Seattle trying to sink 'mega houseboats'

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

KREM.com

Posted on January 5, 2013 at 9:21 AM

Four large houseboats moored on Lake Union were tagged by the City of Seattle last month for violating rules governing floating homes.

“This is my yacht,” said Mike Sherlock, owner of the properties flagged by the city. “It may not look like one, but it is my yacht.”

That “yacht” is a gorgeous, 1,800-square-foot, two-story floating house, one of four that Sherlock has at a private dock beneath the Aurora Bridge. “I don't look like your conventional boat,” he said. “I think that's what really makes some people mad.”

Unconventional is an understatement. One of the four houseboats, technically termed “floating barges,” is three stories tall and 4,700 square feet. “It is a vessel,” he said. “I can drive it if I need to.”

Sherlock’s homes were tagged by the city just before Christmas. He has been told to move them off the lake, essentially because of their shape and size.

Sherlock, however, says he built the homes under the direction of the city’s code officers, and that they are all completely compliant. One of the homes houses his 89-year-old mother who suffers from dementia.

“I’ve been a ship builder for years. I wouldn’t have put all of this time, money and effort into this if it wasn’t legal," Sherlock said.

Seattle is in the process of changing the rules for floating homes, barges, live-aboards and the like on the lake. At issue is what can be considered a “vessel.” The rules date back 20 years and are quite vague.

The city’s Department of Planning and Development has put forth no fewer than five different proposals to the city council, none of which has been adopted. The council had proposed an “amnesty” program that would allow existing residences to stay, but homeowners balked saying that implied they had broken laws. They said they would prefer that their homes be “grandfathered” under the old rules

KING 5 News reached out to Richard Conlin, who is captaining the houseboat debate on the Seattle City Council, but he was unavailable for comment on Friday.

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