Mukilteo now considering parking meters
MUKILTEO - The Mukilteo City Council seems open to charging people to park at Lighthouse Park come March.
Last week’s council discussion, though, opened up new talks on whether the city should charge for parking throughout downtown. The topic came up because a business owner warned that charging fees at Lighthouse Park would drive people to fill up downtown streets. Council members agreed and want a solution.
The city hopes charging at Lighthouse Park would both eliminate parking stall shortages at the park and encourage people to take public transit to get there. It is proposing parking fees from March to September, which are the park’s peak months.
The proposed fee would be $1.50 an hour to park. Residents could get a $50 annual pass to park four hours free each day; nonresidents would pay $100 for the same right. The city also could offer eight-hour parking passes costing $100 for residents and $200 for nonresidents.
Council members discussed lowering those fees last week. The permit fee would need to be a minimum of $29.75 to keep the city from facing a loss in the scheme, city administrator Joe Hannan said.
The city can charge less for permits, but state law requires the city cannot charge nonresidents less than double the resident fee, city attorney Angela Belback said. There’s an exception if residents were charged no fee at all to get a permit; nonresidents must be charged a fair rate, Belback said.
The topic will come back to council this week for more discussion.
The park’s 337 spots fill up fast; on summer weekends, more than 1,000 cars come to Lighthouse Park.
Business owner Vicki Derks pushed the council to put meters in all of downtown if it charges money for Lighthouse Park. If the city started charging at the park, people would end up looking for free parking in old town, Derks said. Derks said when that happens, her business will be sunk.
Derks’ photography studio is in the Art Building. Her customers already complain they can’t find a place to park downtown. Most of her customers come in the summer, which is prime time for Lighthouse Park visitors.
“If you don’t extend the parking (fee) to at least the bridge, you’re going to kill me,“ Derks said. She said she wouldn’t mind reimbursing clients for their parking charges but warned her business would have to leave Old Town otherwise.
Council watcher Charlie Pancerzewski disagrees with charging residents to park at Lighthouse Park. City taxpayers have put in a lot of money toward the park already even though it attracts a large number of non-Mukilteans, Pancerzewski said.
“I’m not enthused to have Mukilteo people pay when they already are (paying for the park),” he said.
Pancerzewski said he’d like to have Mukilteans use the park for free “and have others pay full freight.”
He suggested moving the Farmers Market to an open field on Bernie Webber Drive near Chennault Beach Road, but Mayor Joe Marine shot down the idea. The land is owned by the FAA and the FAA would charge the market owners, Marine said.
The Wednesday Farmers Market brings a large number of cars to Lighthouse Park.
Mukilteo has bandied about charging people at Lighthouse Park for years now because the city is dealing with a dearth of parking there. The city took over Lighthouse Park in 2003 and made it a central tourist destination spot. People now drive there in droves, and some find the lot full.
Hannan emphasized the fee is not to help pay for park operations. It costs Mukilteo $175,000 a year to operate Lighthouse Park; the city estimates a fee would bring in $110,000.
On some days, the parking lot is so crowded with people scavenging for a spot that Marine said he worries an aid car could not get into to the park
The city already took actions to move Whidbey Island ferry commuters into their own lot behind the Diamond Knot Brewery last year. Commuters pay $140 per month for a space there.
The city may contract with Diamond Parking or Republic Parking to handle metering, Hannan said.