Critics of plans to consider selling John Wayne Marina to a private buyer fear it would limit public access to the Port of Port Angeles-owned facility east of downtown Sequim. (Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily News)

Critics of plans to consider selling John Wayne Marina to a private buyer fear it would limit public access to the Port of Port Angeles-owned facility east of downtown Sequim. (Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily News)

Sequim hires hearing examiner for dispute with port over John Wayne Marina

SEQUIM — City officials have hired a hearing examiner to adjudicate a dispute with the Port of Port Angeles over John Wayne Marina.

The city signed a maximum $5,000 contract at $175 an hour Thursday with Sound Law Center of Seattle to hear testimony in the case and issue a ruling, city Community Development Manager Barry Berezowsky said Friday.

The hearing examiner will decide by Aug. 30 on the port’s appeal over the city’s decision that the city shoreline master program does not allow the public marina to be privately operated, he said.

“I expect to hear from the hearing examiner next week in terms of trying to set up a schedule that works with all the parties,” Berezowsky said.

“Once we set the briefing schedule and the briefs are submitted, a hearing schedule will probably follow that relatively shortly.”

The interpretation, contained in a May 25 report he and City Attorney Kristina Nelson-Gross authored, outlined the reasons behind city officials’ determination that the shoreline plan prohibits the port-owned 300-slip public marina from being operated by a private entity.

The port, approached by three private investors — a third surfaced three weeks ago — is considering putting the marina up for sale rather than spending an estimated $22 million by 2035 for float, piling and breakwater improvements.

John Tootill of Mercer Island contacted port spokeswoman Holly Hairell about John Wayne Marina in a June 5 email.

“I understand Port of Port Angeles is considering if to continue ownership/operations of the John Wayne Marina,” Tootill said.

“I am an interested buyer. Do you have any perspective material you can send me?”

Hairell directed Tootill to the port’s website at www.portofpa.com.

Neither Hairell nor port Executive Director Karen Goschen has had direct contact with Tootill, they said Friday.

“I have no intention in talking to him,” Goschen said.

“I have no idea where the [port] commissioners are going, I don’t have any idea how long it will take, who is interested now, who is interested later.

“I’m busy enough.”

Tootill did not return calls for comment Friday left at a phone number contained in the email and at John Tootill Marketing on Mercer Island.

Port officials also have fielded purchase-information requests from Jeff Pence, co-owner of Pacific Marina Development Inc. of Newport Beach, Calif., in March, and Bend, Ore., marina developer Ron Cole, whose October inquiry prompted port commissioners to consider selling the Sequim Bay facility.

“Under a plain reading of the city’s shoreline master program, operation of the John Wayne Marina, as a marina, under private ownership is not prohibited,” the port’s appeal says.

The administrative determination “is more restrictive than is necessary given the regulatory controls that are available to the city through both the shoreline master program and the Shoreline Management Act,” according to the appeal.

The administrative determination, written in response to questions raised by port officials, said the shoreline master program “unambiguously” prohibits private boating facilities and marinas on the city’s shoreline.

Rick Mraz, the shorelands technical and regulatory lead for the state Department of Ecology’s Shorelands and Environmental Assistance Program, said in a May 30 email to Berezowsky that he agrees with the city’s interpretation.

“All of us want to maintain John Wayne Marina as a public marina,” port Commissioner Steve Burke told Peninsula Daily News on June 15.

Berezowsky said Friday that city officials “are not swayed at all” by the appeal submitted by the port.

Goschen said Friday she believes the port “has a good chance” of prevailing before a hearing examiner.

“The laws are not as clear cut as what some people would like to think they are,” she said.

It was unclear Friday in what venue an appeal of the hearing examiner decision would be heard.

“I believe an appeal would go to Superior Court, though I have not confirmed that because we have conflicting provisions within our code,” Nelson-Gross said in an email.

“I will plan to confirm where any appeal would go within the next few weeks.”

Port officials have scheduled July 2 for meetings in Forks, Port Angeles and Sequim to gather public input on the marina’s future.

The meetings will be from 10 a.m.-noon at the Rainforest Art Center, 35 N. Forks Ave., Forks; 2 p.m.-4 p.m., Port Angeles City Hall city council chambers, 321 E. Fifth St., Port Angeles; and 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. at the Sequim Transit Center, 190 W. Cedar St., Sequim.

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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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