PORT ANGELES — The chance that voters across Clallam County will vote on a levy increase to fund improvements for John Wayne Marina gained little traction at listening sessions in Port Angeles and Forks sponsored by the marina’s owner, the Port of Port Angeles.
Participants at the sparsely-attended meeting Monday at the Rainforest Arts Center in Forks said they rarely use the 300-slip Sequim Bay facility.
Phil Sharpe of Forks — one of six participants at the meeting, two of whom were from Sequim — said he is “dead set” against a levy increase to fund improvements to the marina, located 76 miles from where Sharpe spoke.
“I do not want an increase in property taxes to support a marina,” he said.
The meeting was the first of three — one in each district — that the Port of Port Angeles commissioners hosted Monday.
Candice Lohneis of Beaver said the small tax increases seem to never end.
“If the port has reached a position where it cannot financially sustain a marina, then maybe it’s time to look at getting rid of the marina,” Lohneis said.
But Birdig James of Forks said she fears the result if a corporation takes over the facility.
“I don’t want to see something that belongs to all the people go to a corporation whose only interest is in making money and lets it go by the wayside,” James said.
Sequim residents have been uniformly against selling the marina to a private buyer, saying at previous meetings that they fear the loss of public access to what they say is a community and tourist resource as the port considers selling the facility to a private buyer.
Port officials have said they are committed to ensuring public access regardless of who owns the facility.
The port began considering non-port-ownership options after a potential private buyer stepped forward in October, and two more such buyers have expressed their interest since then.
Port commissioners could make a decision July 12, which could result in putting the marina up for sale or putting a levy on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
They face an Aug. 7 deadline to submit a levy resolution for the election.
Port officials had little positive to say about the facility at the meetings in Forks and Port Angeles, saying that the marina doesn’t fulfill the mission of the port to spur economic development.
They also said they weren’t keen on putting forward a levy questions on the Nov. 6 general election ballot to fund $22 million in needed improvements.
The marina is responsible for 73 direct jobs, 92 percent of which are recreational.
The port has not recovered $1.3 million, not including interest, from $6.2 million in capital outlay the port poured into the marina from 1982-88, when it was built, port Controller Melinda Smithson said at the presentations.
The port’s share of property taxes is now 2 percent of a county property owner’s tax bill.
The levy would add 6.4 cents per $1,000 valuation onto property owners’ tax bills countywide.
The owner of a $250,000 home would see a tax increase of $15.92 a year, a 36 percent increase from $44.77 a year to $60.69 a year.
“That’s a pretty big increase to be putting into an asset that isn’t creating a lot of jobs,” port Executive Director Karen Goschen said at the Forks meeting.
“We have less money to invest into things like a recreational marina.”
Participants in Port Angeles included speakers who praised the facility’s amenities and saw it as far more than a collection of boat slips.
But they, too, saw little chance a levy would pass.
“It’s a gorgeous marina,” said tenant Joe Walsh, one of a dozen participants at the Port Angeles meeting, a number that matched the dozen port staff and meeting consultants who were on hand.
But a levy to support improvements is a different matter.
“I don’t think it has a chance of passing,” Walsh said.
By Tuesday morning, port board President Connie Beauvais said she was against the port commissioners putting the measure on the Nov. 6 ballot.
“I don’t really think that it would pass, nor do I personally think it would be good to ask for people to pay for with the other infrastructure needs of the community [such as] schools, fire district equipment and the library,” Beauvais said.
But Beauvas said the port commissioners are open to discussing an option that has come up in the past in an iteration that was considered for the taxing district’s marina in Port Angeles: Having the 300-slip John Wayne Marina, valued at $7.7 million by the Clallam County Assessor’s Office, operated by a public co-op composed of the public and boat owners.
“We were talking about forming a co-op when we looked at doing an agent agreement with Masco [Petroleum] at the Boat Haven,” Beauvais said, noting that option came up at the listening sessions.
“Now they are talking about doing that at John Wayne Marina.
“That’s definitely another option that we’ll take a look at and give them time to form their proposal.”
The meetings Monday completed Phase 2 of a three-part process that began with information gathering as Phase 1 and could reach fruition July 12 with a board decision as Phase 3.
The PowerPoint presentation given at all three meetings Monday for Phase 2 is at https://tinyurl.com/PDN-Marina2.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].