Port of Port Angeles commissioners to seek public input on possibly selling John Wayne Marina

PORT ANGELES — Port of Port Angeles commissioners agreed Tuesday to seek public input on the future of publicly owned John Wayne Marina after a Bend, Ore., developer expressed interest in making an offer for the 300-slip facility east of Sequim if port officials are interested in selling it.

In an interview after their meeting, port Executive Director Karen Goschen identified the potential developer as Ron Cole, owner of Buffalo River Holdings Inc., of Bend, Ore.

Cole has purchased and developed a marina at Lake Union, Goschen said.

Cole could not be reached for comment early Tuesday afternoon.

Commissioners Connie Beauvais, Steve Burke and Colleen McAleer directed Goschen to develop a proposed framework for public input and said a consultant should be hired to facilitate the gathering of public comments.

“Does the public really care if it belongs to a public entity?” asked Beauvais, the board of commissioners’ president.

She said a private entity might be able to finance costly improvements to the marina that need to be made.

Commissioners have said those include replacing floats and improving the jetty.

“Would it matter that it belongs to a private entity if they had 100 percent access to it?” Beauvais asked.

“No way would I want to see that piece of property, or any of our property, be sold and at some point have everything fall apart,” she added.

Goschen said she will provide information on a process for gathering public input at an upcoming port board meeting.

She also told commissioners she has forwarded reports and financial information on the marina to Cole since October.

Cole visited the area and expressed an interest in redeveloping The Landing mall, and he drove by the port’s Port Angeles Boat Haven and John Wayne Marina.

“When he saw John Wayne Marina, he saw a lot of potential to make improvements and enhancements both for the marina and the community,” Goschen said.

Goschen said Cole asked if the port, a countywide taxing district, was interested in selling the marina but has not made an offer and will not develop a proposal until he knows if the port wants to sell it.

He told Goschen that he believes there are “significant enhancements” that he could make to the marina that the community “would be responsive to” Goschen said.

She said if Cole buys the facility, the enhancements he wants to add to the 22-acre site could include shops.

Goschen said she has not sought details from Cole, awaiting direction from the commissioners.

“I did not ask for specifics,” Goschen said.

McAleer, who represents Sequim-area District 1, said she wanted to expand the marina “as a community amenity,” a goal that might be accomplished by the port or the city of Sequim.

“I agree it’s not meeting anywhere near its full potential,” McAleer said.

She said the “stakeholders” that take part in the discussion over the marina’s future should include yacht and sailing clubs, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, and the late actor John Wayne’s family, which donated the site for use as a marina.

McAleer said the tribe has “expressed some real concerns about it being sold off.”

She added that while 300 families use the marina, 3,000 families pay property taxes on the east side of the county.

Commissioner Steve Burke said he wants a better understanding of what investments need to be made to improve the marina, including sewer and stormwater systems.

“What are we looking at, and that needs to be part of this conversation,” Burke said.

Sequim City Attorney Kristina Nelson-Gross also commented on the potential sale of the marina.

“We just wanted to express our thanks and our appreciation for staff and to the commissioners for taking a cautious approach on dealing with John Wayne Marina,” Nelson-Gross said.

“We are excited as stakeholders to be a part of that conversation.

“We look forward to working with you on finding a way to balance all of the needs you are clearly having to find a way through.”

Goschen said in the interview that she does not know how much a consultant will cost the port but that hiring a consultant will ensure the public-input process is objective.

“We have employees that will be affected,” she said. “We will have to have discussions internally about what it means.”

The marina generated $1.2 million in revenue in 2017 and $772,000 in expenditures, including $370,000 in salaries, wages and benefits, according to a report on 2017 port finances that was presented at Tuesday’s meeting.

The report showed a marina surplus, before depreciation, of $457,000; depreciation, including donated assets, of $216,000, and a net operating surplus of $100,000.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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