PORT ANGELES — Port of Port Angeles commissioners will consider asking voters countywide to pay higher taxes to fund infrastructure improvements to John Wayne Marina in Sequim.
Commissioners Connie Beauvais, Steve Burke and Colleen McAleer asked staff to collect data on putting a levy lid lift measure on the Nov. 6 ballot at a special meeting Thursday, deciding to meet again July 9 to discuss the matter further.
The meeting in the Port Angeles City Council chambers at City Hall was held to discuss the marina’s current operations and potential future in light of two inquiries to purchase the 300-slip facility in Sequim Bay, built by the port in 1985 on land owned and loved by the late actor John Wayne and his wife, Pillar, who donated it to the port.
An all-day round of community meetings in Forks, Port Angeles and Sequim is scheduled for July 2 to discuss the marina. Times and locations have not been set.
Members of the Sequim community has been clamoring to keep the 300-slip facility publicly owned to protect its public access in the face of interest from two developers who have expressed an interest in purchasing the marina, located in the Sequim city limits.
Port commissioners have until Aug. 7 to submit the measure, which would require a simple majority for approval, for placement on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
The measure would generate the $11 million needed beginning in 2035 as part of $22 million to pay for float and pile replacement and breakwater restoration, port officials said.
It would be generated by a 6.37-cents-per-$1,000 levy increase that would cost the owner of a $250,000 home an additional $15.92 a year in property taxes beginning in 2019.
The other $11 million would come from annual moorage rate increases of 5 percent that would consist of an estimated 2 percent based on the Consumer Price Index plus 3 percent.
Burke, a Port Angeles-area commissioner, said he liked the idea of voters countywide deciding on such a measure.
“To be honest, I am really uncomfortable with $23 million of capital going to the benefit of 300 people without going to the taxpayers and saying, is this important,” he said.
“We are letting the taxpayers decide if this is an important project.”
McAleer, of Sequim, said she did not see the levy “as benefiting only the 300” users of John Wayne Marina who have moorage agreement with the port.
About 70 percent of those users are Sequim residents, 10 percent are from the rest of Clallam County along with some Port Townsend users, and the remainder are from outside Clallam and Jefferson counties.
“To me, it’s really clear the Sequim community wants this to remain public,” McAleer said.
“To do that, we need to have a levy.”
Port Executive Director Karen Goschen said the levy lid lift revenue would be dedicated solely to John Wayne Marina improvements.
“That’s our best opportunity for getting a levy passed,” she said.
Several among the nine speakers who gave brief comments at the meeting said the boat-mooring area, the marina restaurant and the facility’s Hendricks Public Meeting Room draw many members of the general public, not just boaters.
Cheryl Bell of Sequim, agreed that “selling it off is just beyond what the public wants” and worried about public access being limited.
But asking taxpayers countywide to pay for a Sequim facility is “a no go,” Bell said, asserting Forks residents will not increase their taxes by $15 a year to pay for improvements at the marina, which is 76 miles away.
Goschen said John Wayne Marina as a recreational facility has more difficulty generating revenue than urban-area marinas that are near shipyards or have adjacent shops and other commercial establishments.
John Wayne Enterprises owns 140 acres around the marina that the family plans to develop, McAleer has said.
Goschen said city officials continue to disagree with port officials over whether the marina can be privately owned.
City officials say Sequim’s shoreline master program prohibits it, and port officials say the answer is not so clear.
But the issue won’t have to be resolved until and if the port moves closer to selling it to a private party, Goschen said.
In addressing one issue that has been raised at previous meetings, port Counsel-Deputy Director Simon Barnhart said there are no deed restrictions that would prevent the marina from being privately run.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].