SEQUIM — The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe is exploring the purchase of John Wayne Marina from the Port of Port Angeles — if other options do not work out — Tribal Chairman Ron Allen said Thursday.
The tribe now is working with the city of Sequim on a joint proposal to run the public, 300-slip facility under city ownership.
Under the joint city-tribe proposal, the port would transfer the marina to the city “at no or very low cost,” according to an April 23, 2018, City Council resolution, and the tribe would manage it.
“If we discover that it does not make sense to work with Sequim or the proposal does not work for us, we may take a hard look at acquisition by ourselves,” Allen said.
“We are just keeping all of our options open.”
City officials continue to hold to their position that under the city Shoreline Master Program, the tribe can’t own the West Sequim Bay marina.
That role can be filled only by a public entity or agency, which does not include tribal governments, City Manager Charlie Bush and Department of Community Development Director Barry Berezowsky said.
Bush said the Shoreline Master Program would have to be updated to allow tribal ownership, which involves City Council action, public engagement and state review.
Allen said Thursday that city officials and their lawyers disagree with tribal officials and their lawyers.
“Yes, we don’t fit into everybody’s notion of public entities because we are a tribal government,” Allen said. “It’s a different kind of public entity, a public entity related to tribal jurisdiction.
“The bottom line is there is nothing preventing us as a government entity from being a candidate to purchase the property, and with certain conditions.”
Allen said Thursday he was working on setting up a meeting with city officials.
Recent studies have pegged marina improvement costs at more than $16 million.
Allen said a purchase price for the marina might be between $6 million and $7 million, which would push the total cost for the tribe including repairs, maintenance and purchase to more than $20 million.
“If we purchase it, we want it to be a reasonable purchase price relative to those liabilities,” Allen added.
While the tribe and city disagree over marina ownership options, they are proceeding with their joint application, due Dec. 10.
The port is seeking “concept” proposals to manage, own or operate the marina, excluding for-profit companies and private developers and insisting the facility retain public access.
Port commissioners say the marina doesn’t create sufficient jobs, its revenue not covering all of the $6.2 million the port has spent in capital projects since building the marina in 1985.
The tribe and city split the $65,215 cost of the study.
The port has estimated the marina needs $16.2 million in repairs in 2018 dollars to $25.1 million by 2038.
The Clallam County Assessor’s Office valued the marina in 2018 at $7.7 million, down from $8.2 million in 2015, up from $4.3 million in 2014.
Newport, Calif.-based Wayne Enterprises, now John Wayne Enterprises, deeded the property in 1981 to the port for development of a public marina.
The city is pursuing ownership to retain public access, according to the 2018 City Council resolution.
Tribal officials already have talked with Ethan Wayne, president of John Wayne Enterprises, about the tribe possibly owning the facility and keeping it open to the public, Allen said.
“That’s the commitment we made to Ethan Wayne, (that) if the tribe were to entertain the idea of purchasing it, it would be considered with their intent to keep it open to the public,” he said.
If the tribe pursues purchase of the marina, “that would be a separate conversation between us, the port and most likely inclusive of the Wayne Corporation,” Allen added.
Wayne has in the past told port officials that any transfer of the marina from the port would require John Wayne Enterprises’ approval and has hired a lawyer to represent JWE’s interests in the marina’s fate.
Sequim-area port Commissioner Colleen McAleer said Thursday she would consider transferring the marina to the city at no or very low cost.
“I’m open to anything that in the interest of the public,” she said.
“I rule out nothing.”
Allen said he is certain how port commissioners would react to a proposal for the port to give the city John Wayne Marina for essentially nothing.
“The port is not going to give them the marina,” he predicted.
JWE is watching how the marina’s future is unfolding, hiring Heartland LLC, a Seattle real estate advisory and investment firm, to study alternatives for the marina and 105 acres owned by JWE next to the marina.
The property is zoned for four housing units per acre in some areas and eight housing units per acre in others, Berezowsky said Tuesday, adding that there’s no analysis of what’s developable and what isn’t.
Berezowsky said a master-planned resort also could be built on the property that could exceed eight units per acre and include condominiums.
“It could have a commercial or recreational component,” he added.
City officials have talked with a representative from Heartland, they said.
Heartland will report back to JWE by May 31, Ethan Wayne said in a Feb. 26 email to port Executive Director Karen Goschen.
“At this time, I have no more information to share,” Wayne said Wednesday in an email to Peninsula Daily News.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].