PORT ANGELES — The Port of Port Angeles has withdrawn its appeal of a decision by Sequim city officials that the city’s shoreline master program prohibits the widely opposed private operation of the port’s publicly owned John Wayne Marina.
Port Executive Director Karen Goschen decided to drop the challenge, a decision expressed in an email Wednesday from Simon Barnhart, port deputy executive director-legal counsel, to Sequim Shoreline Administrator Barry Berezowsky.
Berezowsky had told Barnhart on July 13 that the port also could not sell the 300-slip, 22-acre facility located in the city limits to a tribe, over which local governments do not have authority, or to a not-for-profit group, under the city shoreline master program.
“We are encouraged, however, by your suggestion that the city and the port can work together in exploring forms of ownership that would warrant an amendment to the city’s Shoreline Master Program to allow such other ownership,” Barnhart said.
Goschen said Friday that port commissioners Connie Beauvais, Colleen McAleer and Steven Burke were informed of her decision.
“I agree with pulling this,” Beauvais, port commission president, said of the appeal.
“We really want to work collaboratively with the city of Sequim to find a good solution for John Wayne Marina.
“This was just a contentious item that mightt not move us forward collaboratively.”
Beauvais said the port, faced with an estimated $22 million in improvements that are needed beginning in 2035, also will talk to city officials about the city possibly taking over operation of the marina.
The Sequim City Council, in an April 24 resolution, agreed that city officials would discuss potential city ownership of the marina, or forming a metropolitan park district to own the marina, at little to no cost.
Sequim city officials had hired Sound Law Center of Seattle under a maximum $5,000 contract to hold a hearing examiner hearing on the city’s appeal, scheduled for Aug. 17, and to render a decision by Aug. 30.
“In terms of what’s next, we are waiting for the port to reach out to the city,” Berezowsky said Friday.
The marina is valued at $7.7 million, including $5 million in improvements and $2.7 million in land, according to the Clallam County Assessor’s Office.
“We are more than happy to sit down and have some conversations with [port officials] about what the port is able to do to retain ownership, and what some other owner model might look like that is supportable by the city,” Berezowsky said.
“We would certainly be interested in receiving it in some way but to my knowledge we have not had any outreach by the port on that front,” City Attorney Kristina Nelson-Gross said Friday.
Sequim Public Works Director David Garlington said Friday that the city would conduct its own survey of the facility to determine the improvements that would be needed.
The port’s decision to drop the appeal came during a month that saw widespread opposition to selling the marina to a private party, antipathy expressed at port commissioners’ listening sessions on the marina’s future in Forks, Sequim and Port Angeles.
No one at those meetings favored selling the marina to a private business or wanted to put a levy before voters to help fund the improvements.
Three private developers had inquired since October about the port’s interest in selling the marina.
Port officials set out to gauge public opinion on the idea in light of that interest, their belief that maintaining a recreational marina was ill-suited to the port’s mission and was not carrying its own weight in terms of generating revenue, and the need to finance the improvements, $11 million of which was anticipated could be raised by increasing marina rates.
On July 12, commissioners took selling to a private party off the table and decided to solicit interest from local governments, tribes and nonprofits in buying the marina.
That same day, John Wayne Enterprises’ lawyer Richard Howell of Costa Mesa, Calif., weighed in with a threat to take back possession of the site if it doesn’t remain public — or in the port’s possession.
Howell represents family members of the late actor John Wayne. Wayne frequented the Sequim Bay site in the family yacht, Wild Goose.
Wayne’s family-owned Wayne Enterprises, now called John Wayne Enterprises, donated the land for the marina under 1975 and 1981 agreements that led to its construction in the 1980s.
Those agreements “expressly acknowledge that the marina property was originally conveyed for the purpose of operating a public small boat marina to benefit the public,” Howell said in the July 12 letter to the port commissioners.
In light of language in the 1981 agreement that the port operate the facility as a first-class marina, “the port is obligated to operate the John Wayne Marina itself,” Howell said in the letter.
“By selling the John Wayne Marina without the consent of Wayne Enterprises, the port would likely be in breach of these agreements,” he said.
“If the port is inclined to sell the property, Wayne Enterprises maintains that the property should revert back to Wayne Enterprises,” Howell said.
“If the port should attempt to sell the property, Wayne Enterprises is ready, and willing, to pursue all of the legal remedies at its disposal.”
It was unclear Friday if John Wayne Enterprises would object to another public entity such as the city or a metropolitan park district operating the marina instead of the port.
Howell did not return calls for comment Friday.
John Wayne Enterprises owns 140 acres around the marina that the family plans to develop, McAleer has said.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].