A June 29 decision by the City of Kirkland hearing examiner has delayed the project to replace the Juanita Beach Park bathhouse. The City had applied for three variances as part of the Juanita Beach Park Bathhouse project. The variances would have allowed the bathhouse to be placed in the designated wetlands and buffers adjacent to Juanita Creek, which runs through Juanita Beach Park. The variances would also preserve existing park space and beach access rather than requiring they be fenced off. In return for the variances, the City proposed significant restoration of Juanita Bay Park wetlands with a much higher ecological value.
The City is considering appealing the ruling to the Washington State Shorelines Hearings Board.
“This project provides so many solutions for our community and our natural environment, and we are determined to see them through.” said Lynn Zwaagstra, Kirkland’s Park and Community Services director.
The variances were needed because the Shoreline Management Act prevents building construction in wetlands and their buffers unless the applicant can satisfy numerous criteria, such as demonstrating that no other suitable location for the building exists and that impacts are appropriately mitigated.
City staff chose the location of the bathhouse based on community feedback collected during the Juanita Beach Park master plan’s two-year process. The reasons for the community’s preference for the location included its open views, to maximize the lawn and play space and to provide a buffer between the natural forested area and the play area. The location was also chosen because it would improve lifeguards’ response times to emergencies by stationing them closer to the beach.
To compensate for the impacts to the wetland and buffer areas, the City’s project team members worked with staff from the Washington State Department of Ecology on a plan to enhance wetlands along Juanita Creek and at Juanita Bay Park by removing invasive species and planting native wetland species.
More information on the bathhouse project can be found on the project webpage online.