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New marina plan for Langley Marina would include $100K from local hotels

Hotel owners in Langley are continuing their push for a do-over on the design for the first phase of the Langley Marina expansion.

City officials met with Port of South Whidbey commissioners in a special session earlier this month to get an update on the port’s plans for the small boat harbor in the Village by the Sea. Langley leaders also said they were underwhelmed with the port’s design of the first phase of the project.

City hall’s newfound interest in the first phase of marina makeover was spurred by recent meetings between Langley officials and hotel owners in town, who have been quietly — and sometimes not so quietly — pressing a proposal for an expanded marina using public and private funds.

Tony Puma said owners of the three hotels in town are willing to commit $100,000 to the marina expansion.

The port’s plan for the first phase isn’t enough, he said.

“We’re very disappointed it only adds 10 slips. That doesn’t get it done,” Puma said.

Puma is a property owner near the marina; he is a co-owner of the Boatyard Inn with Paul Schell, who also owns the Inn at Langley.

“We have some skin in the game here,” Puma said.

Port officials are currently pursuing a multi-phase expansion of the marina. The $2.5 million first phase would see the Bremerton breakwater repositioned just outside the existing harbor, a move that port officials say would add 400 feet of moorage dock space and create a protective perimeter for the existing marina while giving tour boats and walk-on ferries a place to tie up.

Port commissioners have been tepid to the idea of another redesign of the project, however. Commissioners have stressed they want to move forward with the funding already in hand, and show the public that progress is being made on the long-talked-about expansion.

Hotel owners, though, are willing to wait if it means a more substantial makeover of the marina. Like some on the city council, they are worried that the marina project will stall after the first phase and future improvements will be a long way off.

Puma acknowledged that redesigning the first phase would set the project back at least a year.

“My interest in all of this has been to persuade the port to do the right thing here. Even though it’s going to take longer,” Puma said.

“The port has been messing with this for a long time and they’ve spent a lot of money on planning and they haven’t got it right,” he added.

Puma and Schell have met with city officials, who have been receptive to the pair’s idea.

Puma said four sources of money should be “cobbled together” — coming from the port, the city of Langley, long-term leases to entities such as yacht clubs in the Puget Sound, and moorage fees from slips that have been dedicated to the hotels.

The goal, he said, is to get a marina with 40 slips, with some set aside for long-term leases that would bring yacht clubs and other organized groups to Langley. Local hotels would help market the marina and bring visitors to town.

Puma said private money could pay for the cost of 10 slips, with some of the new slips dedicated to use by the hospitality industry. He also pointed to the possibility of the private sector leasing its slips back to the port.

Puma also said a three-party advisory group, consisting of the port, the city and the private sector should be formed that would “deal with the nitty gritty operations of the place.” The group would set rates and manage the marina, he said.

If local hotels paid for the construction of some slips, they would want to realize revenues from the effort.

“We’re not doing this to make money, we’re doing this so the town survives,” he added.

“Our business is completely and solely dependent on the health and welfare of Langley,” Puma said.

Talk of devoting city money to the marina is in the early stages, though $30,000 has been plugged into the draft 2012 Langley budget for the marina.

The council is expected to devote time at an upcoming meeting to talk about the marina expansion, and city officials also plan to hold another meeting with the port after additional staff work is complete.

 

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