PORT ANGELES — Port of Port Angeles commissioners have received three proposals for the future of John Wayne Marina, including two from private companies seeking long-term leases to operate the Sequim facility.
The city of Sequim, Marsh Andersen, LLC, and Safe Harbor Marinas each responded to the port’s request for information and gave presentations to the port commission in a special meeting Tuesday.
Commissioners took no action on the selection of a proposal or the future of John Wayne Marina.
“I think our next steps are that we are going to be working with stakeholders to ensure that the process going forward is something that is in the best interest of the Sequim community,” said Port Commissioner Colleen McAleer, who represents Sequim-area District 1.
“This may be something where we don’t come up with a final solution for quite some time,” McAleer added.
“It could be many months, or even years, before we identify what will be the right plan going forward for the marina.”
Commissioner Steve Burke said port staff needed time to “digest” the three proposals.
Chairwoman Connie Beauvais suggested that staff evaluate the pros and cons of the pitches and assemble a group of stakeholders, including marina users and the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, to make recommendations to the port.
“These are high-level proposals at this point,” McAleer said during the meeting at Port Angeles City Hall.
“There will be a lot of details that are generated, and it may be it’s a combination of different things that have been proposed so far. That is certainly something I would anticipate the staff would direct, but I would like to be involved in that stakeholder process.”
Burke said the port commission is faced with multiple decisions, including whether to allow a private company to operate the public facility.
Sequim City Manager Charlie Bush said the city proposed to “explore a transfer of the marina from the port to the city of Sequim.”
“The main components of the city’s proposal is the need to keep the marina and the marina property public, and public access to the water, and also to ensure that there is a public component of decision-making in what happens with that property,” Sequim Public Works Director David Garlington said.
“We feel that that can be done only with public ownership, either the port or the city or some other public entity.”
Port officials began an information-gathering phase in June 2018 after it became clear that it could not afford repairs at the marina, port Director of Properties, Marinas and Airports John Nutter said.
The port issued a request for information from interested parties in March, giving rise to Tuesday’s presentations.
Garlington said John Wayne Marina needs between $20 million and $30 million worth of improvements in the next 20 years.
“The city feels that there’s an opportunity to develop additional economic interest on that property, or nearby properties, that could be used to finance repairs of the marina,” Garlington said.
“That’s where we’re at right now.”
Bob Wise of Bainbridge Island-based Marsh Andersen, LLC, which owns and operates marinas in Port Hadlock, Pleasant Harbor, Gig Harbor and Bainbridge Island, said his company intends to operate John Wayne Marina. Ownership would remain with the port.
“Our proposed engagement is we’ll do a long-term lease with annual payments to the port,” Wise said at the special meeting.
“There’d be annuity stream to the port going forward. We think it’s important that the port continue to receive money from the marina going forward.”
Under its proposal, Marsh Andersen would assume all operational control of John Wayne Marina, including its finances, under a 50-year-lease. Maintenance and other staff would be employed by Marsh Andersen or one of its subsidiaries.
“We would also assume all costs for maintenance, the operating expense for the marina and the rebuild,” Wise said.
“There would be no out-of-pocket expense for the port at all. We would take on all the spending. Most importantly, public access would remain unchanged.”
Garlington had said Sequim’s proposal included the possibility of a downsized marina for long-term sustainability.
“All due respects to the city of Sequim, but I don’t think you want to downsize the marina,” Wise said.
“The occupancy level is actually pretty decent, and we think with continuing demand for recreational boating, we definitely see the ability the grow the marina and maintain the existing footprint going forward.”
Wise said Marsh Andersen could rebuild John Wayne Marina at a lower cost than the port because it has completed designs for similar projects like the 127-slip rebuild of Eagle Harbor Marina on Bainbridge Island.
“You are under so many more restrictions than we are to operate as a private business,” Wise told the port commission.
“We’re going to replicate the existing infrastructure that we’ve already built, and I expect that I can probably build it for about 60 cents on the dollar for what you have.”
Dallas-based Safe Harbor Marinas also seeks a long-term lease with the Port of Port Angeles to operate John Wayne Marina.
Safe Harbor Marinas operates 93 marinas in 20 states but has not yet established a presence in the Pacific Northwest, company officials said.
“We’re the largest marina owner and operator in the country,” said Kate Pearson, vice president of Safe Harbor Marinas.
“What we bring to the table is a wonderful boater network. We are boaters for boaters.”
Safe Harbor associate Luke Mason said the company makes $60 million worth of capital improvements to its marinas every year and plans to invest in John Wayne Marina.
“We’re going to enter into a long-term lease where you get to participate in the upside of the growth that we’re generating and that we’re generating together,” said Luke Taylor, Safe Harbor Marinas director of acquisitions.
“We’re driving a ton of transient [boat] traffic, a ton of economic efficiencies and then we’re going to pass that onto you in the form of a percent rent.”
Taylor added that privatization can be a “scary word” for public entities.
“Hopefully both of our presentations can present a solution where we’re not taking anything from you,” Taylor said.
“We’re partnering with you. You get to hold onto your most valuable asset, and we’re adding a ton of value that is mutually beneficial.”
Speaking on behalf of the Ethan Wayne, president of John Wayne Enterprises, Inc., and son of late actor John Wayne, Doug Larson of Heartland LLC, a Seattle-based real estate and consulting and advisory firm, said the Wayne family is opposed to a sale of John Wayne Marina.
“However, they would not object to an outcome where the port retains ownership of the John Wayne Marina but enters into a long-term agreement with a quality marina operator who will perform the needed capital improvements to ensure the marina operates in a first-class manner for at least the next 40 years and provides equal or preferably improved public access and activities,” Larson said.
“Doing those things would enhance the development potential of the remaining uplands property that the family owns.”
Larson said he was “impressed” by the presentations from Marsh Andersen and Safe Harbor Marinas.
“I think obviously being opposed to a sale, [there are] some challenges with the city’s perspective,” Larson said.
“But by and large, my sense is that the city’s priority is to make sure that public access is preserved in perpetuity. And I think that either proposal showed that they would do that in a way that would be stellar.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].