A group called Citizens for a Livable Waterfront (CLW) has formed to oppose a commercial seaplane operation proposed at Carillon Point in Kirkland, and has hired a noise consultant to testify at a public hearing to be held on January 30 at Kirkland City Hall.
The group is concerned about the noise disturbance to homes, parks, and businesses along the flight path. Although a noise study has not been conducted, the City of Kirkland’s Planning Department recently issued an environmental “determination of non-significance,” which CLW has appealed. At the public hearing in January, the hearing examiner will consider both the appeal and the permit application. CLW is asking that the permit applicant, Carillon Properties, be required to conduct a noise study.
Carillon Properties is requesting that Renton-based Seaplane Scenics be allowed to offer seaplane tours year-round from 9 am to dusk. The initial request is for one flight per hour: one takeoff, one landing, and two passes along the lakefront. The seaplane operation would require a Shoreline Conditional Use Permit.
Shoreline regulations are intended to protect human health as well as the natural environment. Local governments define conditional uses that are not preferred or allowed outright but may be permitted when specified conditions are met. The State Department of Ecology has the final say.
CLW member Karen Story says, “The waterfront is what makes Kirkland special. People come here to enjoy the parks, trails, restaurants, and waterfront activities. Seaplane noise is intrusive. Once we allow a seaplane operation, we can never go back. We are asking that the city put the brakes on and allow time for a thorough noise review and community conversation.”
The group points out that there are already seaplane operations in nearby Kenmore, and on Lake Union. They are also concerned that if a permit is issued, the number of flights could increase over time. Marg Gardiner, President of the James Bay Neighborhood Association in Victoria, BC, says that is exactly what has happened there, and adds, “Once the float planes are in, they are almost impossible to get out.”
Before it was shut down in late 2016, the seaplanes were operating without a permit. The city received over 100 letters opposing the seaplane operation, many from residents stating that the noise made it impossible to have conversations inside their homes even with the windows closed.
Numerous studies indicate the harmful effects of noise in our daily lives. Former U.S. Surgeon General William H. Stewart said in 1978, “Calling noise a nuisance is like calling smog an inconvenience. Noise must be considered a hazard to the health of people everywhere.”
One study in the Southern Medical Journal stated: “The potential health effects of noise pollution are numerous, pervasive, persistent, and medically and socially significant. The aim of enlightened governmental controls should be to protect citizens from the adverse effects of [noise] pollution.” Kirkland Councilmember Toby Nixon believes that “A fundamental purpose of government is to protect people’s right to be able to peacefully enjoy the use of their own property.”
Noise is not the only concern. Bobby Arzadon is the owner of Perfect Wave, which rents paddleboards and kayaks at Houghton Beach Park, just north of Carillon Point. He’s concerned about safety, and losing business due to the planes. “I had a couple of close calls personally,” he said, “and I’m good at maneuvering. If customers are afraid to go in the water, it affects my bottom line. One mom said, ‘Would you let your kids play on a runway? Shouldn’t everyone get out of the water when the planes are landing?’”
In a letter to the City of Kirkland, Eastside Audubon Society stated that the organization is opposed to the seaplane operation because of the danger to protected wildlife. “The planes would be too disruptive to birds resting and feeding along the shore, especially over the winter months. This area of Lake Washington is a major wintering ground for many species of ducks.”
To join CLW’s mailing list or make a donation, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Letter submitted by Karen Story