No ruling from hearing examiner on seaplane company

Seaplanes on the Kirkland waterfront are on hold — at least for a few more weeks.

The hearing examiner took public comment and arguments from Citizens for a Livable Waterfront and Carillon Properties, which represents the aerial tour company Seaplane Scenics, on Monday, Jan. 30, at Kirkland City Hall.

No ruling was offered, as the hearing examiner requested additional briefing on Feb. 13 with a ruling as far out as Feb. 22. The next step would be a final ruling by the Washington Department of Ecology.

The tour company is seeking to operate float plane tours, which would board, taxi, take off and land on Lake Washington in front of Carillon Point, with up to 12 flights per day.

Seaplane Scenics would need a Shoreline Conditional Use Permit (SCUP) to operate, and the permit comes with a number of environmental stipulations, including wildlife impact and fuel spill management. The city issued a Determination of Nonsignificance in November, stating the operation would not be harmful to nearby wildlife.

Citizens for a Livable Waterfront, which is made up of local residents, many of whom live near the proposed operation, appealed the issuance to the Hearing Examiner on Jan. 30. The group argued a noise study done as part of the Determination of Nonsignificance was incomplete and did not include measurements taken by waterfront homes, near parks or up the slope of the hill.

Representatives from Carillon Point argued the city had fulfilled state-level requirements, and could not put the seaplane company through more stringent restrictions than required by law.

The second portion of the hearing dealt with the shoreline permit, and included considerable public input.

The City of Kirkland recommended the hearing examiner approve the shoreline permit for Seaplane Scenics. Under the city’s recommendations, the company could fly from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends, with no flights on certain major holidays.

The citizen group had several key objections, including noise and safety for recreators. CLW brought seven speakers during the public comment period, with two additional speakers in opposition to the proposal.

Several local residents also spoke in favor of the seaplanes, as well as positive comments from Seattle-area seaplane pilots who were in attendance to advocate for seaplane activity.