Newly proposed Kirkland boating ordinance triggers outcry

City of Kirkland - Contributed
City of Kirkland
— image credit: Contributed

A newly proposed boating ordinance aimed at curbing the rafting of boats and excessive noise, primarily on Juanita Bay, caused public outcry over the weekend. Tuesday’s Kirkland City Council meeting was packed full of boaters and residents who wanted to voice their opinions on the measure.

“The water craft ordinance is a deeply flawed ordinance,” said Kirkland businessman John Gilday. “First there is no time specified that boats cannot remain 25 feet within one another without being considered rafting. Second, it only goes one way. If people on the waterfront are able to call the police and say I can hear Snoop Dogg, are people from boats allowed to call the police department and say I can hear their Shih Tzu? I guarantee a yipping little dog is going to carry further than 50 feet over the water.”

The public comment portion of the meeting was dominated by the topic as more than 15 people signed up to speak, including the chairman of the Rainier Yacht Club and residents with waterfront homes.

“I have 25 years of observation on Juanita Bay,” said Brent Anderson, who lives on Rose Point. “It is interesting to note that even those people … who are opposed to regulation acknowledge that there is a problem on Juanita Bay both in terms of safety and noise.”

Anderson went on to point out that at times there are people drinking on boats and children in the water.

“Imagine Seafair with no police presence,” said Anderson, who added that the noise problem is so great at times he can hear the boat parties in his home, two blocks from the shore.

The issue is so unclear that one speaker used a map to show where the city’s boundary was in the bay, trying to make a point that the ordinance would not work. Council and city staff immediately told the man the map was inaccurate, to which the man replied that he got the map from the city’s official website.

“There are too many questions that are unanswered,” said Councilwoman Penny Sweet. “Too many maps are unclear, we need a much clearer definition of what we are working on.”

The fury over the issue, and the proposal itself, caught the council off-guard. Councilman Toby Nixon said that the public found out about the details of the proposal at the same time as the council. Council members noted they have received “scores” of emails on the issue during the four days between the council packet being released online and the meeting.

The outcry triggered Sweet to propose sending the plan back to the Public Safety Committee. The council passed the proposal unanimously and the council chambers erupted in uncharacteristic applause.

“This is one of those opportunities that can be very positive for our city …,” said Councilman Bob Sternoff, adding that the ordinance needs to be looked at and the public needs to be involved.

The council requested a proposal last September following a presentation and video of the issues taken by the Kirkland Police about safety issues on Juanita Bay.

Kirkland Police Capt. Bill Hamilton made a presentation to the council prior to the unanimous vote.

“There have been times when Juanita Bay has literally been non-navigable due to the number of boats,” said Hamilton. “The concern is that if there was an emergency such as someone falling off a boat … that the emergency vessel could not get in there and provide some type of rescue. Staff agrees that the majority of boaters are safe and responsible, and I would agree. I am a boater and I enjoy Lake Washington.”

Deputy Mayor Doreen Marchione asked that the noise issue be dealt with first and prior to the opening of the boating season.

The proposed ordinance was derived from one used on Lake Tapps.

Assistant City Attorney Oskar Rey explained that there should have been more care taken in devising the ordinance.

“To the extent that this has caused angst for the council and the boating community I do apologize for that,” said Rey, who admitted he got “tunnel vision” after seeing the Lake Tapps ordinance. “I probably would have treated it differently had I known then what I know now about the level of concern from the community on this.”

All agreed that the issue needs more public input but in its current state the proposal goes too far.

“This is like a ‘Footloose’ movie and we can’t be that town,” said Councilwoman Amy Walen.


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