QUILCENE — Port of Port Townsend Executive Director Jim Pivarnik and the three port commissioners sought comments from a crowd of 65 Quilcene residents concerned about rumors of selling waterfront property along Linger Longer Road and Quilcene Bay.
During the two-hour meeting Wednesday, 16 speakers urged commissioners not to sell public property that would limit access to the waterfront.
“We are hearing a lot of rumors and seeing a lot of emails,” Pivarnik told those gathered at the Quilcene Community Center. “That prompted us to come here and talk to you directly.”
The port’s Quilcene property is not a break-even venture. An income analysis shows the port receives $132,000 in revenue each year but spends $154,000, losing $22,000 per year.
The port is trying to determine how to make the property begin to pay for itself and hold some money in reserve for long-term maintenance and upgrades.
“I want to be clear,” Pivarnik said. “No decisions have been made. We are not considering selling all of Quilcene — never have, never will. The other thing we aren’t doing is limiting public access to the shoreline.”
He told those assembled that staff is investigating the possibility of selling property that Coast Seafoods Co. occupies in Quilcene.
The property encompasses a total of 9.8 acres located across Linger Longer Road from the waterfront.
Four acres are being used by Coast Seafoods for three buildings currently on-site.
There are an additional 5 acres that are located on a hillside behind the buildings that is not suitable for building.
The port owns a total of 40 acres of property in the area, most of it on a hillside that has a septic system and well for the waterfront amenities.
Pivarnik said that property would never be logged and would be left wild.
“We are not looking at selling the marina,” Pivarnik said. “We are not looking at selling most of the uplands. We’re not selling the swim beach or access. Those are not part of this. In other words, there would be no expansion of the Coast footprint. They are not proposing an expansion.”
Coast has a long-term lease with the port — through 2039 — and has not contacted the port about any of the options discussed Wednesday.
Pivarnik said staff was investigating two possible scenarios.
“The first option is to do nothing,” he said. “We don’t have enough money to pour into this facility. We can’t keep losing money and provide a safety net and capital program to replace the dock and do any upgrades to the facility.
“At some point, we are going to reach the breaking point where we aren’t going to maintain the restrooms and we’ll close them. We aren’t going to maintain the marina because the floats will be sinking. At some point we have to say we can’t do this anymore and that isn’t in anyone’s best interest.”
Pivarnik said the second option is to sell the leasehold to Coast.
“It would provide us with a cash infusion that we would take and re-invest in Quilcene,” he said. “Staff would recommend having a Quilcene reserve account so that money couldn’t be touched for anything other than Quilcene projects.”
Former Commissioner Herb Beck, who served the Port of Port Townsend from 1973 to 2009, said the lease with Coast is worth $69,000 per year.
“It is a very valuable asset and I don’t like to see someone say we are getting shortchanged on it. The problem is updating and bringing things up to the proper value of the property.”
Connie Gallant of Quilcene said that during the past 20 years, residents have lost a lot of ground in the marina area.
“We’ve lost the Army campground,” Gallant said. “The ramp area is in shambles and very dangerous. It is a hazard. We lost the area where RVs could park across from the tanks Coast now have. We lost the aesthetics of the area of the bay and thousands of birds and wildlife. How much more are we going to continue losing?
“We don’t want any more encroachment on our public lands. We must protect them.”
Patricia Jones of Quilcene voiced similar concerns as most of the speakers.
“I don’t support selling public lands,” Jones said. “This gradual defunding needs to be addressed and it doesn’t need to be addressed by selling off critical assets.”
Pam Petranek of Port Townsend suggested that the port keep the property but sell the buildings that Coast uses to cut the port’s continuous maintenance costs.
Kim McCollough, a live-aboard resident in Port Townsend, questioned boat ramp fees, currently at $100 a year.
“If the average passholder is launching his boat 20 times a year, and Coast is using the ramp 20 times a month, I think there should be a change in their pass price. The more they use it with their heavy equipment, the more downhill it goes. We shouldn’t have to pay for [maintenance of] the total thing. They should have to pay for a bigger portion of it.”
After the meeting, Pivarnik said that the next steps are to determine if Coast Seafoods is interested in a conversation about the property.
“I will ask the commissioners if they think an appraisal of the property is warranted and we’ll start the process of analyzing what we have,” he said. “We really don’t know what the property is worth today.”
He calculates that it will take $1.6 million in the next three years to make the needed improvements to the Quilcene properties.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected].