City council votes to support port on marina ballot measure

LANGLEY — The city of Langley is onboard with the Port of South Whidbey’s proposed tax increase to fix up the Langley marina.

The city council approved a first reading of an ordinance Monday supporting the November ballot measure, and city officials said the second reading will be only a formality — thanks to government rules.

The ordinance outlines the city’s support for the port’s plans to improve the small-boat harbor and the proposed property tax increase.

The port plans an $8.2 million renovation of the boat harbor; voters will decide on Nov. 4 the fate of a proposed property tax increase that would pay for the project.

The port is asking South Whidbey voters for an increase of 9 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value to pay for the initial phase of the project.

Last year the city worked out a deal with the port to take over the marina, because the city wasn’t able to fund the extensive work needed to update it. The port takes control of the city’s small-boat harbor in January.

Councilwoman Rene Neff said she is behind the effort because, when she was elected to the council, it was her goal to revitalize the marina.

“I’d like to see it happen,” she said.

Councilman Jim Recupero said it’s a tough decision for elected officials to support a tax increase.

“It’s going to be a hard sell for the community to accept a tax increase,” he said. “We can do our best and hope the public accepts that.”

Councilman Robert Gilman said the tax increase is an investment in the city’s future.

“One way to look at this is as insurance,” Gilman said, adding that the Langley marina would be the only other deep-water port on South Whidbey where ferries and boats could dock in case of an emergency.

“It would be wise to have a functional facility given the uncertain times,” he said.

The council voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance, but councilmen Bob Waterman and Russell Sparkman were absent.

Port of South Whidbey Commissioners Rolf Seitle and Lynae Slinden were in the audience at Monday’s city council meeting and were pleased to receive the support.

“It’s been a long haul,” Seitle said. “But we’re very happy the council is supporting us.”

Langley resident Sharen Heath also spoke in support of the effort, saying that the tax increase is a small sacrifice given the importance the small boat harbor holds for Langley.

“Our marina is very much part of Langley’s spirit of place,” she said.

However, Langley resident Mark Wahl wanted to know what would happen if the voters of South Whidbey vote against the measure.

Dane Anderson, the port’s financial consultant on the project, said the harbor would be expanded on a smaller scale, but details are still uncertain.

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