Political sign, harbor policy ordinances OK’d.

Much has been made about the speed with which the City Council is asked to deal with highly complex matters.

“We’re flooded,” Councilwoman Debbie Vancil said Wednesday, of her own and her colleagues’ workload. “I can’t continue to work this way.”

But not all matters need be so dicey, Councilman Jim Llewellyn said.

“To say this is being rushed is to say a glacier is rushing,” he said, prior to the passage Wednesday of an ordinance that would allow the city to establish an open water marina in Eagle Harbor.

A pair of controversial ordinances – the marina ordinance and one regarding the placement of political signs – were passed by the council, while the similarly contentious and temporarily shelved Critical Areas Ordinance was slated for another look.

Vancil had concerns about the language of the marina ordinance and said it shouldn’t be rushed. The city had to make the change soon to meet a state-imposed deadline next month.

Planners stressed that passing the ordinance wouldn’t obligate the city to create a marina; rather it would leave the regulatory door open for one should it later be deemed the best option.

Councilors voted 4-0 in favor of the ordinance; Vancil abstained; Nezam Tooloee and Kjell Stoknes weren’t present for the vote.

Meanwhile, campaigners soon will have to ask permission from neighboring property owners before placing political signs in public rights of way.

Councilors voted 5-1 in favor of the change, despite pressure from campaigner James Olsen, who called the law unconstitutional and threatened to sue.

Problems began in 2005, after changes to the city’s sign ordinance legalized the placement of signs in right of ways, provided they were of a certain size, didn’t create a hazard and were removed within a certain period following elections. Some neighbors later removed signs in front of their homes, claiming the signs’ placement implicated homeowner support of the advertised candidate.

The new rules, patterned after a constitutionally upheld ordinance in Tacoma, won’t go into effect until after the Nov. 6 general election.

Llewellyn said he opposed the ordinance because he though it would be “unenforceable.”

Also discussed briefly Wednesday was the geologically hazardous portion of the Critical Areas Ordinance. Proposed changes would ease development restrictions near slopes.

Problems arose last year after the city added a variance requirement to the ordinance. Planners and homeowners say the requirement is impossible to meet for many projects that would be built in seemingly stable areas; others worry that, by removing the variance requirement, the city would be favoring development concerns over public safety.

The issue has been continually shelved, and recently looked to be delayed indefinitely because of the council’s busy schedule.

Tooloee then added discussion of the item to Wednesday’s agenda, and asked the council to make room for a Second Reading of the ordinance at its Oct. 24 meeting.

“It’s been processed to death,” he said. “It’s time for council to fish or cut bait.”

Tooloee said recent changes to the document made by staff address the myriad concerns of both sides.

Councilman Bill Knobloch remains doubtful.

“Let us not rush to judgment on something that is this serious,” he said.

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