PORT ANGELES — For the second time in two weeks, Port of Port Angeles commissioners heard their constituents say they are against selling John Wayne Marina.
This time, Commissioners Connie Beauvais, Colleen McAleer and Steve Burke heard an earful Tuesday from speakers so numerous they overflowed from the meeting room at the port administrative building in Port Angeles and into a sitting area.
The question for residents of the taxing district, though, is how the port will pay for improvements, port commissioners said.
Port Executive Director Karen Goschen outlined a three-phase plan — which lacked a specific time line — for gathering facts about the facility’s financial history and capital needs, holding three public meetings in each commissioner district and deciding if the port “is willing to consider an offer to purchase [John Wayne Marina],” according to a two-page report in the meeting agenda packet.
The discussion Tuesday was scheduled as a follow-up to a port-sponsored public meeting March 16 at the marina, located east of downtown Sequim, where speakers among the 75 who attended were fearful of losing public access if a private developer purchased the marina.
Commissioners and port staff said the agenda item for Tuesday was just the beginning of a long process of evaluation following interest expressed by Bend developer Ron Cole and Newport developer Jeff Pence in purchasing the 300-slip Sequim Bay facility.
The more than two dozen mostly marina tenants from Sequim who spoke in their allotted one minute said the port-owned marina should be kept in public hands, praised it for rural character and accused port officials of lacking transparency in presenting information.
No representatives of potential buyers of the marina spoke at the meeting, and no one spoke in favor of selling it.
“I’m no more in favor of this than selling Olympic National Park,” marina user Parker Smith of Port Angeles said.
“I’m really disappointed at the idea that it’s been done in secret.”
Marina tenant Joe Walsh of Sequim said: “It’s a wonderful marina. It’s the reason why we moved to Sequim.”
Kevin Holden of Sequim was “a little surprised that it’s even open for discussion that it would even be for sale.”
Goschen has said the marina has not been put up for sale and that the idea of selling it arose from an inquiry last October by Cole on whether the port is interested in selling it.
The county Assessor’s Office has valued the marina land and improvements at $7.7 million.
It jumped from $4.3 million in 2014 to $8.2 million in 2015 after improvements were added that had been left off due to a software malfunction, county commercial appraiser Bud Lund said Tuesday.
The Assessor’s Office began assessing the property in 2009, which is exempt from taxes, probably because the property was being leased and an assessment was requested, Assessor Pam Rushton said Tuesday.
Commission Chairwoman Connie Beauvais said that while the port has turned the marina “into a beautiful, peaceful jewel,” improvements including a sewer hook-up with the city, jetty repairs and float replacements “could easily” reach $10 million.
“The time has come for us to figure out how to pay for these improvements — no matter the controlling entity,” Beauvais said.
Burke said it is important to obtain comments from the public on the marina’s future.
Sequim-area port Commissioner McAleer continues to believe “that the ideal ownership structure for John Wayne Marina is that a public entity would own it,” she said.
“However, a private property entity might operate it,” she added. “That’s a conversation that needs to happen.”
She said the port will need to borrow money to pay for improvements estimated to cost between $7 million and $10 million.
The late actor John Wayne’s family-owned Wayne Enterprises, now called John Wayne Enterprises, donated the land for the marina, which was built in 1985.
John Wayne’s son Ethan Wayne, president of John Wayne Enterprises, has refused to comment on the potential sale of the marina.
John Wayne Enterprises owns 140 acres around the marina that the family plans to develop, McAleer said.
Gary Dougherty, assistant city planner, said Tuesday that John Wayne Enterprises has no pending development applications.
City Manager Charlie Bush said a John Wayne Enterprises representative met with city staff about two months ago to discuss potential options for development “and what may or may not be feasible.”
That’s been occurring for at least the three years that Bush has been city manager, he said.
Port staff said information about inquiries on the marina, including emails between Goschen and Cole and Goschen and Pence, is available at the port website at https://www.portofpa.com/ and that they could sign up for meeting updates by emailing Human Resources and Administrative Manager Holly Hairell at [email protected]
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].