the comment period,” he said.

The permit application is the latest version of past long-range plans, some grand in scale, created by the shipyard at the request of county planners. Similar to a strategic plan, they’ve been intended to outline what the company intends or hopes to do in the future.

Considerably smaller in scope, this plan largely seeks to OK existing operations with some minor modifications, according to Matt Kukuk, a paid consultant and planner hired by the shipyard to assist in the permit process.

“They’re not making any major changes, just improving what’s already there,” Kukuk said.

He also noted that the many different components are separate land use applications which have been rolled into one that’s being hailed as a “consolidated land use permit.” Even if approved, construction projects would still need additional review and permits, he said.

As proposed, Nichols Brothers is requesting to increase it’s operations by one hour. Currently operations are approved for the hours of 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Bob French, planning director for the shipyard, said the company can only make noise, however, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“We’re requesting we can make noise to 8 p.m.” he said.

An hour doesn’t seem like much, but it will help specific workers — painters — complete projects in a more timely manner, French said.

Also proposed under the long-range plan is to improve production by expanding work areas within the shipyard’s existing borders. The northwest corner along Shoreview Drive and Cameron Road is proposed to become a concrete fabrication pad totaling about 19,250 square feet, bringing the total fabrication area at Nichols to 174,945 square feet, according to the company’s consolidated permit narrative.

In the same area, shipping containers currently used to deaden noise would be removed and replaced with sound walls up to 26 feet high. The walls are proposed along Shoreview and Cameron, according to application documents.

Gravel parts are of the yard are also planned for paving with asphalt. There’s currently 83,310 square feet of paved area, including the employee parking lot, and this will increase it by about 40,000 square feet — 123,300 total.

The yard has several movable fabric environmental shelters that exceed the county’s height limit in that area. Nichols has a temporary exemption that it would like to make permanent. The standard in that area, according to West, is 40 feet and the shelters are about 52 feet.

Finally, French said a permit for the existing parking lot is missing from county and company records. That needs to be addressed as well as storm water improvements that will call for a new and engineered system and possibly an easement along the yard’s eastern border for an underground pipe.

“It was a surprise but we recognize it’s just something that needs to be done,” French said.

Public comments can be mailed to the Island County Planning Department, PO Box 5000, Coupeville, WA 98239; delivered in person between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday; or faxed to 360-679-7306.