Law should change so houseboats can have future

The OlympianDecember 11, 2013 

Sharing her 30x12-foot houseboat with Ms. Diva, her cocker spaniel companion and shipmate, Ginny Stern may face eviction from her West Bay Marina location due to an existing Dept. of Natural Resources' rule that residents can live aboard marine vessels, but not houseboats. She along with a number of other houseboat owners are challenging it and gaining help from several local government officials.

STEVE BLOOM; STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

The state Department of Natural Resources was wise last week to delay a plan to evict houseboats and their owners from marina moorages including several moored at South Sound marinas.

The original eviction was scheduled for Thanksgiving, which would have been a cruel irony at best.

A more reasoned approach would be to work with the Legislature to come up with a standardized set of rules to treat vessels, boats and houseboats equitably.

The existing state administrative code treats boats and houseboats differently. People can live aboard a boat in a marina that leases land from the state. But the code does not allow floating homes, otherwise known at houseboats, to take up residency in harbor tideland areas owned by the state.

Here’s another problem with the rule: If a houseboat is docked in a private marina on land not managed by DNR, the rule doesn’t apply.

Seems there is plenty of room to improve consistency in the rule. DNR should give legislators a chance to work on the issue in the next legislative session.

A political solution is a much better option than a protracted legal challenge pitting the houseboat owners against the state.

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