Plan lights way for park overhaul

MUKILTEO — The site of the city's most recognizable symbol is almost entirely covered by an asphalt parking lot. But a plan promises to transform Mukilteo Lighthouse Park into a spacious grassy area designed to draw children and picnickers.

The Mukilteo City Council last week approved the $6.6 million plan, which includes a playground, a pedestrian pier, restrooms and a circular passenger drop-off area near the lighthouse.

The council spent several hours hashing out the details of the plan, but in the end it made few changes to what consultants had suggested. One of stickiest points was whether the plan should include an option to acquire commercial property next to the park. After much debate, the council kept open the possibility of buying the property.

"The current plan shows 25 parking spaces replacing that (commercial) building. I don't think that's a good trade-off," Councilwoman Jennifer Gregerson said. "If that property ever became available, I think another business owner should buy it, not the city."

Other council members said the plan doesn't lock the city into turning the space into parking slots should it decide to buy the property.

"We should retain this as an option," Councilman Bruce Richter said. "If that option ever comes up, it's something we should be allowed to consider."

Owners of the businesses that rent the commercial property next to the park said they were disappointed by the council's decision.

"We're not happy this option is still in the plan," said Brian Sollenberger, an owner of the Diamond Knot Brewery and Alehouse. "What we generate, we put back into the community. We employ about 15 people, several from Mukilteo. ... Our goal is to be here as long as we can."

Don Minteer, an owner of Woody's, a small market next to the brewery, said the council's actions were rude.

"I'm questioning now whether I should expand my business," he said. "We are locally owned and operated. We've been here for a year and a half, opened during a starving economy, and I've been enjoying being here. ... I just wish the council valued our contribution to the city."

The option to purchase commercial property was among several alternatives presented in the plan. The options are not included in the park's estimated construction costs.

The council also debated options to a build a parking garage that would cost an estimated $6 million and to tear down three small buildings that are part of the lighthouse complex to build a gift shop, park offices and public restrooms.

In the end, the council also agreed on those options, with the clause that any actions must be in keeping with the state and federal standards for rehabilitating a historic site. The Mukilteo Historical Society should also be consulted, when necessary, the council said.

The Lighthouse Park Master Plan is intended to unify the former Mukilteo State Park and lighthouse properties. The city acquired the parkland from the state last year and the lighthouse property from the Coast Guard in 2001. The first phase of a four-phase project could begin within a year or two, depending on the availability of money.

"The lighthouse plan will allow us to pursue outside funding," said Rich Leahy, Mukilteo's city administrator. "You can amend the plan. ... But we'd like to get an idea of where we want to go with the park, so we can go get funding that is in keeping with the basic conceptual plan."

One of the few items added to the plan was a band pavilion or shell. The idea was suggested by residents during earlier discussions of the city Parks and Arts Commission.

"I think we have it as an option to consider," Gregerson said. "It can provide flexibility in the weather."

Rachel Tuinstra: 425-783-0674 or